New Bar-Code Technology Proves Effective; It's Helping Prevent Medication Errors for Sutter Health Patients
Sutter Health’s $25 million technology investment is improving the quality of patient care
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Dec. 6, 2004 - Sutter Health, a family of not-for-profit hospitals and physician organizations serving more than 100 communities in Northern California, today announced preliminary results from new patient safety technology to reduce hospital errors in medication delivery. First implemented in May 2003, Sutter Health's bar-coding technology has prevented approximately 28,000 medication errors across more than 2.6 million attempted drug administrations throughout 10 hospitals. Of the prevented errors, about 9 percent or approximately 2,600 could have produced moderate or severe clinical effects had they not been caught. The FDA estimates that nationwide there are more than 770,000 injuries and deaths caused annually by adverse drug events.
Sutter Health is the first and only health care system in Northern California to implement this advanced technology from Bridge Medical. Nationwide, less than 3 percent of hospitals provide bar code-enabled safety measures to patients, according to the Journal of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
"Across our network, our nurses administer about 30 million medications at the bedside annually. That's a substantial number of interactions that we're committed to getting right," said Gordon Hunt, M.D., Sutter Health senior vice president and chief medical officer. "As early adopters of this technology we’re helping to refine a potentially lifesaving system; we're finding solutions the rest of the industry can follow. Patients everywhere should be asking their local hospitals if they plan to invest in bar-coding."
The high-tech medication delivery system matches each patient with his or her appropriate medication, providing back-up to doctors, nurses and pharmacists ordering and administering drugs in a hospital setting.
"At the click of a mouse, our nurses in these hospitals have access to a tremendous amount of valuable information," said Dr. Hunt. He explained that at the time of admission, a bar code is added to a patient's identification wristband. Nurses' ID badges and unit doses of medications also carry bar codes. All three codes are scanned and checked at the bedside for an identical match before any medication is provided to the patient. The system is supported by a software application that uses expert databases to help ensure the right medication in the right dose is given to the right patient at the right time. It also alerts users to possible look-alike, sound-alike drugs.
While the bar-code system does produce some unnecessary warnings, Sutter Health technology and clinical professionals are continuously working to improve its function. "Our goal is to eliminate unnecessary warnings, allowing nurses to concentrate on critical warnings and making the system an even more valuable tool for enhancing patient safety," said Dr. Hunt.
Ten Sutter-affiliated hospitals have employed this patient-to-drug identification technology since Sutter Health first launched it at Sutter Roseville Medical Center in May 2003. The other facilities include Sutter Tracy Community Hospital, Solano Medical Center in Vallejo, Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa, Sutter Warrack Hospital in Santa Rosa, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Sutter Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport, and Sutter Amador Hospital in Jackson. Sutter will complete its aggressive installation of the program in all of its hospitals in early 2006, one full year ahead of the Federal Drug Administrations' mandate to pharmaceutical companies to bar code individual doses of drugs.
"Sutter Health is leading California's patient safety efforts with the addition of important technologies to reduce medical errors, raise care standards and improve patient satisfaction," said Van R. Johnson, president and CEO of Sutter Health. "Bar coding is part of a $25 million quality care improvement initiative at Sutter Health, and part of an overall $50 million investment in advanced technology that will create fundamental changes in hospital ICU care and bedside medication delivery for all of Sutter Health's patients," he said.