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Pros and Cons of Barcoding Technology in Hospitals

Barcoding for Patient Safety

Abstract

This paper examined the positive and negative aspects of Barcoding practices in hospitals to enhance patient safety. It has been found that medical errors widely prevalent and frequent can be avoided by such automated measures as barcoding. The few objections are downtime issues and costs involved. While the downtime time problem is common to all the other industries which the healthcare sector can learn from as to how to overcome such situations, values are found to be outweighed by benefits. Moreover, financial incentives to implement barcoding are in place. Further, costs should not be an excuse for life-saving issues. Overall, the positive features make the negative ones diminutive.

Introduction

The U.S. is losing over $ 37 billion each year due to medical errors even though the nation spends about $ 1.6 trillion on healthcare and incurs an avoidable expenditure of $ 300 billion each year spent on poor treatment outcomes. Medical error is the eighth leading cause of death, killing between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans each year, a rate higher than the mortality rates from vehicle accidents, breast cancer, and AIDS attributed to 43,458, 42,297, and 16,516 deaths each year respectively. The sad news is that majority of medical errors are preventable. Medical errors occur either due to the non-completion of a planned action or planning wrongly to accomplish the desired objective about the patient. Medical errors are categorized as diagnostic, treatment-related, preventative, and others. (Jacquelyn & Frederick.G, 2006).

Pros and Cons of Barcoding Technology in Hospitals

Problem Statement

In light of the above scenario, this paper seeks to examine how high technology could prevent medical errors. The technology used for barcoding products and services of other industries than healthcare is now a familiar place. In the healthcare sector, pharmaceutical products have recently been mandated by the FDA to carry barcodes. Labeling drugs must now include a barcode containing the National Drug Code meant for each type of medication. This has been made mandatory with effect from 2006. If barcodes are applied in hospitals, a nurse would scan his/her bar code, bar code of the medication and that of the patient and send information wirelessly to the computer the software in which would verify whether the correct medication is being administered to the right patient at the right time by generating a warning or approval as the case may be. The barcodes are applied to ‘patient ID bands, medications, and vials of blood and transfusion bags.’ This technology gains significance, given the fact that 35 % of the medication errors happen at the administration stage. Further analysis of the error incidence shows that 21 % of mistakes due to dose omission, 4 % due to the wrong patient, 4 % due to incorrect time, and 1 % due to the wrong route could be prevented (Hoyt, Sutton, & Yoshihashi, 2008).

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