Use of bar-code technology drastically reduces medication errors

July 1, 2010

Using bar-code verification technology within an electronic medication administration system substantially reduces transcription and medication administration errors along with related potential drug-related adverse events, according to a new study.

Using bar-code verification technology within an electronic medication administration system (bar-code eMAR) substantially reduces transcription and medication administration errors along with related potential drug-related adverse events, according to a study from Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Investigators observed more than 14,000 medication administrations and reviewed more than 3,000 order transcriptions at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

In hospital units that did not use the bar-code eMAR, researchers observed 776 nontiming errors in medication administration (11.5% error rate) compared with 495 such errors (6.8% error rate) on units used the technology-a 41% relative reduction in errors (P<.001).

In addition, although transcription errors occurred at a rate of 6.1% on units without bar-code eMAR, they were completely eliminated on units that did use the technology.

Poon EG, Keohane CA, Yoon CS, et al. Effect of bar-code technology on the safety of medication administration. N Engl J Med. 2010;362(18):1698-1707.