eHealth News, South Africa

Barcodes Reduce Human Error in Healthcare

The South African healthcare industry is starting to rely on eHealth and other technology to improve patient safety and minimise human error.

Barcodes - EHN

As technology evolves, the South African healthcare industry is starting to rely on eHealth and other technology to improve patient safety and minimise human error.

Earlier this month ITWeb ran an article discussing the benefits of using barcode technology in healthcare and how it can significantly improve the success rate of safe medication administration.

Zebra Technologies territory manager, Janine McEwan, provided her insight and noted that a significant number of adverse drug incidents in South African hospitals can be attributed to human error, which is why the adoption of barcode technology has become so critical.

McEwan pointed out that safe medication administration is underpinned by the principle of the “five rights” – right medication, right dose, right time, right patient and right route. “When implemented properly, barcode solutions can significantly improve the success rate of this process and enhance patient care at the bedside.”

According to McEwan, barcode solutions are becoming increasingly popular due to their relative ease of implementation, demonstrated return on investment and broad array of applications. “Simply put, barcode technology eliminates the need for traditional keyboard data entry. It requires conversion of an identifier to a symbolic representation namely, the barcode. The barcode can then be printed on or affixed to an item and subsequently read by a light source and fed into a computer.”

Barcode solutions can be used in a variety of healthcare applications, including producing hospital wristbands and labelling for pharmaceutical unit-dose medications, IV mixtures, lab and pathology specimens, blood products, asset tags, file labels, etc.

Through barcode technology, pharmaceutical companies can locate and track each dose of medication produced in vast batches and hospitals can monitor and utilise equipment with greater efficiency. Even Healthcare staff can use barcodes to create and maintain healthcare records more efficiently.

“The rate of accuracy at which information can be captured is exceptional. Barcode scanning equipment is much faster than the human eye and notably more accurate. When tested, barcode scanners were proven to have an accuracy rate of one error per 10,000,000 characters. By comparison, keyboard entry error rates of one error per 100 characters were noted,” said McEwan.

According to McEwan, barcode solutions are slowly being embraced by the South African healthcare industry; and she’s optimistic the adoption will keep on growing. “With the implementation of global barcoding standardisation and WHO drivers, there is strong view that patient safety is a fundamental principle of healthcare, encouraging support for this principle globally. Barcode scanning is extremely accurate, much more accurate than any manual means of information recording; the error rate for barcode data entry is less than one per three million scans,” said McEwan.

The Department of Health in the UK has already announced it wants all products supplied to the NHS to carry barcodes compliant to the GS1 UK standard by the end of next year. “To implement the same in South Africa can only improve patient safety and reduce the risks of misidentification and the errors in care associated with this,” concluded McEwan.

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