Canton, Ohio: Mercy Medical Center recently began rolling out an electronic medication administration record (EMAR) and the area’s first wireless patient and medication bar-coding system. Together with Mercy’s now exclusive use of intravenous (IV) infusion “smart pumps,” these technologies work in tandem to take patient safety and bedside medication verification to an even higher level.
“This major Mercy initiative, designed to electronically track medications from manufacturer to patient, represents a $3.7 million investment and helps ensure the right patient receives the right medication at the right dosage,” says John Feucht, pharmacy director.
The recent roll-out of EMAR and bar coding on the hospital’s pilot unit is the culmination of nearly three years intense collaboration between pharmacy, nursing, respiratory therapy (RT) and information technology. Mercy anticipates that all units will be on board with EMAR and bar coding by the end of 2009.
Finely Tuned System of Safeguards
Jim Williams., vice president and chief nursing officer, says patients are now even safer at Mercy because EMAR, bar coding and smart pumps provide, among other things, a finely tuned system of safeguards between nurses, RTs and pharmacists.
He adds, “This system helps us verify physician orders, which all must be submitted electronically to ensure accuracy and legibility. And, in situations with ‘high risk’ drugs, it checks them against dosage standards and requires more than one sign-off. Now, when the nurse or RT administers medications, it’s like having the pharmacist right at the bedside, too.”
When patients are admitted at Mercy, they receive a unique bar-coded wristband that is integrated with the hospital’s systems. Prior to every dose of medication, a nurse or RT must wirelessly scan the barcode on the drugs and the wristband to make sure everything matches. The scan also immediately updates EMAR – a change from the paper MAR, which was updated only once every 24 hours – and minimizes the chances of missed medication orders.
The hospital’s new smart pumps offer simple, wireless programming, a built-in electronic drug library, and audio/visual alerts.
According to Laurel Jones, R.N., a staff member on the pilot unit, nurses have been very supportive of the new technologies because they recognize the patient safety benefits.
“So far it’s been a very successful pilot implementation,” she says. “We’ve received a great deal of training and ongoing support from nursing administration, IT and the pharmacy, and we know the system will elevate patient safety.”
FDA Implements Barcode Rule in 2004
A decade ago the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) published To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System. The study found that medical errors accounted for between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths each year in the United States, with adverse drug affects being the most common cause of medical errors.
In 2004 the FDA issued a final rule requiring bar-coded labels on most drugs and biological products. The administration estimated the rule, when fully implemented, will help prevent nearly 500,000 adverse events and transfusion errors and save an expected $93 billion over 20 years.
About Mercy Medical Center
Mercy Medical Center, a nonprofit corporation of the Sisters of Charity Health System and University Hospitals Health System, operates a 476-bed hospital serving Stark, Carroll, Wayne, Holmes and Tuscarawas Counties and parts of Southeastern Ohio. It has 550 physicians on its Medical Staff and employs 2,500 people. Mercy operates outpatient health centers in Carrollton, Jackson Township, Lake Township, Louisville, North Canton, Plain Township and Tuscarawas County. A Catholic hospital, Mercy Medical Center upholds the mission and philosophy of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine and continues to be responsive to the needs of the community, including the provision of care to all, regardless of their ability to pay. For more information, see www.cantonmercy.com.
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