Virtually the same kind of technology used to ring up merchandise at the checkout counter is being put to a new use by some hospitals to help prevent medication mistakes for patients.
You already know how it works in stores: A clerk runs the bar codes on your merchandise across a scanner, and the price rings up on the cash register.
Now nurses in hospitals are scanning new bar code labels on medications, then scanning the bar codes being placed on patients' wristbands to make sure the right drugs are going to the right people.
"It's amazing that this technology has been in the grocery stores for 20 years, but it's just now getting into health care," said Jerry Esker, director of pharmacy for Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon.
Hospitals aren't required to use bar code scanning equipment. But the FDA points out those that do stand to reduce their medication errors and liability insurance costs.
Provena United Samaritans Medical Center in Danville plans to roll it out this fall, and Provena's five other hospitals, including Covenant Medical Center in Urbana, will add the technology later, one hospital at a time, according to Jim Witt, Provena vice president for clinical integration.