The colour-coding of medication, using a standardised colour-coding system for identification, represents a significant step forward towards further guaranteeing the safety of hospitalised patients, by reducing the possibility of the incorrect administration of medication.Health care professionals are human beings, at times subject to intense pressure and heavy workloads, and these factors may lead to them making mistakes in the administration of medication. These mistakes can have serious consequences for the patient. The multitude of medical devices from different commercial brands which are used in hospitals on a daily basis does not help this situation given that it forces health care professionals to step up controls on medication, resulting in a slower work flow. Yet even under these circumstances, human errors can occur. To give an example, in the United States up to 35% of errors in administration of medication, which result in harming patients, are a consequence of the incorrect use of infusion pumps (Source: “Drug Pump is a Deadly Trail”, published in the Tallahassee Democrat on 28 May 2002).

Colour-coding medication allows for improvements in work flow

Hospitals represent highly demanding environments for the staff working in them, especially in areas such as ICU and operating theatres, where patients can be in a critical condition and where the smallest error can have serious consequences.

The international standard, ISO 26825, is being used increasingly by the surgical and intensive care areas of hospitals, in locations where heavy workloads mean that it is easy to make mistakes.

This standard identifies each medication using a colour-coded label, allowing it to be quickly recognised. In the case of arcomed, our Chroma Series of infusion pumps, which feature large and easy-to-manage colour touch screens, incorporate this colour-coding of medication in accordance with the aforementioned ISO standard, which means that when the medication to be administered is selected on the screen, the colour of the label and the colour on the screen should be the same. This streamlines controls and reduces time, in this way enabling improvements in work flow and, most importantly of all, increased patient safety.

In some hospitals or health care systems, separate systems for colour-coding medication have been developed which use colours different to those set out in the ISO standard. However, these systems can also be incorporated into our Chroma Series pumps, offering, as is the standard for arcomed, a tailor-made product for every client.

In Spain, the Spanish Society for Anaesthesiology, Resuscitation and Pain Therapeutics (SEDAR), together with the Institute for the Safe Use of Medication (ISMP) and the Spanish System for Safety Notification in Anaesthesia (SENSAR) published, in 2011, a recommendation in which they adapted the content of the ISO standard regarding colour-coding medication and – on the basis of that standard – developed and recommended its standardised application within the surgical area of all hospitals.

All of the above has led to improvements in several key aspects of hospital management:

  • Helping to improve safety guarantees for patients.
  • Enabling reduction in stress and pressure on health care workers.
  • Improving response times and streamlines work flows.
  • Reducing costs arising from errors in the administration of medication.

To conclude, the most important idea of all is that in improving the safety of patients we are improving the comfort and peace of mind of the hospital in general.