Machines More Accurate in Dispensing Drugs

BOSTON, May 10 (UPI) — Machines that use bar-code technology are more accurate than humans in dispensing medications in hospitals, U.S. researchers said.

Lead study author Dr. Eric G. Poon of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston compared 6,723 medications given to patients before a bar-code electronic medication administration record system was installed to 7,318 medications given to patients after the bar-code technology was installed.


The technology ensures the correct medication is given in the correct dose at the correct time to the correct patient. Nurses are sent an alert if medication is not administered on time and before administering a drug, the nurses scan the bar codes on the patient’s wristband and on the medication bottle. If they do not match, if the medication is wrong or it is the wrong time, a warning is issued.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found 41 percent reduction in medication errors. There was also a 27 percent reduction in errors in the timing of medication administration — giving a medication either an hour or more off schedule. The rate of potential adverse drug events — other than timing errors — declined from 3.1 percent without the use of the bar-code technology to 1.6 percent with its use — a 51 percent reduction.

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