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Impact of BCMA on medication errors and patient safety: a summary.

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School of Nursing, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.



To summarize key recommendations and supporting evidence from the most recent studies evaluating the impact of bar coded medication administration (BCMA) systems, and the complementary technologies: Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) and automated dispensing carts (ADC) in preventing medication errors and enhancing patent safety.


The IOM report in 2000 incited many healthcare institutions to implement e-prescribing and automated administration and dispensing of medications to prevent adverse drug events. Moreover, in 2004, the FDA call for bar codes on drugs and blood products has laid the groundwork for the widespread use of BCMA and the complementary technologies to reduce medication errors and improve patient safety. However, the implementation of this technology is a challenge because it introduces changes in the workflow and is costly as well. For a healthcare institution to think about adopting BCMA requires evidence supporting the recommendation to implement such technology. Challenges can be overcome by learning from others' experience with BCMA use. The evidence supporting the recommendation to properly use BCMA includes results on BCMA implementation in various healthcare facilities, and examination of the workarounds by nurses.


The significant drop in medication errors rate achieved with the use of BCMA in various facilities presents a blueprint for its positive impact on patient safety. The observation measure to evaluate BCMAs use showed an increased rate of error detection because of the system ability to capture and record intercepted administration errors. However various workarounds by BCMAs users were detected. These workarounds were created to compensate for the flaws and inconvenient aspects of the barcode technology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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