Study Shows Bar-Code Technology, eMAR Reduce Medication Errors

June 24, 2011
A new study funded by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows using bar-code technology with an

A new study funded by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows using bar-code technology with an electronic medication administration record (eMAR) substantially reduces transcription and medication errors, in addition to reducing potential drug-related adverse events.

Bar-code eMAR is a combination of technologies meant to ensure that the correct medication is administered in the correct dose at the correct time to the correct patient. Nurses are required to scan and match bar codes on a patient’s wristband and then on the medication to be administered. If it is not time for a patient’s dose, or the bar codes do not match, a warning is issued.

Comparing 6,723 medication administrations before bar-code eMAR was introduced with 7,318 medication administrations after bar-code eMAR was introduced, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston documented a 41 percent reduction in non-timing administration errors and a 51 percent reduction in potential drug-related adverse events associated with this kind of error. Errors in timing of medication administration fell by 27 percent.

Currently, eMAR technology is being considered as a 2013 criterion for meaningful use of health information technology under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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