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The current technological development that has swept across different discipline has not left nursing either. In nursing, most of the current technologies are mainly geared towards improving patient’s safety while in hospital with regard to healthcare and administration of medication. Medication errors in particular are one of the areas of current concern in most hospitals since they have often resulted to adverse health effects on patients. This paper has outlined the use of electronic medication administration with bar coding as one of the technologies currently being used to reduce errors.


Errors that result from different types of medication are often experienced in hospitals and often result into harming the patients involved. In an effort to try and find a remedy to this, several health professionals have currently engaged in an intensive research to find an automated system that can be used to effectively and efficiently administer medications to the patients. Information technology with regard to healthcare is a better strategy and one of the best courses that has been taken by the health professional to prevent medication errors because the system required needs to be computerized such that the patients’ details are frequently verified first and fast before administering any medication. Electronic medication administration with bar coding is one of such technologies.

Electronic Medication Administration With Bar Coding

In a study on the medication errors in hospitals, Dickens (2007) found out that medication errors are frequently experienced and most of the times lead to serious effects to the patient. He also documents that up to about 7% of the adverse effects are reported on medication use and in this fraction, a quarter is directly caused by medication errors. This is a serious trend and therefore needs an immediate action to reduce or eliminate the errors. According to Poon (2010), about 50, 000 to 100,000 people die in the hospitals because of medication errors. However, if it does not result to death of patients, it result to other undesirable reactions within the patient’s body that may increase the patient’s stay in the hospital, increased medical bills or disrupt the stability of the patient and worsen the condition.

Electronic medication administration with bar coding is a technology that uses many other technologies to ensure that the right patients receive the correct and the right medication at the right time and the correct amounts and at the same time ensure smooth flowing work by the nurses in hospitals. Unlike the traditional medication system in which the medication orders are done manually mostly on the paper and later used by the nurses to determine the medication and when to administer such medications, Electronic medication administration with bar coding has a system that ensures that the medication orders are easily accessible through a patient’s electronic records provided that they have been approved by the pharmacist (Koppel, 2008). In the process, it is easy to know, for example, when a patient’s medication is overdue through electronic patient work list, which provides prompt to the nurses automatically that serves as an alert.

Electronic medication administration with bar coding also has provision for additional safety in its application. Unlike in the manual process or the paper driven medication process where the nurses verify the doses and the identities of patients before administering any medication, bar-code system has a safety measure. It is achieved through scanning the bar codes on the wristbands as well as on the medication before they can be administered since all the information concerning each patient is contained in a database (Koppel, 2008).

Electronic medication administration with bar coding has been reported to reduce the occurrences of medication errors by a greater margin of up to 55% (Koppel, 2008). Others also include the computerized physician order entries, which have also yielded better results with respect to reducing medication errors. Electronic medication administration with bar coding has been suggested as one of the best methods of dispensing drugs by a pharmacist as well as in counting sponges in the operations of medication of health care to patients (Poon, 2010). According to Rothschild (2009), the use of bar code technology especially at the bedside is one of the best technology since it ensures that individual patient’s identity are effectively verified before administering any kind of medication and hence is a promising technology to avoid errors due to medications. This can reduce errors that occur especially during handing over by the nurses especially when there is slight confusions, everything can be verified first. This is also effective when properly implemented since it gives nurses an opportunity not only to administer medications, but also to document such medications automatically through scanning the bar code by the bedside (Rothschild, 2009).

In a research by (Poon, 2010), electronic medication administration with bar coding has been found to eliminate or reduce errors that result from transcription. He argues that after considering different hospital beds that had implemented this technology, it reduced the transcriptions errors by up to 55%. This is because, with this system, it is possible to import the medication orders automatically and electronically from the physician or the pharmacist system. Bar code technology is therefore being considered as the best avenue for realizing the advancement in health information system in reducing medication errors hence ensures improved safety of different medications (Poon 2010). This also improves information incentives with respect to finances and the cost of medication as well as other costs can be estimated easily and effectively for the benefit of the patients.

However, according to Dickens (2007), electronic medication administration with bar coding is limited and is mixed up with many uncertainties. He argues that several studies have highlighted the different consequences of its intended implementation. This is because, some individual health professionals rely on this technology so much that they no longer want to take time verifying manually just to find whether the system is giving the same results. There is also the fear that some would begin bypassing a process especially the bar codes scanning process would result into new errors. The new errors may be very critical and may not be detected easily by the nurses since they would be relying on the bar code scanning.

In a research by (Papastrat & Wallace, 2008) on the effect of Electronic medication administration with bar coding in medication errors, they stated that errors were substantial and could not be eliminated. The reason for this is given as lack of compliance by the nurses and the incorrect use of the technology or the use for the non-intended purpose (Papastrat & Wallace, 2008). By passing the bar code, scanning step is given as a major drawback to the effective implementation of this technology and often result to serious errors that are difficult to detect. The lack of compliance of this technology can also be attributed to lack of proper training on the version of the software that are used by a particular hospital (Papastrat & Wallace, 2008). In a study by Dickens (2007), the availability of different versions of the software in the market with different improvements is also another reason for errors since there is no recognized standard yet.


Electronic medication administration with bar coding is health information technology that is currently the focus of most medical professionals due to its potential to minimize the medication errors. Many researchers have documented that with the implementation of electronic medication administration with bar coding, the medication errors would reduce to almost 55% and save about 50,000 to 100, 000 people who die yearly as a result of such errors. However, other researchers have also held that this is a new technology that cannot be implemented in vacuum due to errors that may be associated with it because of lack of compliance by the nurses. Researchers also believe that lack of compliance may pose a serious error than the traditional paper directed medication would pose.


Dickens, G. (2007). Inpatient psychiatry: Three methods to detect medication errors. Nurse Prescribing Journal, 5(4), 167-171.

Koppel, R. (2008). Workarounds to barcode medication administration systems: Their occurrences, causes, and threats to patient safety. Journal of American Medical Informatics Association, 15(4), 408-423.

Papastrat, K. & Wallace, S. (2008). Teaching baccalaureate-nursing students to prevent medication errors using a problem-based learning approach. Journal of Nursing Education, 42(10), 459-464.

Poon, E.  (2010). Effect of bar-code technology on the safety of medication administration. The New England Journal of Medicine, 17(1), 118-121.

Rothschild, J. (2009). Computerized physician order entry in the critical care and general inpatient setting: A narrative review. Journal of Critical Care, 19(4) 271-278.


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