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How Medication Barcode Help in Improving the Safety of Patients?

How Medication Barcode Help in Improving the Safety of Patients?

How Medication Barcode Help in Improving the Safety of Patients?

The UHM (Union Health Ministry) of India has taken several steps to control the sale and purchase of counterfeit medicines in and hospitals. Mandatory implementation of Medication Barcode has been one of them.

Medicinal barcodes were meant to ensure the authenticity of all branded as well as other medicines. The UHM directed all manufacturers to use barcodes on their medicines at the first stage itself.

A 2015 report submitted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India revealed shocking numbers for the domestic pharmaceutical industry, in that approximately 25% of drugs in India are fake, counterfeit or substandard.

These fake drugs were available as popular medicines such as Betadine, Crocine, Voveran etc. To counter this, the UHM planned to direct all Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) packages to use barcodes for their raw materials. This step would make it easy for them to track imported and domestically-manufactured materials.

What Is Barcode Medication Administration?

The Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA) is an inventory tracking software used in hospitals to prevent errors in medication distribution.

This system is quite easy to implement, requiring medicinal barcodes, medicine barcode scanners, printers, software, a computer server, and staff training.

Also Read: How Helpful Barcodes are in Medication Administration System?

Mobile computers are recommended as the choice of scanner as they work like smartphones. The BCMA system is mostly adapted for bedside care and is growing in popularity in hospital pharmacies.

The medication barcode ensures to avoid human error and administer accurate medication to a patient at the right time. All drugs present in the hospitals and pharmacies are labeled with unique barcodes generated by the BCMA system.

Here is an example to explain the whole process of how medication barcode work in hospitals:

When a patient is admitted to the hospital, they are provided with a unique patient ID wristband (barcode wristband with all details of the patient). When they have prescribed a medication, the barcode wristband is scanned and the medicine prescribed in their medical records is electronically conveyed to the hospital's pharmacy.

The pharmacy scans the barcode to obtain the prescription from the patient's medical record to know the strength, dosage, type of the drug, etc. before sending it to the patient's ward.

These medicinal barcodes are a great tool to verify drug information before it is given to a patient and to avoid any mistake in dosage etc. It was therefore necessary to keep a thorough check on every individual's medicine dosage.

Also, the pharmacy barcode system triggers alerts to pharmacy staff and nursing staff about any dispensing error, if any, and to monitor and control it. The action is effectively taken before the medicine reaches the patient and any adverse effect can take place.

However, there are some points to be considered when medication is being barcoded.

  • Allow limited over-rides of the barcoding to ensure medication management.
  • Dispense all medication in ready-to-use single doses with unique barcode attached.
  • Keep record of all alerts generated by barcode to prevent error to address any issues that may arise.
  • Use the data and records to identify educational needs and performance reviews.

Statistics About Medication Barcode

According to the study, medication errors resulting in preventable ADEs (Adverse Drug Events) occur most often in the following stages:

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  • 56% in Prescription Stage
  • 34% in Administration
  • 6% Transcription
  • 4% while Dispensing

Some errors are more likely to stop if they occur in earlier stage of the process, such as:

  • 48% errors are stopped at the ordering stage itself
  • While being zero at administration stage

Benefits of Medication Barcode

  1. The benefits of Medication Barcode are achieved at the point of dispensing and the barcode medication administration system provides a huge safety benefit.
  2. The report describes the on-going status of the medicinal barcodes and their scanning technologies used in hospitals to enable in making informed decisions and assist in the development and growth of a business.
  3. The process of scanning of barcodes present on medicines is also known as auto-identification and data capture. Scanning of Medication Barcode is done to improve accuracy and enable product identification.
  4. The process provides reduced errors by limited involvement of data entry by staff and access to staff for most current data of patients and their medication.
  5. Electronic barcode medication administration allows streamlined processes, eliminating manual work. It saves a lot of time and money related to paperwork.
  6. Staff members can scan the barcode on ID badge to create an automatic audit trail hence ensuring an increase in accountability.

How Medication Barcode Work and Assist in Medication Dispensing?

The selection of right medicines is necessary when they are dispensed to patients. If anything goes wrong, it can cause serious harm to the patient. The patient is vulnerable to receive wrong medication, different medicine strengths, or incorrect formulation of the prescribed medicine.

Here usage and scanning of medicinal barcodes can identify potential errors and prevent them before the medicine gets delivered to the patient and thus avoid any harmful results.

The pharmacy barcoding system captures data from the scanning barcode on the patient's ID or prescription and generates a number which identifies the medication that needs to be dispensed. This number can be a barcode used by the pharmacy.

When both barcodes are scanned (the new barcode assigned from prescription and manufacturer's barcode), the software matches the data record with the product taken from the shelf to determine that both medicines are matching.

The barcode is scanned at the final stage of the process i.e., dispensing before the medication is attached with the label to ensure its match with the commercial pack.


Asset management software is a well-known system for inventory tracking and management for every field of activity. Medication barcode is as successful as barcodes on medical devices or assets.

Therefore, medicinal barcodes are quite critical as the chances of error are eliminated in a situation presenting a matter of harm or recovery, life or death of the patient.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does barcode medication administration work?

The Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA) takes care of the inventory control system used in hospitals to prevent errors in medication distribution. The system needs electronic scanning to detect medication errors and to monitor and manage the procedure of medication dispensing. It also needs barcode scanner software, printers, software, a computer server, and trained staff.

2. What is barcode medicine identification?

Barcode medicine identification is the process of checking prescribed medication at each and every stage of its dispensing. Starting from prescription, administration, transcription, dispensing at all the stages, the medication is checked with the patient's barcoded ID and barcode of the medicine manufacturer.

3. What does patient ID wristband do?

The barcode wristband holds all the necessary information pertaining to the patient and the reason why they have been admitted in the hospital. The patient ID wristband helps to scan the barcode on the medication to confirm its match.

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