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The Queen's Medical Center employs stringent patient care standards to ensure patient safety, including the administration of medications. However, because the medication use process in hospitals is very complex, Queen's continuously studies technological advances which may optimize patient safety.

One such study at Queen's is a pilot Bar Code Patient Identification program on one of its units. National studies reveal that for every Adverse Drug Event (ADE) that occurs, there are an estimated 50 to 100 process errors made. These errors can occur at any stage in the medication use process, including dispensing and medication administration. The new bar coding technology may give patients another layer of protection against process errors.

Technically entitled the Bar Code-Enabled Point-of-Care (BPOC) Project, the technology allows for real time confirmation of patient identification, medication, dose, time and route of administration. As each patient arrives on the unit, they are given a bar coded ID band (see photo) generated by a special printer via the Queen's computer system. Nurses also have a bar code of their own on their ID badges. Both the nurse and the patient ID codes are scanned using high tech equipment. The first phase of the pilot project utilizes patient care equipment already bar code enabled, such as PCX or I-Stat devices.

"The pilot study will help us to identify and resolve problems and issues before a hospital-wide implementation," says Kurt Schanzenbach, manager of Pharmacy Services. Already, at least one nurse has commented that scanning the wristbands is easier than scanning Patient Plan of Care bar codes.

The implementation of the bar coded patient ID wristbands will also provide a key component of the infrastructure needed for future phases of the project, which will include applications involving the blood bank, laboratory and medication dispensing and administration.

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