By Dhirendra Pratap Singh, Elets News Network (ENN)
According to the American Journal, published by American Medical Association, there are 225,000 deaths per year in the US due to unintentional medical errors. While no Indian data is available on this topic, the Indian government after realising this concept, set up the National Initiative on Patient Safety in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences a couple of years back.
Incorrect identification of patients often results in medication errors, misdiagnoses and on rare occasions it can result in an invasive procedure being performed on the wrong patient. In order to prevent these serious clinical errors, RFID-enabled patient identification and tracking systems are used, wherein the patients are given a wristband with a RFID chip that stores the unique patient ID and other relevant medical information. The caregiver uses a hand-held RFID reader or a PDA to access electronic patient records, cross-check the medication dosage prescribed, and updates the record with observations and comments on diagnosis in real-time.
Patient identification and location assistance tools from the world of RFID can be very useful for care providers, especially in cases of long-term care, mentally challenged patients, and newborns.
Recently Max Healthcare introduced the Bar Coded Medication Administration (BCMA) in its hospitals across Delhi, Bhatinda and Mohali. Barcode readers prevent human errors in the distribution of prescription medications at hospitals. It makes sure that patients receive the correct medications at the correct time by electronically validating and documenting medications.
This technology has the potential of becoming a catalyst for new efficiencies and enhanced services for healthcare service providers. Hospitals and medical facilities seeking competitive advantage can make use of barcode readers to optimise their workflows, improve productivity, reduce operating costs, and provide better patient care. It could help prevent patient identity mix-ups, medication errors, and also reduce thefts of expensive mobile medical equipments.
BCMA could help streamline the tracking and recording of the available inventory efficiently and accurately. This will help hospitals in maintaining optimal stock of medical inventory on a real-time basis and reduce the overall inventory cost by maximising resource utilisation and creating the scope for having ‘just in time inventory’. Barcode-enabled identification of specimen, blood samples and management of transfusion can be helpful in achieving significant improvements in preventing errors, during transfusion and laboratory processing. It is also conducive for saving valuable time.
“BCMA Following the Principle of ‘5 Rights’ Reduces the Chances of Medication errors”
How do you see the advancement in field of Barcode Readers in recent years?
Surely, over a period of time there has been an increase in the use of barcode readers. Our most common experience with the barcode readers is during the billing process at shopping stores. But its usage is not confined to the consumer industry; it has been in use in other industries as well, including healthcare.
Barcode readers are a new concept in healthcare in India and are not very extensive so far, but it’s bound to increase in the days to come. It is mainly used wherever there is a movement of materials involved, to the extent that a medicine being given to the patient can be bar coded and read through barcode reader for accuracy as to the drug type, batch no, expiry etc.
Please give a brief about installation of Bar Coded Medication Administration in Max healthcare. How is it useful in reducing medication errors in healthcare delivery?
The Bar Coded Medication Administration (BCMA) has been installed as a part of our electronic health records programme. It helps us electronically document a patient’s records. In the system the order for medications are put by the Physician on the basis of which the pharmacy sends the doses required for the next 24 hours. The drugs dispensed are billed by reading the barcode on each medicine, which includes the Generic salt in medicine, brand name of medicine, batch no and expiry date. The drug barcode is again scanned at the time of administration to the patient, to ensure that the right medicine is given to right patient at the right time in right dose and right route. The patient’s identity is established by scanning the barcode on the wrist band at the time of drug administration.
This close loop medical administration ensures the five Rights. And these 5R’s of drug administration ensures safe medication for the patient. The barcode also enables alerts on allergy reactions.
What are the challenges in the adoption of new technologies in Barcode Readers?
The packaging and standard bar codes on medicines and equipment need to be standardised to reduce the costs of Bar Code Administration. Healthcare industry faces a few challenges in the use of barcode technology; principal among them is the absence of barcode on drugs. Also bulky devices hinder access to bed ridden patient. There is also the absence of barcode standard for healthcare in India.
What is the future of Barcode Readers in achieving improvements in patient care applications?
Many new applications are being developed today for improving the levels of patient care and safety. Administering medication to the patient as part of treatment also involves a risk of errors, which can make a difference between life and death of the patient. BCMA following the principle of ‘5 Rights’ definitely reduces the chances of medication errors. For the delivery of safe healthcare, barcode tech-nology provides a way to track actions and material involved in the care of the patient. The technology helps in tracking material from procurement to consumption/administration.
Additionally, we expect the mobile devices to mature to a level to read the barcodes on vendor pack-aged medicines. We may then have a barcode reader for medications in every mobile phone and tablet.
Pharmaceutical companies loose substantial revenue every year due to drug counterfeiting. Counterfeit drugs might pose serious health risks to patients due to the possible use of substandard and dangerous ingredients. Use of barcode readers in packaging of prescription drugs can counter instances of drug counterfeiting; identify fake, tampered, recalled or expired drugs. This will enable verification of their authenticity throughout the supply chain, from the point of manufacture to the point of dispensing, thereby resulting in money savings for the industry and ensuring safe medication for the patients.
Though the application space of barcode readers is growing and gaining popularity, its acceptance and adoption in healthcare is not without challenges. Though the costs of readers and tags are decreasing, implementation of such systems might still require substantial capital investments. This needs to be re-duced for wider acceptance of such systems in the healthcare industry. Potential adopters like hospitals with thin IT budget might not be keen to consider barcode systems, unless the costs are more affordable and there is assurance of better performance.