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Analysis

Bar Code Rx Administration Compliance Rolling Out Slowly

By Tinker Ready  
   December 01, 2016

The practice of tracking medication administration electronically promises to improve patient safety, but an early look at some of the data shows that hospitals are still working through barriers that hinder compliance.

Starting this year, the Leapfrog Group began collecting data on the use of bar codes in the administration of drugs to hospital patients. Enabled by electronic medical records, the system allows nurses to scan a patient’s wristband to confirm drug delivery for each patient. 

The practice promises to improve patient safety, but an early look at some of the data shows that hospitals are still working through barriers that hinder compliance.

To meet the nonprofit organization's standards, hospitals have to make sure that bar code systems are deployed in all of their medical and surgical units, including intensive care. And they have to ensure that they are being used.

Leapfrog has not yet collected a full year's worth of data, but the state of Massachusetts offers a snapshot based on three months of the group's 2016 data.

Only six of the 47 hospitals monitored were found to have fully implemented bar code checks during medication administration (BCMA). And those facilities are not the big Boston medical centers that usually score high in the rankings.

Two are in largely rural Western, Massachusetts. The other two are south of the city.

The findings are part of a much broader annual quality report from The Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA), a quasi-public agency. It uses its own measures, which are designed to meet the National Academy of Medicine's quality standards, said Christi Carman, the group's quality reporting manager.

A third report used a select group of measures to "tell the clearest story in terms of what the measures intended to capture and how important the measures are relative to… the conversation here in the Commonwealth about quality and value," Carman said.

The report, which looks at both providers and hospitals, used 17 measures broken down by safe care, effective and efficient care, and patient-centered care. The BCMA numbers are in the "Safe Care" chapter, which reported four hospitals in full BCMA compliance. For the rest of the 39 reporting hospitals, 18 reported they were making "substantial progress" and 21 basically said they are still working on it.

Tinker Ready is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.


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