Bar Coded Medication Administration (BCMA) definition

Contributor(s): Kristen Lee

Barcoded Medication Administration (BCMA) is an inventory control system that uses barcodes to prevent human errors in the distribution of prescription medications at hospitals. The goal of BCMA is to make sure that patients are receiving the correct medications at the correct time by electronically validating and documenting medications. The information encoded in barcodes allows for the comparison of the medication being administered with what was ordered for the patient.

A BCMA system consists of a barcode printer, a barcode reader, a mobile computer (with Wi-Fi), a computer server and software. Each drug in the hospital is labeled with a unique barcode. When a patient is prescribed medication, it is faxed, sent electronically or hand delivered to the hospital's pharmacy and entered into a computer system by a pharmacist. The pharmacist dispenses the barcoded dose of the drug to the patient's floor. When it's time for the clinician to administer the medication, he uses a handheld device to scan the barcodes on his identification badge, the patient's wristband and the drug. If the barcode point-of-care (BPOC) system cannot match the drug to be given with the order in the system, it alerts the clinician with a visual warning. Each patient's barcode holds all the vital information about the patient and his medication.

The BPOC system is designed to make sure that the right drug is given to the right patient via the right route in the right amount and at the right time. This information is referred to as the "Five Rights."

The Five Rights of Barcode Medication Administration:

a. The right patient
b. The right medication
c. At the right time
d. At the right dose
e. By the right route

BCMA has shown great potential for reducing medication errors, as demonstrated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. BMCA was created by and first implemented at the Eastern Kansas Health Care System and Colmery-O'Neil Veteran Medical Center in Topeka, Kansas, and from 1999 to 2001 the Department of Veterans Affairs implemented the system at 161 facilities. Barcode medication administration systems have also been useful for managing inventory, streamlining billing and saving time both at the pharmacy and at the bedside.

This was first published in June 2015

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