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QR Codes and Nursing Essay

Originally invented in 1994, by the Denso Wave Corporation in Japan, Quick response codes, or QR codes were intended to for the auto manufacturer Toyota as a means to track vehicles, as well as vehicle parts, during the manufacturing production stages of building their cars. The QR codes were designed to allow Toyota manufactures to identify parts by scanning a two dimensional barcode, or, QR code at high speed. Since its inception in 1994 QR codes have become one of the most popular types of barcode used in Japan. Used primarily through Smart phones, this technology quickly allows consumers to access information contained in the QR code. In recent years the QR barcodes have infiltrated the United States via consumer advertisers and packaging companies. QR codes can be found on direct mail from advertisers, billboards, buses, internet ads, and have even crossed boarders into the healthcare industry (Wikipedia, 2012). Even the Federal Government is adopting the use of QR codes to reduce the risks associated with mistaken personnel identification.

The United States Department of Defense has also boosted identification (ID) security of employees by adopting smart ID cards, which are essentially QR codes. Instead of using the traditional ID card with employee photos, the Department of Defense has issued smart ID cards which act much like QR codes, however, they more are more expensive to produce, and require ongoing IT support. Although they are more expensive than a traditional ID card, The Smart ID cards allow for faster verification of personnel, and may ease some of the pressure on security officials who have to use their judgment based on an ID card flashed in their face.

With one scan of the QR code, down to the minute, information can be displayed, which includes, authorizations for the employee, or their qualifications and, or credentials. The purpose of this communication is to explain the advantages and disadvantages of participating in a QR code pilot program, such as Lifesquare, who has partnered with emergency workers in Marin County, California to improve their ability to save lives in emergency situations through the use of QR codes, which allow them to access patient medical information including, medical history; and medications currently taken.

In many cases this is critical with regards to saving someone’s life. Having access to their medical history, and or current medications could be critical in an emergency situation, when time is of the essence. In the medical field, this has become known as BCMA, which is bar code-assisted medication administration. BCMA technology is being used as an aid to combat medication administration errors, improve patient safety and provide more accurate medication administration documentation. Not only is this technology being used in the United States, “however, this technology is also used in European countries including Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands” (Hassink, Jansen, Helmons, 2012). There have been many studies conducted over the years to conclude whether or not BCMA technology is advantageous to the medical field, including hospitals, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists’.

Research has concluded, that there are both advantages and disadvantages when implementing BCMA technology, as well as contrasting information when it comes down to whether or not the BCMA technology is actually reducing errors in medicine administration. Although, the studies have concluded that there are many issues with BCMA technology, none indicate that BCMA technology is failing to prevent patient safety, which should be the main concern when administering medicine (Hassink, Jansen, Helmons, 2012). When researching the advantages to using BCMA technology, there weren’t many sources that provided straight to the point advantages, however, according to a “2010 quasi-experimental study Poon, et al., report that barcode medication administration systems have been associated with a 41% reduction in non-timing administration errors and a 51% reduction in potential adverse drug events from these errors, carrying the potential to prevent 95,000 possible ADEs” (Poon 2010).

If these numbers are correct, BCMA technology has to potential to prevent nearly 100,000 cases of ADE, which is and adverse drug event, in which are “defined as an injury resulting from the use of a medicine or omission of an intended medicine” (Hassink, Jansen, Helmons, 2012). Basically, when a patient is injured due to a medication error, it is considered and ADE. On the other hand, it seems that there was lots of information when it came down to the disadvantages of using BCMA technology. Since many of the studies conducted could not present any clear cut evidence and the fact that many of the studies regarding BCMA technology have contrasting information have produced many barriers to stop its implementation. Of the disadvantages, one of the main concerns was the price to implement this technology.

This includes the costs of the equipment and installation, along with training the staff on how to use a new and very complex technology such as BCMA. You also have to deal with the fact that not all people are computer savvy, and complicated software programs such as the BCMA technology may not be user friendly. Having a nurse that does not know how to operate this type of system may do more harm than good. Many nurses also feel that the BCMA process is very time consuming, however, studies found that there was no issue with regards to the time it took to administer medicine using this process.

In conclusion, I would like to state that I feel that the BCMA process will be very effective in the future and will most like be used throughout the medical field and in all hospitals. Although BCMA technology is not necessarily new, it is new in the field of medicine, and those that don’t understand this process may be having a hard time accepting it. Eventually they will work out all of the kinks associated with BCMA technology, and we will see the numbers associated with medicine administration errors decrease, while we see an increase in patient safety.

References
Hassink, J.J., Jansen, M.M., and Helmons, P, J. (2012). Effects of bar code-assisted medication administration BCMA) on frequency, type and severity of medication administration errors: a review of the literature. Eur J Hosp Pharm 19, 489-494. Doi: 10.1136/ejhpharm-2012-000058 Quick response codes. Retrieved November 22, 2012 from Wikipedia Poon, E. G., Keohane, C. A., Yoon, C. S., Ditmore, M. B., Bane, A. R., Levtzion-Korach, O. M., et al. (2010). Effect of Bar-Code Technology on the Safety of Medication Administration. New England Journal of Medicine , 362 (18), 1698-1707

We Can But Should We?
Chamberlain College of Nursing
Britney Adams


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