National Partnership for Reinventing Government

June 22, 2000
Contact: Laurie Tranter, Veterans Affairs
Sue Blumenthal, NPR


Washington, DC - A Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) team was honored today for developing software that uses bar codes to ensure hospitalized patients are given the right medicine. The Veterans Affairs bar code medication administration team will receive the Hammer Award from Vice President Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government for its work in creating the Bar Code Medication Administration System. The Hammer award recognizes teams that find ways to make government work better and cost less.

"We now put medication bar codes on our patients' wristbands, on their I.V. tags and on their medication packages and then scan bar codes before we give patients their medicine," said VA's Acting Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Thomas L. Garthwaite. "Initial reports from our medical centers show the bar-code system has eliminated two-thirds of mistakes. This has the potential to save countless lives."

Medication administration errors have long been recognized as a significant problem. According to a report from the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, as many as 98,000 Americans die each year due to medical mistakes made by physicians, pharmacists, and other health care professionals. Of these deaths, most are due to medication errors.

"I want to congratulate this team for its dedication to improving government service," said Morley Winograd, director of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government. "The team's outstanding service has helped rebuild trust within our government." The partnership was created in 1993 to find ways to make government work better and cost less.

In 1993, Vice President Gore created the Hammer Award to recognize teams of federal employees for developing programs that put customers first and get results Americans care about. Teams of federal employees submit award applications to the National Partnership for Reinventing Government. Since its creation, the Hammer Award has been very competitive; applications are received from all agencies in the federal government.

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