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Research Article Open Access
Background: Medication errors in anesthesia present patient safety challenges and research has shown that proper medication labeling may reduce error rates. Bar code-assisted syringe labeling may improve labeling accuracy and compliance. The purpose of this study is to compare the time required to label syringes using the manual method with the time required using bar code-assisted syringe labeling technology; to determine labeling error rates and compliance with Joint Commission (JC)-required labeling data elements; and to determine user satisfaction with the syringe labeling technology.
Methods: We observed clinicians during preparation of three medications (Succinylcholine, Propofol and Atropine) using the conventional manual labeling technique and a bar code-assisted syringe labeling system. Participants completed a survey about their experiences using the bar codeassisted medication labeling system. Primary outcome measures were time to prepare medications, JC labeling compliance and labeling errors.
Results: Sixty-four subjects prepared 192 syringes using each method. Total time to prepare the drugs was shorter using the bar code-assisted system (129.9s vs. 138.6s, p=0.01). With the manual labeling method, we observed 38 errors on 24 labels (12.5% label error rate). No errors were found using the bar code-assisted syringe labeling system. Furthermore, survey data revealed >95% clinician satisfaction with the system.
Conclusions: More than one in ten manually labeled syringes contained errors. Bar code-assisted medication labeling not only ensured 100% accuracy and compliance with JC labeling requirements but was also faster than the conventional manual method, even for first time users with no training. Bar code technology has the potential to save time while improving perioperative patient safety.