Electronic inventory systems and barcode technology: impact on pharmacy technical accuracy and error liability

Hosp Pharm. 2015 Jan;50(1):34-41. doi: 10.1310/hjp5001-034.

Abstract

Purpose: To measure the effects associated with sequential implementation of electronic medication storage and inventory systems and product verification devices on pharmacy technical accuracy and rates of potential medication dispensing errors in an academic medical center.

Methods: During four 28-day periods of observation, pharmacists recorded all technical errors identified at the final visual check of pharmaceuticals prior to dispensing. Technical filling errors involving deviations from order-specific selection of product, dosage form, strength, or quantity were documented when dispensing medications using (a) a conventional unit dose (UD) drug distribution system, (b) an electronic storage and inventory system utilizing automated dispensing cabinets (ADCs) within the pharmacy, (c) ADCs combined with barcode (BC) verification, and (d) ADCs and BC verification utilized with changes in product labeling and individualized personnel training in systems application.

Results: Using a conventional UD system, the overall incidence of technical error was 0.157% (24/15,271). Following implementation of ADCs, the comparative overall incidence of technical error was 0.135% (10/7,379; P = .841). Following implementation of BC scanning, the comparative overall incidence of technical error was 0.137% (27/19,708; P = .729). Subsequent changes in product labeling and intensified staff training in the use of BC systems was associated with a decrease in the rate of technical error to 0.050% (13/26,200; P = .002).

Conclusions: Pharmacy ADCs and BC systems provide complementary effects that improve technical accuracy and reduce the incidence of potential medication dispensing errors if this technology is used with comprehensive personnel training.

Keywords: barcode technology; electronic inventory; error rate; pharmacy; technician.