May 2003 -- Hospitals nationwide may soon be taking a cue from
your local grocery store. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) has proposed supermarket-style bar codes on every medication
administered to hospital patients to reduce medication errors.
The proposed rule would apply to prescription drugs (excluding
physician samples) and to over-the-counter drugs that are commonly
used in hospitals and dispensed pursuant to an order. For blood
and blood components, the proposal would require the use of machine-readable
information in a format approved by the Director of the Center
for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
The proposed rule does not contain exemptions or exceptions (other
than physician samples of prescription drugs and OTC drugs not
used in the hospital) because FDA believes that all drug product
labels can carry a bar code. However, the preamble to the proposed
rule invites comment on whether any drugs should be exempt and
the reasons for an exemption.
Bar code technology is already used at about 2 percent of US
hospitals. But the FDA's latest proposal calls for 100 percent
compliance, saying patient safety is at stake.
Before administering a drug, a nurse scans the bar code
on apatients' ID bracelet, along with a bar code found on
the medication itself. Then, the computer/PDA checks the
medication against a patient's record to see if a patient
is supposed to be getting that drug. If the scan yields
a match, the nurse knows it's okay to precede. A error warning,
tells the nurse something isn't right.
The Institute of Medicine reports that anywhere from 48,000 to
98,000 patients die each year due to medical errors. The FDA says
bar coding can reduce these numbers. Bar coding has already been
implemented at all U.S. Veterans hospitals, where officials have
since reported a decrease in medication errors. The FDA is encouraging
private health centers across the country to follow suit.
Video news release on the proposed U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) use of bar codes on every medication administered to hospital
patients to reduce medication errors.
Player for DSL/Cable/T1 (4.1 Megs)
Media Player for 56k Dialup (650 kb)