The plastic wristband with its tiny bar code was a comfort to Kathleen Paeth, as she worked to get well at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center.
Catholic Healthcare West’s Mercy Gilbert and Chandler Regional medical centers are the first in the East Valley to offer new technology called bedside medication verification that uses bar codes to match patients with their medications — and prevent medication errors.
The band includes the patient’s identification number, prescribed medications and patient allergies.
“Everything is scanned. There is no way to cut corners,” said Paeth of Mesa, hospitalized since Jan. 2 to treat complications from colitis. “They get so many patients, and they’re so busy.”
Charge nurse Kevin Meek said the technology is one of the 2008 National Patient Safety Goals and helps prevent errors occurring for a variety of reasons, such as medicines that look similar or have similar sounding names, or when patients are misidentified.
The technology allows a medication, once it’s prescribed, to be electronically scanned to the pharmacy, and recorded in the patient’s record. Nurses manually check the digital record to the physician’s orders every 24 hours.
When medication is given, nurses use their fingerprint to gain access to a computer database that matches the patient to the medication, and opens a drawer to the prescribed medication. Each medicine has a bar code, and prior to dosing a patient, the nurse scans the patient’s bar code and then the medicine’s bar code to ensure a match.
The system is also comforting to nurses, said Meek, who previously had to spend more time manually checking prescriptions.
Hospital CEO Laurie Eberst said the system is working and allowing the hospitals to, for the first time, track how many “near misses” occur due to a variety of reasons.
Since prior standards required self-reporting of errors or near-errors, Eberst said it’s impossible to compare the two systems. But so far, preliminary figures reveal that the system has stopped errors.
Chandler Regional Medical Center was the first to install the verification program, in April 2006. Mercy Gilbert began using it when it opened in June 2006.
“There does seem to be a downward trend in terms of errors,” said Tony Lucchi, director of pharmacy for Mercy Gilbert.
The East Valley hospitals were the first two of Catholic Healthcare West’s 43 hospitals to use the system. Banner Gateway Medical Center plans to use the system in the future, and is now using it at Banner Estrella Medical Center in the West Valley. Only about 6 percent of hospitals nationwide now use the program.