Bar code system helps eliminate medicine mistakes

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Improper dosage of medicine is the number one fatal medical error.

At the VA Hospital in Reno, the Bar Code Medication Administration, or BCMA, is designed to connect the patient with the right medication with the right dosage at the right time.

The patient is given a wrist band at the time he is admitted to the hospital. The bar code on the wrist bad has the patient’s name and other pertinent information on it. As medications are prescribed, that information too will be placed within the bar code. On the patient's floor, a nurse will scan the bar code to identify the patient.

Once that is confirmed, the medication and its proper dosage will appear on the screen. The medication will then appear from a drawer with the patient’s name on it below the screen.

"Yep, this is the right medication; I am going to scan it. Even if I see on the package that it is the right medication, I have to scan it. The computer has to tell me that it is the right medication before I can give it. Because the computer is checking the medication. It is checking the dose, the patient, the time, the route that it is being given. It is doing our safety checks," says Erin Pate, VA Mental Health Patient Nurse Manager.

The system has been at the VA more than five years. Pate says it is constantly being updated to be even more efficient, often taking recommendations from nurses, pharmacists, and others.

More than 30% of medicine errors in the hospital occur at the point of administration. The BCMA system cuts those errors by 80%.