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. Patients and nurses have identification wristbands with unique bar codes that identify the individual. Scanners are placed on a medication cart with most having wireless computers on the cart to display information such as physicians’ medication orders. The computer is connected to the pharmacy’s internal server (Wulff). To use the BCMA, the nurse scans his or her wristband to confirm medication dispensing authority. Once authorized, the nurse proceeds to scan the bar code on the patient’s wristband and each bar code on the packages of medications that are to be administered. The software subsequently verifies if it is the right medication for that particular patient relative to the physician’s order. Moreover, the BCMA system gives an alert if anything is amiss during the medication administration process.
Improved patient safety is the most essential advantage of the BCMA system. “On average a hospital patient is subjected to at least one medication error per day (IOM, 2006)”(Foote). BCMA significantly reduces medication errors that cause a compromise in patient safety. The BCMA verifies the five rights of medication administration before a patient receives a medication by the software alerting the nurse...