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News
Issue #2003 - 13 (April 2003)
(Updated Apr. 16, 2003)

APPLICATION SOLUTIONS & APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT

FDA Order Targets Drug Makers, But Hospitals Will Have To Pay For Underlying IT Infrastructure

Source: Computerworld - Bob Brewin

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week mandated that drug companies put bar codes on all drugs dispensed in hospitals as a means of reducing medication errors. Hospitals welcomed the prospect of error reduction, even though as an industry they will have to spend billions to deploy the technology. 
The regulations apply only to drug manufacturers and not to hospitals. But as a practical matter, hospitals will need bar code readers and the networks and systems to support them. The FDA put the cost of deploying those systems at about $7.2 billion.

Hospitals don't appear to be balking at the hefty price tag, because many see it as a worthwhile investment.

Richard Coorsh, a spokesman for the Federation of American Hospitals, a Washington-based association of large, investor-owned hospital companies, said his organization has solidly backed the bar-code regulations. "We believe it will improve care and save lives," he said.

The FDA requirement for standard bar codes will save money for hospitals that have already started to deploy medication management systems, according to Jane Englebright, vice president of quality at HCA Inc. in Nashville. In testimony at an FDA hearing last year, Englebright said the lack of standard bar codes required hospitals to repackage and add bar codes to drugs at a cost to a 150-bed hospital of $162,000 per year. That compares with a one-time cost of $250,000 to equip the hospital with bar-code technology and systems, she said.

Jeff Schou, director of worldwide health care markets at Symbol Technologies Inc. in Holtsville, N.Y., estimated that close to $1 billion will be spent on wireless LAN technology to provide connectivity for nurses dispensing drugs bedside. Schou said there are roughly 6,000 hospitals in the country and only 7% of them have installed WLANs. He estimated the cost of installing WLANs at hospitals that lack such systems at between $50,000 and $500,000 each, depending on the size of the facility.

Schou said the bar code readers could function in a batch, or disconnected, mode, but he added that WLANs will be the best way to manage the system.

Steve Rough, director of pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, agreed, noting that batch mode doesn't provide nurses with real-time information -- a key to medication management.

The University of Wisconsin started deploying a medication management system, Admin-Rx from San Francisco-based McKesson Corp., in December 2001. That system incorporates bar codes, and according to Rough, it will revolutionize patient care and safety. Rough said the hospital has experienced an 87% reduction in the number of medication errors.

That's because the bar-code system provides multiple checks to ensure that a patient receives the correct drug. When nurses dispense medications, they first scan a bar code on their badges and then the code on the patient's bracelet and finally the code on the drug. This information is sent to a back-end database, which contains patient and prescription information.

Rough said the cost of wireless LANs could be spread over multiple applications, including computerized physician order entry systems and supply systems. While he declined to detail his costs to install the McKesson Admin-Rx system, he said a hospital his size should anticipate spending "a couple of million dollars over a five-year period."

Marybeth Navarra, director of patient safety at McKesson's Automation Group, called the FDA's bar-code regulations a "huge step forward" in the quest to eliminate patient errors. She said the regulations would also help break a standoff between pharmaceutical manufacturers, resellers and hospitals over the use of bar codes. The manufacturers didn't want to use bar codes because the hospitals didn't have readers, while the hospitals didn't want to install the technology because so few drugs had the bar codes.

Total costs for hardware and software for a 125-bed hospital would run about $200,000, Navarra said. A hospital that size with no wireless LAN, would add another $50,000 to hardware costs, she said.

The bar-code regulations will go into effect three years after the FDA publishes its final rules. That's expected to happen later this year, after the agency assesses comments filed in the next 90 days.

Source: Compterworld - Bob Brewin

MobileInfo Comments and Advisory: Bar-code technology is proven and is in-expensive. WLANs are finding lot of adoption in hospital settings because hospitals are like campuses. Merging of bar-code and Wireless LANs makes a lot of sense.

 Note: This news release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and section 21E of Securities Exchange act of 1934 in USA. Similar provisions exist in other countries. There is no assurance that the stipulated plans of vendors will be implemented. MobileInfo does not warrant the authenticity of the information. Readers should take appropriate caution in developing plans utilizing these products, services and technology architectures.  All trademarks used in this summary are the property of their respective owners.


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