• The Gist: Circumventing the bar code system could lead us back to the same drug errors that compelled the switch to bar codes in the first place.
© 2008 The Medical-Legal News
Do bar-coded drugs improve patient safety? They should, except when nurses deliberately circumvent the bar codes.
A study in the July/August issue of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association found that such work-arounds occurred with 4.2% of patients and with 10.3% of drugs charted.
The study was reported in the September issue of Nursing2008.
The study found that nurses may work around the bar-codes either for convenience or because they are forced to thwart the system when the system itself hampers proper procedure.
The study cited 31 reasons why nurses back-doored the system. Some top reasons were: 1) bar codes were unreadable, 2) patient ID bands were unreadable or missing, 3) the medicines were not bar-coded, 4) drugs were physically far away, 5) wireless connections were lost, 6) problems existed with patients in contact isolation and 7) various emergencies.
The article also noted that nurses sometimes carried prescanned medicines on their carts or carried copies of patient ID bands. The study called for better integration of bar code technology with real-world problems.