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Health Agencies Update
June 23 2010

Bar Codes Improve Safety

JAMA. 2010;303(24):2464. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.834

Implementing an electronic medication-administration system that uses bar code verification technology cut drug-related errors at a large medical center by nearly half, according to a study funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Scientists affiliated with Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston observed more than 14 000 medication administrations and reviewed 3082 order transcriptions before and after implementation of the system (Poon EG et al. N Engl J Med. 2010;362[18]:1698-1707). Errors that were not related to the timing of administration decreased by 41.4%, from 776 incidents (an 11% error rate) before the system was implemented to 495 (a 6.8% error rate) after implementation. Potential adverse drug events associated with nontiming errors decreased by half, from 3.1% before implementation to 1.6% after.

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