Report Outlines Steps for Bar-Coding Process

Published Online: Saturday, May 1, 2004

A new report?Medication Errors and Patient Safety: The Bar Code Connection?offers suggestions for bar-code implementation in hospitals. Released by the Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA), the report focuses on the drugs most often involved in medication errors. It recommends bar codes on unit-level packaging, as well as standard routines such as matching the drug with patient data, as valuable patient safety measures.

Also part of the report are data on the number of deaths caused by medication errors, types and causes of these errors, FDA initiatives to reduce medication errors, a thorough analysis of the Veterans Administration bedside bar-code scanning program, and a "hit list" of drugs to be targeted first for bar coding.

This timely report will help manufacturers and packagers meet the FDA final ruling on bar codes. The FDA's February 25, 2004, ruling has given the industry 2 years to bar-code most drug products. In an effort to best help implement the FDA's rule, the HDMA report recommends prioritizing the bar-code process to start with those drugs that (1) are used in high volumes, (2) often appear in medication error reports, (3) are not already bar-coded, and (4) are available in unit-of-use or unit-dose packaging. The report noted that this process applies especially to the hospital setting, particularly for packages that are distributed intact to the drug administration area, usually the patient's bedside.

Medication Errors and Patient Safety: The Bar Code Connection is free to HDMA members. In addition, it is available on the HDMA Web site at Nonmembers will be charged a nominal fee for the report.

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