Davies winner installs bedside bar coding

MultiCare, an integrated delivery system in Tacoma, Wash., is in the home stretch of a decade-long, $140 million IT implementation that won the organization a 2009 Davies Award. The last piece of the puzzle is bedside bar coding for medication administration, now in place at two of the system's four hospitals and scheduled to be in all inpatient facilities by June.

"Now our electronic health records systems runs all the way from administration to the emergency department and the [operating room], to patient records and billing," MultiCare CIO Florence Chang tells the (Tacoma) News Tribune.

The bar-coding system is tightly integrated with MultiCare's Epic Care EMR. When a patient's wristband is scanned, that person's chart comes up on a nearby laptop computer so the administering nurse can verify that the right patient is receiving the right dosage at the right time. Electronic alerts help prevent the dispensing of the wrong drug.

Of course, the technology is not failsafe. "From the very beginning, I've been saying 'garbage in, garbage out,'" Chang says. "You still have to have correct information and it still requires human intelligence and human thinking into the system." At MultiCare, nurses ask patients to verify their name and birthdate as an added check.

For details on MultiCare's IT infrastructure:
- check out this News Tribune story