Using bar-code technology with an electronic medication administration record (eMAR) substantially reduces transcription and medication administration errors as well as potential drug-related adverse events. A new study funded by AHRQ was published in the May 6th issue of the “New England Journal of Medicine.”
Bar-code eMAR is a combination of technologies that ensures that the correct medication is administered in the correct dose at the correct time to the correct patient. When nurses use this combination of technologies, medication orders then appear electronically in a patient’s chart after the pharmacist approves.
Alerts are sent to nurses electronically if a patient’s medication is overdue. Before administering the medication, nurses are required to scan the bar codes on the patient’s wristband and then scan the medication. If the two don’t match the approved medication order, or it is not time for the patient’s next dose, a warning is issued.
Researchers on the project at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston compared 6,723 medication administrations on hospital units before bar-code eMAR was introduced. The hospital then did 7,318 medication administrations after the bar-code eMAR was introduced.
The researchers were able to document a 41 percent reduction in non-timing administration errors and a 51 percent reduction in potential drug-related adverse events associated with this type of error. Errors in the timing of medication administration fell by 27 percent. No transcription errors or potential drug-related adverse events related to this type of error occurred.
The findings have important implications because bar-code eMAR technology is being considered as a 2013 criterion for “meaningful use” of health information technology under ARRA.