Case History: Medical

(Names have been changed due to ongoing litigation)

Bill and Cindy were expecting the birth of their first child when she slipped and fell at six months.  While she felt fine, being cautious they went to the doctor. He was optimistic but as a precaution sent her to the hospital.

They admitted Cindy and gave her a bar-coded wristband.  The floor nurse came into her room, scanned the wristband and her medical orders, and then gave her medication to make sure she did not go into premature labor.  But the barcode was wrong. A later investigation revealed that instead of being given medication to suspend labor, the drug Cindy was administered caused just the opposite result.

In just a short time Cindy went into labor.    Almost immediately, she was fully dilated and there was nothing the attending physicians could do to stop the delivery.

Three months premature, fighting to breathe through lungs that had not fully developed, Bill and Cindy’s first born had to remain in a major hospital neonatal intensive care unit for three months until they could bring their child home

Faced with crushing debt as a result (and potentially more costs to come), Bill and Cindy were forced to  seek  litigation against both the hospital and the label vendor   Any award moneys will no doubt be paid by the hospital’s insurance as well as the label vendor’s Errors and Omissions policy.

Barcode performance is more than just print quality. As this real and nearly tragic case study demonstrates, sometimes a barcode that scans perfectly (but is incorrect) is a much worse liability than a barcode that doesn’t scan at all. Verification also encompasses validation that the barcode represents an actual entity and the correct item. Mis-identification because of a database error can be averted and a well crafted, carefully executed barcode quality program should have redundant safeguards built in to catch such errors at every stage in the process, from number assignment in the database management to label printing and packaging.

When verification is viewed as a post-production function, there is only limited opportunity to catch errors with potentially life-threatening consequences, not to mention huge liability and ramifications for insurance claims and future premiums.