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Bar Code Medications and Information System

Bar code medication administration (BCMA) is a system that was developed to reduce the number of medication errors in the healthcare industry. In 1995, Glenna Sue Kennick, a nurse at the Colmery-O’Neil Veteran Medical Center, created BCMA to improve patient safety and quality of care when administering medication (Shah, Lo, Babich, Tsao, & Bansback, 2016). Errors that occur in the course of the provision of care services to patients are costly, and they can have fatal implications.

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The impact of BMCA on healthcare and especially the nursing practice is huge because the system addresses one of the main problems facing the industry. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Additionally, it is estimated that such errors affect over 7 million Americans annually, and they cost approximately $21 billion in all healthcare set-ups across the country (Da Silva & Krishnamurthy, 2016). These findings highlight the importance of this topic in nursing care. This paper discusses an example of BCMA together with personal experience with the system.

Example of Bar Code Medication Administration

The BCMA software replaces the paper-based patient records in the administration of medication. The system electronically captures what is commonly known as the “five rights of medication administration – right patient, right dose, right drug, right time, right route” (Shah et al., 2016, p. 394). The implementation of this technology is in line with the increasing need to adopt electronic medical records (EMR) systems in the healthcare sector.

BCMA reduces medication errors by allowing the users to dispense or administer drugs based on accurate patients’ information. The “five rights” highlighted earlier show the areas where this technology improves accuracy, which include patient, dosage, drug, timing, and route of administration (Shah et al., 2016). The BCMA system has a barcode reader, computer server, software, and wirelessly connected computer (Truitt, Thompson, Blazey-Martin, NiSai, & Salem, 2016).

Patients are assigned to wear wristbands that contain their medical data. On the other hand, all drug manufacturers attach a specific code for every medicine produced, which is then stored in a server. The software connects the available information about a certain patient with the server to generate prescription data and other elements such as warnings and approvals.

For instance, a nurse scans the barcode on the patient’s wristband and the medication to be given using a scanner or his or her badge. The data collected is then sent to a computer software system where it is aggregated using algorithms to scan different databases for information concerning the drug and the patient. The system then generates information either warning of adverse outcomes when the drug is administered or approving its usage on the patient.

In summary, as the handheld barcode reads and registers every medication, the BCMA software checks and verifies that the accurate medication was ordered, given in time, and the right dosage. At the same time, it documents the entire process of drug administration. Therefore, if a nurse receives a warning from the system concerning the usage of a given drug on a certain patient, an alternative is sought to avoid adverse outcomes. Consequently, medication errors are averted and patient safety improves.

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Personal Experience

At one time, I was working in a certain hospital where the BCMA system had been installed. This was my first usage of such a system, and thus I was generally curious to understand how it functioned. Previously, I had worked in a hospital where I would make calls to pharmacies to notify them of missing doses. However, when I started using the BCMA, I realized that it had the missing dose request (MDR) notification. Therefore, I was required only to initiate the MDR pop-up window and the system would complete the other tasks. I learned that after I started the request, a series of automated printouts would be generated for the BCMA system to alert the pharmacy about the missing drug doses from the medication cart.

The pharmacist would then appraise the request, dispense the needed drug, and send it to the ward where it is required. One of the positive aspects of this experience is that I realized that the BCMA system saves time that hitherto could be wasted making calls to pharmacies. On the other side, I learned that the effectiveness of the system depends on the accuracy of the data inputted, and thus if one makes a mistake, the pharmacy may send the wrong drugs and dosages towards.


The BCMA system plays an important role in ensuring patient safety by eliminating medication errors. The majority of mistakes that happen in the process of administering drugs can be avoided. Therefore, this system should be implemented in all healthcare set-ups across the country. My newfound insight on BCMA will influence my nursing care positively. Where possible, I will use the system when administering drugs to avoid costly errors. Additionally, learning about BCMA has provoked my thoughts on how technology can be used to improve nursing care in different aspects.


Da Silva, B. A., & Krishnamurthy, M. (2016). The alarming reality of medication error: A patient case and review of Pennsylvania and National data. Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, 6(4), 1-6. Web.

Shah, K., Lo, C., Babich, M., Tsao, N. W., & Bansback, N. J. (2016). Bar code medication administration technology: A systematic review of impact on patient safety when used with computerized prescriber order entry and automated dispensing devices. The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, 69(5), 394–402.

Truitt, E., Thompson, R., Blazey-Martin, D., NiSai, D., & Salem, D. (2016). effect of the implementation of barcode technology and an electronic medication administration record on adverse drug events. Hospital Pharmacy, 51(6), 474–483. Web.

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