UK’s Scan4Safety Program Improves Hospital Efficiency, Patient Care with Barcode Scanners.

The Results are in: Barcode Scanning Reduces Medical Error, Protects Patients, and Slashes Costs

Mobile scanning drives better outcomes in the United Kingdom’s Scan4Safety initiative

Despite the sophistication of modern healthcare, the incidence of error in its delivery remains alarmingly high. As many as four out of ten patients worldwide suffer harm when receiving care, and up to 80 percent of these incidents are considered preventable. However, barcode scanning might hold the key to improving patient safety.

pill scanners save lives
So far, Scan4Safety has reduced medication errors by 76%.

To investigate the effectiveness of barcode scanning in reducing error and boosting overall efficiency, the United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) launched Scan4Safety, selecting six National Health Service (NHS) hospital trusts to take part in the two-year program. With DHSC funding, each participating organization implemented GS1-compliant barcodes on patient wristbands, on healthcare equipment, and in locations throughout their facilities.

Before performing procedures, healthcare workers in the Scan4Safety trusts used barcode readers to scan patient wristbands, all equipment and devices involved, and markers in the locations where care is provided. Captured data was then instantly transmitted and recorded into a hospital database, enabling staff to easily track which procedures were administered to which patient—and at what time, in what place, and with what equipment.

Scan4Safety participants improve care, free up hours, and save on inventory costs
The results? Scan4Safety barcoding systems greatly enhanced clinical efficiency, freeing up an estimated 140,000 hours across the participating hospital trusts. The technology also vastly improved inventory management, delivering £5,000,000 of savings in recurrent inventory costs and £9,000,000 in nonrecurrent costs. And by eliminating manual data entry and keeping the right items in stock and at hand, the solutions boosted hospital staff morale and productivity.

Most importantly, Scan4Safety barcoding proved highly beneficial in critical areas related to care delivery and patient safety:
• Error reduction. The Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust implemented barcode scanning procedures in its workflow for prescribing and dispensing medications, eliminating errors related to drug administration and reducing its overall error rate by 76 percent.

• Prevention of "never events." Barcode scanning also helped trusts protect against "never events"—serious medical incidents that should never occur with the proper precautions in place. In the orthopedics department of the North Tees and Hartlepool Hospital NHS Trust, for example, barcoding technology ensures that the correct patient undergoes the correct procedure on the correct side of the body.

scanners prevent medication errors
Advanced barcode scanners, like Code’s CR2700, support Scan4Safety.

• Fast, accurate recalls. With complete traceability available at the click of a mouse, staff at the participating hospital trusts are positioned to spend far less time tracking down patients and products in the event of a recall. For instance, if a recall is issued for an implantable device, an organization can instantly determine which patients have had the device implanted and when each procedure took place. Recalls like this are made possible, in part, to firms pushing the limits of the actual barcodes themselves. Take, for instance, Rel8 and its imZERT technology, which is billed as the world’s smallest direct part marking barcode for components, such as those in medical devices. Made from nanostructures, these imZERT barcodes can be as small as 1mm2, making them ideal for the tracking the components used in medical devices and equipment.

• Streamlined observation systems. Several hospital trusts extended their barcoding technology to capture key patient data—blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate, for example—and transmit it to their electronic observations systems. Organizations reported reducing time spent gathering observation data by up to 35 percent, saving a significant number of clinical hours each day.

Following Scan4Safety’s lead with the right barcode scanners
To implement highly effective barcoding solutions like those deployed in the Scan4Safety initiative, healthcare organizations need technology they can count on, including the hardest-working data capture devices: barcode scanners (aka barcode readers). These mission-critical devices must be designed for:

• Accuracy with ease. Healthcare environments present some tricky scanning challenges, including barcodes on bags containing fluid. With white barcodes printed on transparent material, saline bags are particularly difficult for basic barcode readers to scan. And bags containing blood often have multiple barcodes, making it time-consuming for staff to zero in on the right ones. To perform scans quickly and accurately, healthcare workers need barcode scanners capable of reading against all types of backgrounds and identifying relevant barcodes, blocking out any unnecessary information.

• Virus protection. Now more than ever, healthcare staff need to rigorously clean and disinfect all equipment—including barcode scanners—to ensure patient safety. If scanners and readers lack the proper chemical composition, medical-grade cleaners and disinfectants will degrade the devices. Scanner housings that crack over time hasten device failure.

• Durability. To fully withstand the demands of a medical environment, barcode readers need to be built for protection against dirt, dust, fluids—and repeated drops to floors and other hard surfaces.

With software offering enterprise-grade scanning strength, healthcare organizations can incorporate their own mobile devices into basic clinical workflows. Mobile scanning also enables them and incorporate barcode data into their electronic health record or electronic medical record systems for administrative purposes. By integrating popular Android and iOS mobile devices into healthcare workflows, medical providers have another way to incorporate barcode scanning into their practices in a way that’s fast, cost-effective, and easy for users to adopt.

Have you been tasked with improving workflows for your organization or outcomes for your customers and not sure where to start? Contact Code for guidance in selecting the right data capture and barcode scanning solutions for you: [email protected] or +01 801-495-2200.

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