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How Are the Quaid Twins Doing?

WebMD's exclusive interview with Dennis and Kimberly Quaid

Q: What do they and their Quaid Foundation advocate as the solution to helping prevent medical errors?

Both Dennis and Kimberly have done their research, combing through medical journals and statistical reports and visiting model programs striving to fundamentally address the problem by stopping errors at the source.

They both flew to Texas in July to tour Children’s Medical Center Dallas, which is launching a new bar coding system. The couple personally observed the system of built-in checks as they followed the process of ordering a drug through administering it to a patient, Dennis tells WebMD.

Bar coding is one of two systems most often cited by safety experts as key ways to reduce medical errors. The second is computerized physician-order entry systems. Put simply, bar coding involves a healthcare worker’s going through a series of checks before giving a patient a drug—scanning his own bar-coded badge, the patient’s bar-coded wristband, and the medication bar code, then pulling up the patient’s computerized medical record to be sure it’s the right drug, right dose, and correct time to give it. If there is a conflict, the computer sends an error message.

Only about 13% of the nation’s hospitals have a fully implemented bar code medication administration technology, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, but more are moving toward it.

“The nurses there told me they resisted it at first. But now, they say they wouldn’t want to give a medication to a patient without using the new system.” Besides the general resistance many people have to new technology, some nurses cite the extra time needed to scan medications but then see that the added effort pays off in reduced risk of error.

Patient safety advocates applaud the Quaids’ involvement. The actor brings “a face to the issue” and higher visibility to the problem, says Diane Pinakiewicz, president of the National Patient Safety Foundation, which advocates bar coding and other measures. “The more awareness we raise, the more engagement we’ll get from patients, regulators, and policymakers.”

At the end of the at-times emotional hour and a half interview, as T. Boone and Zoë wake from their nap, Dennis flashes that famous grin. He adds a dose of down-home perspective that reflects the couple's shared Texas roots.

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