When we often hear about medical errors that occur in hospitals, we typically think of nurses administering the wrong medication to patients or doctors prescribing an incorrect dosage of drugs. However, medication mistakes can occur long before that—behind the scenes in hospital pharmacies.
Pharmacists have to order the drugs and manage the medications for the entire hospital, which means taking inventory of their drug supplies and labeling the medications. They need to keep tabs on medications nearing their expiration date and those associated with drug recalls. Because this is a huge undertaking, medication errors at hospital pharmacies occur far too often.
Wanting to improve patient safety and avoid as many medication errors as possible, the University of Maryland Medical Center’s pharmacy services implanted a radio frequency identification system to track medications. This RFID technology uses radio waves to transfer data, making medication management easier and accurate. According to the manager of the University of MD Medical Center, this technology has helped them cut their medication error rate and give them an accurate count of their supplies.
Before this technology was implemented, trays of emergency medications for Code carts were checked manually. Unfortunately, the medication error rate with this manual process was one in twenty, but now the medication error rate is one in 4,000 with the use of RFID technology—greatly reducing medication mistakes at this hospital.
The role this RFID technology has been key in helping pharmacies and hospitals reduce mistakes and plays a critical role in helping to improve patient safety.