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Hospitals Using Bar Codes to Prevent Medication Errors

December 4th, 2009

Medication and prescription errors are a major problem affecting our nation’s healthcare system. Such errors harm more than 1.5 million patients each year. But if there’s a bright side to the problem, it’s that at least half of these mistakes are preventable. Medication errors often occur due to human errors which include miscommunications, misinformation and negligence. In an effort to reduce the number of these errors, some hospitals have begun bar coding patients as they are admitted.

Patients receive wristbands with their names and other pertinent information upon arrival at the hospital. Under the new system, those wristbands now contain a bar code, which links the patient with an electronic health record. Those records contain information on the patient’s medications, including dosages and when the patient last received the medication. The hope is that an electronic record will reduce human errors inherent in handwritten medical charts, such as illegible handwriting or incorrect information.

The system is not meant be a cure-all that can eliminate all medication errors in hospitals. Rather, it’s intended as an added safety check for nurses who administer medicine according to the “five rights of medication administration.” Those rights are: the right patient; the right medicine; the right dosage; the right method of administering the medication; and the right time and frequency of administration. Scanning a patient’s bar code will alert nurses as to whether anything’s amiss in any of these areas.

The system offers other features, as well. It can keep track of what nurse administered what medications and when. And it allows nurses to set reminders and alerts for when to check a patient’s pain level and other duties pertaining to the patient. The bar coding system is just one step towards implementing an all-electronic system for hospitals. Once in place, these systems are expected to reduce or eliminate much of the human error involved in healthcare. Currently, all hospitals are required by the Food and Drug Administration to barcode the medication stored in hospital pharmacies so that medications can be tracked and recorded. By applying the same technology to patient wristbands, many medication errors could be prevented, saving countless lives and reducing patient complications.

Prescription medication is heavily regulated, and for good reason. Medications must be administered with the utmost of care. Failure to closely follow the instructions associated with medications can result in tragedy. And even seemingly minor medical or pharmaceutical errors can pose grave consequences to patients and their loved ones.

The attorneys at have a long record of successfully representing victims of medical and pharmaceutical error. If you, or someone you know, have been injured because of being prescribed the wrong medicine, or other medical error, please contact us at for a free consultation. Our attorneys are available to assist in all aspects of your litigation.

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Gavin P. Lentz, Esq.
Bochetto & Lentz

Gavin Lentz (right) was selected as a "Super Lawyer" for 2006-2009 and 2010-2015 in New Jersey by Philadelphia Magazine. He has also been selected as a "Super Lawyer" by Philadelphia Magazine and the Legal Intelligencer in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 - 2015.

On September 16, 2002 Mr. Lentz was selected as one of the top 50 lawyers in Pennsylvania by the Legal Intelligencer.

He has made many television appearances, including on Fox News, The Today Show, Inside Edition, and The Phil Donahue Show.

Mr. Lentz is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

As a former prosecutor, he knows how to aggressively go after large pharmacy chains to prove the facts necessary to protect your loved one's rights.

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