There is a need for barcodes in medication administration, to reduce medical errors at the point of administration. That is why hospitals apply a barcode medication administration (BCMA) system, it uses basic scanning technology.

In this methodology, each patient will be given an ID bracelet with a unique barcode.

So, whenever a nurse gives the patient a medication; he/she should scan both the patient’s ID bracelet and the barcode on the medication to make sure that they match.

In case, they both don’t match, the system will alert you about their mismatching or the medication is wrong which could be given to the patient.

The use of this clinical decision act as support to alert the nurses if something is wrong.

Need for Barcodes in Medication Administration

According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services –

Medication: A medication is a substance that is taken into or placed on the body that does one of the following things:

Most medications are used to cure a disease or condition. For example, antibiotics are given to cure an infection.

Medications are also given to treat a medical condition. For example, anti-depressants are given to treat depression.

Medications are also given to relieve symptoms of an illness. For example, pain relievers are given to reduce pain.

Vaccinations are given to prevent diseases. For example, the Flu Vaccine helps to prevent the person from complications of having the flu.

Also Read: How Does Barcode Technology Help in the Healthcare Industry?

What are the effects of the medication?

Local Effect:

The medications which are applied directly to the affected area like eye drops or topical skin creams or ointments, the applications tend to have a very localized effect. Moreover, it does not enter the bloodstream in significant quantities.

For example: Antibiotic ointment is applied to a scrape on the skin. The ointment stays on the surface of the skin, only where the medication effect is needed.

Systemic Effect:

Some of the medications, which are given orally, such as pills or liquids in the different forms as rectal suppositories, transdermal patches and subcutaneous injections.

These enter in the bloodstream and act on a specific organ or system within the body. These medications are said to have a systemic effect.

For example: Anti-depressant medications taken orally are circulated through the bloodstream and work by increasing the number of certain chemicals in the brain.

A medication may also have several types of effects on your body:

  • Desired Effect
  • Side Effect
  • Tolerance and Dependence
  • Interactions
  • No Apparent Effect
  • Paradoxical Effect

Medication Monitoring:

There are some medications that require careful monitoring through blood levels or may need monitoring of other blood tests.

This monitoring is done by the laboratory or doctor’s office by taking a blood sample from the individual patient. It is very important to understand which medications require blood level monitoring!

Medication Cycle:

The medication cycle shows the basic steps for monitoring, reporting and following up on symptoms and medications.

The cycle does not end, it is a continuous process which means that you need to constantly observe, monitor and report to the appropriate person, the effects of medications on individuals.

The only way to make sure that all changes are noted is to carefully observe the individual and its document and report any changes.

Note: In 2004, the FDA ruled that barcodes must be used on Human Drugs.

Also Read: Benefits of Implementing CMMS Software in Several Industries

What is the Barcode Medication Administration?

The Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA) is an inventory control system, that is used in hospitals to prevent errors in medication distribution.

This system is very easy to implement. The system will only need barcode scanners, printers, software, a computer server, and staff training.

But mobile computers are recommended as the choice of scanner because they work like smartphones.

 The BCMA system is mostly adapted for bedside care and is becoming increasingly popular in hospital pharmacies.

Following are some points you need to know about how the Barcode Medication Administration protects your patients and improves their overall experience.

The inspiration of Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA):

Barcodes have become a necessary part of medication administration now. It has a history behind Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA).

In 1994, inspiration came to a nurse from the Colmery – O’Neil Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Topeka, Kansas, US.

She noticed the barcode, which was then used by a rental car company to track vehicles and deduced that similarly the barcode scanning technology could be applied to enhance patient safety by thoroughly reducing medication errors through electronic checks and balances that would increase the nurse’s clinical judgment rather replacing it.

A prototype system was developed at the Colmery-O’Neil VAMC, which later became the model for the award-winning bar-code medication administration (BCMA) system used throughout the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system to 161 facilities, in 1999.

BCMA system

Rights of Patient:

Thinking of a supply chain, what comes in your mind first?

Does it work efficiently and effectively?

I have one answer for all of your questions, that you just need one single software to pull off all your requirements efficiently without making any noise.

This means that you or anyone will search for the software which allows providing the right product to the right person at the right time, regardless of the industry.

And this is no different in the healthcare industry. The patient has certain rights:

  1. The Right Patient
  2. The Right Medication
  3. The Right Time
  4. The Right Dosage
  5. The Right Route of Delivery

The barcodes are implemented at every stage of medication administration for your facility.

Also Read: How can you Track your Inventory using Barcode System?

For instance:

When a patient’s prescription is sent to the hospital’s pharmacy, the pharmacist enters it into the system and a barcoded dose of the medication is added to the patient’s cart which is then delivered back. When the administer comes to check on the patient’s medication, patient’s barcoded wristband is scanned.

This band holds all the necessary information including the patient’s name and the reason why he or she is in the hospital. The nurse will then scan the barcode on the medication to confirm its match.

Barcodes on medication are required to hold the information recommended dosage and expiration date. If the system doesn’t find medication a match, the nurse is given a visual warning to alert him or her of the error.

Barcoded Bands for Patients

Note: A 2010 study concluded that Barcode usage prevented 90,000 serious medical errors per year and reduced mortality rates by 20%.

What does Barcode Medication Administration Do?

According to research, approximately 7,000 patients die because of preventable human error. Studies show that the usage of barcode technology can reduce medication errors by 65 to 86%.

The types of errors that can be reduced through the implementation of Barcode Medical Administration are:

Administering medication to the wrong patient

This is the oftentimes, that nurses find workarounds to make their shifts a little easier and, in that hurry, place patient’s ID wristband on the end of the bed or door. This is horrible if a patient is moved without any medical professional’s knowledge.

Mistaking one medication for another

There are numerous amounts of medication available in the market, and some of them are which look and sound the same but treat completely different symptoms. Therefore, scanning the medication before administering help and protects a patient from receiving the wrong medication.

Administering the medication incorrectly

Sometimes, it might be confusing about how the medication is to be given. So, it’s easy through barcode, now the nurse will know the method and dosage information stored in the barcode.

Implementing a Barcode Medication Administration system will help put your patients and their families’ minds be at ease.

Also Read: How Effective Barcode Tags Are for Asset Tracking Management?


Barcodes are needed in medication administration so that they could help in reducing the medical errors which specifically occur at the point of administration. Hospitals should implement a medication administration system loaded with barcode tracking, because of its basic scanning technology.

Implementation of a Barcode Medication Administration system will help patients and their families’ minds be at ease; by further creating a positive image for patient’s as well as for hospitals.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

1. How does barcode medication administration work?

The Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA) is an inventory control system, that is used in hospitals to prevent errors in medication distribution. The system needs electronic scanning to detect medication errors, if any, at the point of their administration and for the procedure, it will need barcode scanners, printers, software, a computer server, and staff training.

2. What is barcode medicine identification?

Barcoded Medication Administration (BCMA) is an inventory control system that uses barcodes to prevent human errors in the administration of medication at hospitals and healthcare centers. The barcode wristband holds all the necessary information including the patient’s name and the reason why he or she is in the hospital.

This wristband helps to scan the barcode on the medication to confirm its match. And barcodes on medication are required to hold the information recommended dosage and expiration date.

3. What is BCMA?

The Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA) is an inventory control system, that is used in hospitals to prevent errors in medication distribution. There is a need of BCMA, to reduce medical errors at the point of administration.

The use of this clinical decision act as support to alert the nurses if something is wrong in the administration of medication. The BCMA system is mostly adapted for bedside care.

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