Utilizing barcoding and facial recognition technology to reduce medication administration errors in school children

Across the United States approximately 27% of the 52 million school-age children attending grades K-12 experience at least one chronic medical condition requiring them to receive medication during the school day. Due to budgetary cuts, 18% of schools have no designated school nurse, leaving the majority of medication administration to unlicensed assisted personnel (UAP).

Medication errors are three times higher when administered by a UAP, yet little attention has been given on how to deliver medications safely to the millions of children who need them while at school.

Goal of pilot

This pilot project will use medication barcode scanning combined with facial recognition to assist school nurses and UAPs with medication administration practices. This project will provide school nurses and UAPs with a tool to enhance safe medication administration practices by alerting them to the most commonly encountered potential errors: missed dose, the wrong medication, the wrong child, and the wrong time. By supporting school nurses and UAPs with affordable and easy-to-use technology an extra safety net will be provided to intercept and substantially reduce potential medical errors.

Project plan

This research team plans to integrate two already developed and available technologies, medication barcode scanning and facial recognition applications, to an electronic platform currently used in schools. Using a two-step verification before medication administration is equivalent to the systems used in acute care settings, but this system is designed to accommodate the school environment where a child doesn’t wear a barcode bracelet.  

The project will be implemented by first evaluating the current state of medication administration practices at Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) schools and then integrating MedBarFace, the medication barcode scanning and facial recognition system into ICCSD existing electronic platform (PowerSchool). Because PowerSchool is used in school districts across 40 states, this pilot project represents the first step toward broader implementation of our proposed system. The long-term goal is to continue collaboration with the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) to ensure safe medication administration process in schools.

Team members

Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

Assistant Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering

College of Engineering

Professor and Associate Dean of Research and Scholarship

College of Nursing

Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

College of Engineering

Thursday, January 9, 2020