Barcodes: A Scan that Makes a Big Difference 
In 2012, SSM Health Care reported no wrong-patient medication errors at any of its hospitals that used the electronic health record. Keep in mind that SSM administers about one million doses of medication each month and you’ll begin to see what a great accomplishment this is. What made it possible? Great diligence and teamwork by our clinicians to use barcode medication administration.

Linked with SSM’s electronic health record, the barcodes affixed to the medications confirm that the right patient is receiving the correct medication in the correct dose. It is a practice that is being consistently followed at SSM. SSM’s goal is 97 percent and barcode scanning rates were near 100 percent in 2012 at its entities with the electronic health record. According to Lynn Lenker, SSM corporate vice president-chief nursing information officer, the practice is important because barcodes provide an extra level of patient safety in the medication administration process.

Epic Systems Corporation, the company that supplies the software for SSM’s electronic medical record, cited SSM’s advanced use of barcodes. Information for this story was taken from the Epic article.

While several health-care organizations use barcoding in their nursing units, many do not do so in their emergency departments. At first glance, the sometimes frantic pace in emergency departments would seem to be a place where taking the time to scan barcodes wouldn’t work. SSM took a closer look and discovered that a large majority of emergency department patients arrive with non-urgent conditions, and when the barcoding process is done correctly it takes no more time than what nurses have to do manually.

Finally, according to Lenker, it’s the seriously ill or injured patient in the emergency department that may need the barcode backup the most. With all that in mind, SSM overcame the challenges in implementing barcode scanning in its emergency departments. “There weren’t really any good exemptions, because it’s about the patient,” Lenker said.

Using barcoded medication administration produces significant results According to Tom Lonergan, SSM corporate manager of pharmacy clinical excellence, for every 1,000 medication administrations at SSM, there is an average of four cases where a medication discrepancy was prevented by using barcodes. When you’re administering a million medications each month that equates to the prevention of 4,000 potential medication errors.


SSM Integrated Health Technologies
7980 Clayton Rd.
Saint Louis, MO 63117
Phone: (314) 768-5100