Pharmacy Bar-Code System Cuts Dispensing Errors

Scanning all doses slashes target dispensing errors up to 96 percent, but selective scanning ups risks

FRIDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Scanning all medication doses dispensed by hospital pharmacies using a bar-code system significantly reduces dispensing errors and potentially harmful patient drug reactions, researchers report in the Sept. 19 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Eric G. Poon, M.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues compared dispensation of 115,164 medication doses before the installation of a hospital pharmacy bar-code system with 253,984 doses dispensed afterwards. Two implementation methods involved scanning each dose; a third involved scanning only one dose if several doses of the same drug were dispensed.

The researchers found that the bar-code system cut target potential adverse drug event rates 74 percent and all potential adverse drug events 63 percent. Scanning all doses slashed target dispensing errors 93 to 96 percent, reducing possible adverse drug events 86 to 97 percent.

Not scanning each dose cut target dispensing errors only 60 percent and increased target potential drug reactions 2.4-fold.

"The overall rates of dispensing errors and potential adverse drug events substantially decreased after implementing bar-code technology," the authors write. "However, the technology should be configured to scan every dose during the dispensing process."

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