Making sure hospital patients receive the correct medicine is now as easy as scanning groceries at the supermarket. Mountain Vista Medical Center in east Mesa uses a high-tech safety program that helps ensure patients receive the right medicines at the right time.
A bar-code scanning system is based on the same technology used in supermarket checkout lanes.
The system is part of a $30 million investment by the medical center’s parent company, Iasis Healthcare, to upgrade the technology in its hospitals.
“We spent some time looking at the different components in terms of where there’s a risk in ... medication administration safety,” said Cathy Story, the hospitals’ chief operating officer. “We chose to utilize the technology that we have with the bar-coding to make sure we are providing the right patient with the right medication at the right time.”
When a nurse is ready to administer medicine, he/she scans his/her name badge, then scans the medication and the bar code on the patient’s wristband.
“All three of those have to match with the prescription or the order that the doctor has in the computer,” Story said. “If it doesn’t, it says wrong dose or wrong patient, or something like that. We have alerts that kind of let us say ‘Wow, something’s not all lining up just right.’ ”
In addition to checking the accuracy of the medication and the time administered, the system alerts nurses when a medication is about to be missed, she said.
Before the electronic system was used, administering medications involved transferring lots of paperwork from person to person, Story said.
“What we’ve found over time is that there’s just a lot of opportunities to make an error in that, so as we’ve gotten more technology, we find that there are more and more opportunities to make sure that those errors don’t happen.”
Sandra Barnes, a registered nurse, said the system allows for more interaction with patients. Because the nurses bring a computer with them when administering medication, they have at their disposal all the information about the patient, and can provide answers when patients have questions, she said.
“I think the patients feel safer, with the fact that someone is taking that extra stuff to ensure their safety,” she said.
Mountain Vista Medical Center and Iasis are bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which ensures confidentiality of patient information stored in the electronic system, said Audrianne Schneider, Iasis regional director of marketing.
Rita Adam, a winter visitor from Minnesota, is being treated in the hospital for bronchitis and congestive heart failure.
“The thing that’s nice, that is consoling, is that I know the medications that I’m getting are on record,” she said. “I know it takes probably longer to be on a computer than the way they used to handle it, but it’s going to be very accurate for the future in case I ever come back.”
Nancy Garrow, who is being treated for a broken ankle, also said the electronic system feels safer.
“I went to one hospital where they kept the keys (to the medications) in a drawer,” she said. “I kept watching everybody go to this drawer and pull out this key, and then they’d go back and throw the key back in the draw, and somebody else would come along and pull out that key. With this at least when they come to me, they can tell exactly what they’re giving me.”