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Bar Code Medication Administration Technology

Designed by Glenna Kennick, the Bar Code Medication Administration (BCMA) is an automated information technology tool that helps to prevent medication errors. This technology influences health service delivery and nursing care. It improves patient safety by ensuring that patients are attended to appropriately. As such, BCMA has been helpful because it guarantees medication accuracy, prevents medical errors, and ensures that patients’ online records are updated. To understand the contribution of the BCMA technology to the delivery of quality care, this paper presents an example of the system in addition to a personal experience with the technology.

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An Example of Bar Code Medication Administration

Healthcare facilities began implementing the BMCA expertise in 1995. A good example of the application of this technology was witnessed in Colmery-O’Neil Medical Center. Located in Topeka, Kansas, a nurse employed at the facility inspired the process of developing this bar code system implemented at the hospital. Between 1999 and 2001, the hospital’s Department of Veterans Affairs engaged in the popularization of the technology, a plan that led to its promotion in more than 160 facilities (Lee, Lee, Kwon, & Yi, 2015).

The BCMA system currently used at the Colmery-O’Neil Medical Center is comprised of a server, software installed on a desktop, and a portable computer possessing a mechanism for wireless connection. The nurse who is required to give medications uses a barcode reader to interpret a unique figure securely attached to a patient’s wrist. This information helps to authenticate the identity of the particular patient scheduled to receive the prescription (Lee et al., 2015). The nurse then proceeds to read codes printed on the medication package. This cryptogram consists of three features consistent with the federal government’s guidelines on prescription coding.

The first part consists of the labeler’s identity as stated by the Food and Drug Administration Authority. The second feature contains the medication category in the form of a unique code. The last part bears the symbol of the drug’s packager. Upon reading the whole bar code, a nurse can positively identify the medicine that should be administered to a previously approved patient. After linking these details to an online server, which contains the sick person’s prescription and medical information, the nurse then gets accurate information regarding the prescribed amount of drugs, the way that the medication should enter the patient’s body, and the time of administering this treatment (Brown, 2014).

Colmery-O’Neil Medical Center introduced the system due to its ability to reduce medication errors. Referring to this example of BCMA, Lee et al. (2015) emphasize the need for healthcare settings to consider deploying the system because it helps to reduce the number of deaths associated with faulty prescriptions. Indeed, concerning the successful results of the BCMA implementation at Colmery-O’Neil Medical Center, the federal government authorized hospitals to deploy this technology since 2004.

Personal Experience

In 2014, Mary, a 79-year-old patient living in London, was seeking healthcare services. After the diagnosis and examination of her medical record, she had a history of hypertension and diabetes. The process of providing medical care to her involved the administration of medication in the proper dosage using an appropriate route and at the required time. The patient was admitted to the hospital where I currently work as a nurse. It has a bed capacity of 400 patients.

Caregivers had to provide medications to more than one patient. Therefore, the chances of making errors when administering prescriptions were high. For example, when attending to the 79-year-old, I once picked insulin and proceeded to the ward to administer it. However, at this particular, time I was supposed to give hypertension medication. This mistake could have had serious effects on the recovery of this client. I would have gone against the nursing goal of ensuring that patients recover quickly after getting proper services (Brown, 2014).

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Luckily, having learned from past errors, including giving wrong dosages or medications to patients, the hospital had implemented the BCMA system as mandated by the federal government. Upon scanning the patient’s unique code on her wrist, this technology revealed not only the necessary medicine to give but also the appropriate capacities and timing. This experience proves that preventing medication errors to foster quality care delivery encompasses a major strength of the BCMA system.

Nursing work may strain practitioners to the extent of leading to burnout (Doody & Noonan, 2016). Therefore, although my personal experience presents positive aspects of the technology under investigation, improvements can be made. For example, supposing that a nurse has two drugs in the form of syrup. However, because of burnout, they may fail to realize that one of the medicines is incorrect as guided by the system. They may be tempted to proceed to give the wrong medicine in the dosage of the second one at the correct time. To prevent this incident, the BCMA should incorporate voice warnings to attract the attention of other nurses who can confirm that any other nurse is indeed administering the recommended medication.


The BCMA effectively reduces medication errors. Although it cannot substitute professional expertise, the paper provides insights regarding the extent to which it has helped to improve the quality of services offered in hospital settings. The BCMA aims at providing a mechanism for additional checks that allow medical practitioners to administer the recommended drugs to the correct patient at the appropriate time and quantity.


Brown, L. B. (2014). Medication administration in the operating room: New standards and recommendations. AANA Journal, 82(6), 465-469.

Doody, O., & Noonan, M. (2016). Nursing research ethics, guidance and application in practice. British Journal of Nursing, 25(14), 803-807.

Lee, B. C., Lee, S., Kwon, B. C., & Yi, J. S. (2015). What are the causes of noncompliance behaviors in bar code medication administration system processes? International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 31(4), 227-252.

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