The solution for reducing these errors is to implement additional technology. “We want to get bar coding at the bedside, where we scan the patient, medication, and nurse,” he explains. “This will catch any problem at that time, whether it’s the wrong medication, the wrong dose, or the wrong time.”
Getting Ernie installed was an integral part of this solution. “With the robot, we’re partway there. By the end of next year, we hope to have the bedside piece in place. We have all our medications bar-coded; we need basic technology at the bedside,” says Blanchard. “The selection and correct patient information are taken care of by the robot.”
Bar code scanning of medications at bedside is becoming more common. “We’re seeing a lot of momentum for this,” says Fletcher. “Industry statistics show that 7.5% to 10% of all hospitals have implemented [a bedside medication system], and others are universally planning one. The robot was developed with this in mind.”
For now, Evergreen Hospital is happy with the first stage in reducing medication errors: having Ernie sort and dispense patient meds. “It’s been a long time coming,” says Blanchard. TH
Jane Jerrard is a frequent contributor to The Hospitalist.