Hospitals would have to develop a plan for implementing bar code technology at the bedside, to be operational by January 2007, as part of significantly revised patient safety goals proposed by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
Under a "potential" expansion of the JCAHO goals, which hospitals must meet as part of the accreditation process, adopting bar code readers would become part of an overall goal of improving patient identification. The Food and Drug Administration published regulations in February requiring drug manufacturers to add bar codes to single units of medication by April 2006, but the rules do not require hospital participation.
The JCAHO proposal also would establish three new patient safety goals -- reconciling medications during patient transfers, reducing the risk of patient harm from falls and reducing the risk of surgical fires. In addition, it would add significant new requirements to the existing seven goals, including independent double-checks whenever infusion pumps are programmed.
Hospitals can comment on the proposals through April 30.