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Hospitals Go High-Tech to Halt Medical Mistakes

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Hospitals across Iowa are beginning to use more high-tech equiptment. St. Luke's in Cedar Rapids is one of many turning to new computerized programs. Hospitals used to depend on hand written notes for prescriptions and patient care, which often lead to mistakes.

The new technology helps to reduce the amount of errors. With one swipe of a handheld scanner over a wrist band, nurses know everything there is to know about a patient.

"It will tell us if we have the right patient, the right medication, the right time. It also gives us allergy warnings," said Debbie Julian, St. Luke's Nurse.

This transformation is all a part of a new system at St. Luke's. Nurses scan something many of us recognize as QR codes. That bar code activates that person's computerized chart. A warning will then popsup on the computer to alert doctors and nurses to stop if a treatment is incorrect.

"I think it raises the bar in patient safety," Julian said.

Patsy Ott-Pick, a Cedar Falls patient, recently underwent a knee surgery. She is among the first to sport a wrist band with the special codes.

"I think you have a little more confidence in everything. You're getting the medications that you are supposed to be getting, like you know if for some reason something got mixed into mine," Ott-Pick said.

Just a few blocks down the road, Mercy Medical Center also has a similar wrist band bar code scanning system. Pharmacist Systems Analyst Howard Cobb said it has already proven to reduce medical mistakes. He said between 60 and 80 percent of all errors can be prevented with the technology.

"There are a lot of studies out there that show that using bar code technology to identify patients improves patient safety. So, it's very important that it's adopted in the health care industry and it is gaining more and more use throughout healthcare," Cobb said.

Each year hospitals invest in a new form of technology, such as automated prescription machines and robots. Medical professionals know this is just the beginning of the ever-growing amount of medicinal technology.

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