The Advantages and Disadvantages of Bar Code Scanning in Medication Administration

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Medication errors are the leading cause of morbidity and preventable death in hospitals (Adams). In fact, approximately 1.5 million Americans are injured each year as a result of medication errors in hospitals (Foote). Not only are medication errors harmful to patients but medication errors are very expensive for hospitals. Medication errors cost America’s health care system 3.5 billion dollars per year (Foote).Errors in medication administration occurs when one of the five rights of medication administration is omitted. The five rights are: a) the right dose, b) the right medication, c) the right patient, d) the right route of administration, and e) the right time of delivery (Adams). Medication administration is an essential part of the nursing profession, taking up to forty percent of a nurse’s time in providing nursing care (Fowler). Consequently, nurses are commonly held accountable for medication errors. To improve the safety of a vital aspect of nursing care, bar code scanning was introduced to reduce errors in medication administration. Although bar code scanning has its advantageous aspects, there are also disadvantageous qualities.


Bar-code-assisted medication administration (BCMA) has replaced the traditional paper-based medication administration (PBMA) systems in some health care facilities. The BCMA system’s objective is to verify the five rights of medication administration meaning that “the right patient receives the right dose of the right drug by the right route at the right time (Grissinger).” The process begins with the pharmacy ensuring that all medicines are labeled correctly and that all medicines have appropriate bar codes that identify the name, dose, and form of the medication. Patient...

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