Barcoding has been in use in other industries (such as package delivery) for many years. But it has not been widely used in health care. Back in 2002, when BWH first proposed its use as a part of the BWH implementation of eMAR (electronic medication administration record) technology, only two to three percent of all hospitals used the technology. Now all of the Partners hospitals are in the process of implementing barcoding in our hospitals and, in fact, barcoding in health care has become a national standard.
Partners uses special “smart” barcodes to label medications which contain information about the drug, like expiration date and a way to identify where the drug was made. Barcodes can also be applied to employee ID badges, patient wristbands, and special equipment like vital signs monitors, to make sure each patient gets the right drug, at the right time, at the right dose. Barcodes also allow tracking of the exact dose of each drug given to the patient, helping caregivers avoid medication errors like accidental overdoses.
BWH had such success with barcodes that leadership from the patient safety team collaborated with national standards organizations. This year, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), an organization that promotes voluntary consensus standards, approved the use of these “smart” barcodes for use by health care organizations across the country.