FDA Considering Mandatory Barcode System in Hospitals To Cut Medical Errors
The FDA today is holding a public hearing to discuss requiring that all hospitals affix barcodes to patient IDs and prescription drug containers in order to prevent "thousands of ... deaths each year," the Wall Street Journal reports. A 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine found that "preventable medical errors" in hospitals cause between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths each year. Other studies have determined that using "supermarket-style systems" that scan a patient's wristband, a nurse's identification badge and the container of the drug administered can reduce medication errors between 50% and 75%, according to the Journal. The barcode system checks the five "rights" -- "right patient, right drug, right dose, right route of administration and right time." An alert is issued if an error is detected, requiring a nurse's response. The technology to support the system already exists, although it is employed by only about 10% of hospitals.
The Journal reports that there are a "number of issues" that must be addressed, such as what information will be required on the drug container labels and how additional information can be listed on drug containers' limited space. In addition, the health care industry would have to spend between $500 million and $1.4 billion over the next decade to implement the system, with hospitals "pick[ing] up much of the tab." The barcode system has the support of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices and the Federation of American Hospitals, among others, the Journal reports (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 7/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.