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Electronic Wristband Could Help End Hospital Medication Errors

Aug 10, 2005 | A new invention designed by Brunel University student Claire Dunne called the "Brilliant" bracelet, matches medicines against the wearer's prescription to help avoid hospital errors.

The wristband, which has already been tested at St. Anthony's Hospital in Surrey (UK), contains a sensor and microchip to scan medicines and send a visual alert whenever an incorrect drug is placed next to an electronic sensor embedded in the bracelet.

The chip is programmed on the patient's arrival at the hospital with their details and drug requirements. When a drug is placed on the wristband's sensor, the scanner checks the electronic tags built into the medicine's packaging to make sure it is a correct one for that particular patient. The nurse is then informed if the correct drug has been selected by a display on the wristband's screen.

In addition, the date and time of every dose are recorded by the microchip in the wristband. That information can also be downloaded to the hospital computer. Since information on the chip can be deleted, the wristband is re-usable.

So far the results have been promising and the bracelet may be used in more hospitals to reduce medication errors in the future once the prototype is refined.

Medication errors are one of the most common (and avoidable) medical mistakes and, according to experts, impact hundreds of deaths in the UK alone each year. In England, errors occur in five out of every 100 oral drug doses in hospitals. However, according to the Department of Health, most errors do not cause harm.

The problem is even greater in the U.S. where a device such as this one could save thousands of lives each year.
Ward Sister Helen Groome, who tried out the prototype said: "This would be a good reinforcement that the correct drug and dose had already been given to a patient and reduce the chance of overdosing in error."

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