Bar Coded Medication Administration (BCMA)

Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA) is a barcode system used 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.

Barcode 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 bar codes 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 WiFi), a computer server and software.  Each drug in the hospital is labeled with a unique bar code. 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 hand-held device to scan the bar codes on his identification badge, the patient's wristband and the drug. If the 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; 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 Bureau of Veterans Affairs. Barcode 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 April 2012

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