Requirements for bar code scan verification set too low in meaningful use guidelines

homer-simpson-dohOver the weekend I read an article at HealthBiz Decoded about bar code requirements and meaningful use (MU). I knew that there was some language in Stage 2, but never took the time to read through it carefully. The meaningful use documentation is exactly what you’d expect from years of bureaucrats sitting around trying to generate a document worthy of the governments typical high standard. Yeah, it’s a big ol’ pile of crap. One thing’s for sure, it’s going to create an entire generation of consulting business for a lot of people. I digress.

According to the article, “Hospitals will be required next year to use bar codes to verify 10 percent of medication orders under government health IT rules.”  That number seems pretty low, even for our low reaching federal bureaucracy. And some people have noticed.

The article quotes Mark Neuenschwander, a barcoding evangelist, as saying “We should be striving for a higher percentage because errors can happen in the other 90 percent as easily as they can happen in the 10 percent.” True enough. Anyone out there have a job where 10 percent accuracy, completion or participation is acceptable? If so please give me a jingle if/when you have an opening.

It’s hard for me to imagine what someone was thinking when they pulled 10 percent out of thin air. I’m not naïve enough to think we’ll ever get to 100 percent, but c’mon man, 10 percent! Really? Fifty percent would have been low, but 10 percent is comical.

I think bar coding technology has a place in healthcare. It offers up some real advantages when used appropriately, and I find it disturbing that the MU guidelines find 10 percent scan rates acceptable. That’s some serious weak sauce right there.

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