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The Concept of Bar Code Medication Administration

Bar code medication administration (BCMA) has been identified as a possible solution tool for addressing the issue of medication errors that lead to adverse health outcomes of patients. BCMA implies the scanning of barcodes to account for the five components of medication administration: right patient, dose, medication, time, and direction. Studying the usefulness of this solution is important for shedding light on new methods from which nursing can benefit. The purpose of exploring BCMA is associated with finding effective communication and workflow solutions that can be implemented with the help of it.

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BCMA has already been studied from multiple perspectives, which points to the variety of its uses. From the communication and workflow perspective, bar code medication administration requires some redesigning and adjustments for making it as effective as possible. From the perspective of usability and technology placement, BCMA requires nurses to be well-versed in the application of software in their practice.

Example of Bar Code Medication Administration

The process of BCMA implies the establishment of an electronic medication administration record (eMAR) system, which serves as a communicative solution for the automatic documentation of medication into a unified Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology (Leapfrog Group, 2016). For example, when retrieving the right dose of medication for a patient, a pharmacist uses a bar code reader, which instantly sends all necessary information to software. The key thing is making sure that the reader is charged and works properly and that the software is updated.

Shah, Lo, Babich, Tsao, and Bansback (2016) that studied the impact of BCMA on patient safety, found that such solutions could provide healthcare providers with significant support in terms of finding the right dosage of the right medication for a patient. The researchers also provided an example of BCMA use. When scanning a bar code on the order identification prescription, on a patient’s wristband, and on the medication packaging, a nurse can then refer to the algorithm that software has generated for determining the necessary approvals or warnings.

Bowers et al. (2015) also explored the impact of BCMA on the best practices of medication administration and found that medical errors could be reduced significantly due to the positive influence of new technologies on streamlining the workflow. Specifically, the researchers focused on whether BCMA could enhance the effectiveness of the Workstation on Wheels at patients’ bedside as well as in terms of the real-time documentation of medication information. By comparing pre-and post-intervention outcomes, it was possible to determine that the occurrence of medication errors decreased while healthcare providers became more efficient in using software for improving their workflow and making reliable medication decisions.

Personal Experience

In my personal experience, if correctly integrated into practice and used with care, BCMA solutions are very helpful at supplementing the work of a nurse or a pharmacist. In cases of emergency or when the workload is too much to handle, the assistance of a technological solution can be of great advantage in terms of saving time or avoiding human error. In addition to this, BCMA can be used for preserving the accuracy of health records stored in electronic data systems. Depending on the existing electronic health record solutions at a healthcare facility, it is possible to synchronize the information on the chosen medication for a patient with his or her records to improved cohesiveness.

BCMA implementation also has a negative side. For instance, many health care providers refuse to use the solution because of the need for additional education as BCMA takes significant efforts for redefining caregiver responsibilities and workflows (Leapfrog Group, 2016). In healthcare teams where nurses have not established effective collaboration patterns, implementing BCMA is especially challenging because the initial integration of technological solutions requires professionals to support and help each other. In addition to this, BCMA can be limiting in terms of hectic schedules; in cases of understaffing and increased workloads, nurses may avoid or forget to use BCMA since they present an additional step.

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The exploration of bar code medication administration showed that the integration of technology into the task of assigning the right dosages of suitable medication. The complementary software that helps nurses avoid human error and simplify solutions has extreme potential for enhancing the practice of healthcare professionals. It should be mentioned that despite the positive outlook for the solution in the future, some management of its limitations is necessary. The high costs and additional resources for training can prevent health care facilities from introducing BCMA, while the opposition of nurses to new technologies that require them to take more steps when treating patients is threatening adherence to the solution. Therefore, future research on BCMA integration should address the limitations of the tool and suggest how healthcare teams can use it to their advantage. Studies on the appropriateness of BCMA use in different contexts (cultural and clinical) may also bring positive results in terms of enhancing the practice overall and making the treatment of patients more efficient.


Bowers, A. M., Goda, K., Bene, V., Sibila, K., Piccin, R., Golla, S., … Zell, K. (2015). Impact of barcode medication administration on medication administration best practices. Computers, Informatics, Nursing, 33(11), 502-508.

Leapfrog Group. (2016). Factsheet: Bar code medication administration. Web.

Shah, K., Lo, C., Babich, M., Tsao, N. W., & Bansback, N. J. (2016). Bar code medication administration technology: A systematic review of the 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.

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