Nearly 1.9 million patients are treated annually in U.S. hospitals for taking the wrong drug or dosage, according to a government study released last year.

Joe Condurso, president and chief executive of PatientSafe Solutions.

Aiming to prevent such mishaps is PatientSafe Solutions Inc., a San Diego technology company that came in at No. 24 on the Wall Street Journal’s Next Big Thing list.

Its keystone product, the PatientTouch System, is a handheld device that allows hospital staff to scan barcodes on patients’ bracelets to access and enter information such as their diagnoses, vital signs, allergies, scheduled medications and food intake. Nurses and doctors can also use it to scan medicine vials to verify that they are administering the correct treatment to each patient and verify that none of the drugs will negatively interact with each other.

Fewer errors “increases quality and reduces costs” for hospitals and patients, says Joe Condurso, president and chief executive of the 62-employee firm. He also sees an application for home use, where caretakers and patients can operate the device to communicate with doctors about their health and medication intake.

Some health-care technology companies – including ones that already have large footprints in the electronic medical records space such as Cerner Corp. and Epic Systems Corp. – also offer mobile technologies for hospital staff. But the space is growing rapidly and smaller businesses are finding ways to compete, says Monique Levy, a vice president at Manhattan Research, a pharmaceutical and health-care market research firm. Hospitals are eager to provide staff with user-friendly mobile devices so they don’t have to rely on their personal phones to communicate, she adds.

PatientSafe Solutions’ technology is in place at 70 hospitals, and was most recently added to two centers affiliated with New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York.

The company had a precarious start. In 2000, hardware-design engineer Kim Rubin invented a handheld reader that could identify a unique, snowflake-like dot similar to a barcode. Mr. Rubin tried to license the technology to a variety of companies in the publishing and industrial industries but had trouble raising money to manufacture the devices and secure customers. In 2001, he teamed up with David Swenson and Gerry Forth, entrepreneurs who were familiar with the health-care industry. They were able to raise money and break the technology into hospitals.

The company launched in 2002 as Intellidot, but the influx of venture capital had diluted Mr. Rubin’s controlling interest to an 8% share.

“They got rid of me,” says Mr. Rubin, of his departure from the firm. “I was playing in a nasty arena.”

Mr. Swenson says diluting Mr. Rubin’s shares was just part of the dynamics of running a start-up. As with any new idea, he says, “if you are successful, you can profit, but if [you are] not successful, then the company either closes or someone comes in and puts more money in to improve it and make it work.”

Mr. Swenson faced that scenario seven years later, after successfully placing the company’s technology in 110 hospitals. During the financial collapse of 2008, hospitals were cutting back and Intellidot was unable to reach new customers. The board of directors brought in another group of investors, diluting Mr. Swenson’s stake. He departed the company a year later. The investors re-launched Intellidot as PatientSafe Solutions.

Mr. Condurso became chief executive in 2011 and has steered the company beyond drug administration. For instance, its technology can be used to organize lab and specimen samples and also breast milk. “Infections can pass through breast milk,” says Mr. Condurso. “You want to make sure you have the right baby for the right mother.”

One potential boon for the business, according to Mr. Condurso, is that hospitals can get government assistance for investing in technologies like PatientTouch under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health-care overhaul that the Supreme Court upheld in June.

PatientSafe has raised $76 million from investors including TPG Biotech and Psilos Group. Mr. Condurso says he plans to grow the company through mergers and acquisitions with other technology companies. He says he hopes to eventually go public or sell to a technology or health-care company.