Reducing Errors, Saving Lives

Several hospitals are trying out electronic verification systems. Before giving a medicine, nurses scan a patient's bar-coded armband and then pull up the patient's records and verify their meds. They scan the drug -- the armband again -- and give the patient the correct pill.

"I think it's very exciting, and I think it's the wave of the future," says Carol Eck, R.N., the Administrative Director of Patient Care Services at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

Electronic medical records are also helping doctors and nurses keep track of medications. New computer systems let physicians fill out prescriptions, too. When the drug request reaches the pharmacy, robots take over. Special machines automate the process of preparing prescriptions. Some can fill 500 syringes in one hour.

"It weighs it to make sure it has the correct amount in there, and then it will drop it into a separate bin and alert us that we have a patient-specific drug ready," says Amanda Lane, a pharmacy technician.

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Carol Eck, R.N., B.S.N., M.B.A.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

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