Blue Mountain Health System registered nurse Kayla Smith aims a hand-held scanner at a vial of medication, then at a wristband on a patient, making sure she's giving the right dose of the right medication, by the right route, at the right time, to the right patient.

Smith is using a new technology called Medication Administration Check, or MAK, to ensure her patient's safety.

MAK – BMHS has the programs on 34 of its Bedside Mobile Workstations, or BMW's – began operating at Palmerton Hospital on Nov. 6, and at Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital, Lehighton, on Nov. 13.

"This is a state-of-the-art system, that came with everything from the BMW's to the MAK," said BMHS spokeswoman Lisa Johnson.

The system supports the rights of medication administration (drug, dose, route, time, patient, documentation); improves workflow and communication between pharmacy and nursing; provides an online, prospective, and retrospective Medication Administration Reconciliation; enables shared clinical interventions between pharmacy and nursing; provides complete order history at the point of care, and tracks potential medication errors, she said.

"It's all about patient safety," said BMHS assistant pharmacy director Jason Howay. "With MAK, we have a plethora of information at our fingertips."

The introduction of the technology, and its customized fit for BMHS, happened fast.

"We've done about five-10 years worth of upgrades in about nine months, electronically and safety-wise," pharmacy director Krista Miller said.

Beginning in May, Howay and Miller held weekly sessions with a team of staff members to customize the system to BMHS.

"The group did a ton of work," informations nurse Susan Jensen said.

Staff take a three-hour training class to become familiar with the system.

Miller describes it as a "closed-loop system" designed to prevent medication administration errors.

"The system is built to provide warnings to the nursing staff" in the event of deviations from the scanned medication, time, or dosage, Jensen said.

The warning gives the nurse time to review the administration of the medication, she said.

"It's not that it stops the nurse from doing things that are clinically appropriate for the patient, but it does slow them down a bit," Jensen said.

But there are also "stop" signals, in the form of a big red "X," which tell the nurse that the medication absolutely should not be given. That can happen if the bar code on the patient's identification bracelet does not match the patient's identity, for example.

The system tracks every step in the process of administering medications.

It also allows "for immediate nurse-to-pharmacy communication," said Miller. "If I'm a nurse in a patient's room and I have a question about something, or the patient asks me a question, I can pull up drug information, I can immediately send a message to pharmacy and we can respond immediately. We can do it all from the patient's room, with the interaction of the patient."

Jensen said the systems "make everyone's work safer, with fewer interruptions."

The MAK system is the latest component to BMHS's Electronic Medical Record compliance with the Accountable Care Act's Meaningful Use requirements. BMHS is well ahead of scheduled for the component.

The $289,000 cost of the system, purchased through Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc., is being paid through the gaming revenue from the Monroe Local Share grant. The money is from the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act.