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New technology verifies accuracy of medications

When a patient goes to a hospital, he or she typically assumes they will receive the proper medication for their condition and the correct dosage. However, errors do occur at healthcare facilities and pharmacies due to human error, in some cases leaving a patient in worse condition than when they first sought help.

In an effort to protect patients from medication errors, many healthcare facilities have begun implementing electronic prescribing, bar coding, automated medication dispensing and robotic systems. However, human error, particularly in the compounding of high-risk IV admixtures, remains a serious issue.

One of the most recent recognizable medical mistakes was an incident at Cedars-Sinai hospital in 2007, in which three babies, including the newborn twins of film star Dennis Quaid, were given vials of heparin – a blood thinner – that were 1,000 times stronger than prescribed.

In order to combat human error at either the pharmaceutical or doctoral end of medical mistakes, CDEX, a company based in Tucson, AZ, that develops, manufactures and distributes products to the healthcare and security markets, created the ValiMed Medication Validation System in 2007.

“Experienced medical technicians who work with medicine every day made a simple mistake by giving the wrong concentration of medication because it was not validated,” said CDEX representative Greg Firmbach. “If the ValiMed system had been used, the risk would have been eliminated.”

ValiMed uses an enhanced photoemission spectroscopy technology to read high-risk medications’ distinct chemical signature, called the medication “fingerprint.”

ValiMed scans the selected substance, capturing the medication fingerprint, and compares it to the library data’s property signature stored by ValiMed. Once the system verifies that the medicine is both accurate in concentration and component, a simple “validated” appears on the screen.

Firmbach believes ValiMed has the ability to significantly raise the bar on patient medication safety and pharmaceutical drug loss prevention through counterfeit medication monitoring.

In addition to validating high-risk medications before leaving the pharmacy, ValiMed also monitors and discourages the diversion of controlled substances by validating the returned and unused narcotics from patient treatment areas and surgery suites.

For example, Firmbach said, if a certain quantity of morphine is allotted for a surgery and only a portion is used, there is a risk of the remaining morphine being stolen and replaced with water instead of being properly discarded because of the two substances’ similar physical qualities.

Using ValiMed, it is possible to certify every medication as it comes into the disposal center, allowing hospitals to keep a secured medical disposal rate.

“Hospitals could stand to save hundreds of thousands to millions on buying replacement medications to malpractice insurance with ValiMed,” Firmbach stated.

ValiMed’s easy-to-use system takes from eight to 50 seconds to validate the medication and “can be used by a trained medical assistant,” said Firmbach.

The ValiMed System costs around $25,000, not including the purchase of the medical signatures. However, Firmbach stated CDEX is willing to allow hospitals across the country use of the ValiMed systems for the price of the medical signatures.

Currently, CDEX is in communication with Los Angeles County to create a portable version of the ValiMed to be used in ambulances, which have a high rate of medication diversion.

“This is a patient safety device that can help save countless lives, but it has to be incorporated into the hospital’s workflow, especially with high-risk medication,” said Firmbach.

For more information on the ValiMed system or CDEX, go to http://www.cdexinc.com.

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