Barcode medication administration (BCMA) is advocated as a technology that reduces medication errors relating to incorrect patient identity, drug or dose. Little is known, however, about the impact it has on nursing workflow. Our aim was to investigate the impact of BCMA on nursing activity and workflow. A comparative study was conducted on two similar surgical wards within an acute UK hospital. We observed nurses during drug rounds on a non-BCMA ward and a BCMA ward. Data were collected on drug round duration, timeliness of medication administration, patient identification, medication verification and general workflow patterns. BCMA appears not to alter drug round duration, although it may reduce the administration time per dose. Workflow was more streamlined, with less use of the medicines room. The rate of patient identification increased from 74% (of 47) patients to 100% (of 43), with 95% of 255 scannable medication doses verified using the system. This study suggests that BCMA does not affect drug round duration; further research is required to determine the impact it has on timeliness of medication administration. There was reduced variability in the medication administration workflow of nurses, along with an increased patient identification rate and high medication scan rate, representing potential benefits to patient safety.
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