University Hospitals in Iowa City is now one of the first medical centers in the U.S. using a “bar code” system for its blood supply. Anyone who’s been to a grocery store in the past decade is familiar with the technology. Judy Levitt, the hospital’s clinical pathology lab manager, explains why bags of blood are now being bar-coded. Levitt says one of the hospital’s top priorities is to enhance patient safety in regard to blood transfusion. Data is taken from a patient’s chart and converted to a series of black bars on a white backing, information that’s read with a laser scanner device. Levitt says the patient’s medical record number is what’s encrypted in the bar code and it automates the positive identification of every patient to make sure the right tube of blood is drawn from the right patient — and that it’s administered to the right patient. She says the hospital staff is already doing an outstanding job of providing safe blood transfusions, but the new system will provide an important extra mechanism for safety. Levitt says the system will not only eliminate human error in patient identification but it’ll streamline the process so health care professionals can devote more time to other areas of patient care. She says the bar code system will eventually encompass all patient medication administration and specimen collection procedures.
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