Use of Barcode Systems in Preventing Medication Errors

Avertable medication errors are among the primary triggers of medical-related injuries globally. According to Kharmmania et al. (2015), patient misidentification can cause improper treatment or diagnoses, medical procedures, and adverse patient outcomes. The wristband barcode scanning approach significantly minimizes medication errors – omission, extra dose, wrong route, wrong dose and form – length of admission, and additional costs. The system mentioned above has been identified as efficient in improving medical administration, pharmacy dispensary, and physician orders. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of wristband barcode systems in reducing medical errors.

The study findings strongly supported the use of these medication scanning systems in clinical settings. Khammarnia et al. (2015) demonstrated that wristband barcodes could reduce medical errors by 57.7% in hospital settings. Besides its efficacy in general wards, the system could also be resourceful in neonatal units, operating wards, and intensive care units. For example, two surveys included in the meta-analysis revealed that wristband barcodes could reduce medication errors by 56% and 47% in newly-born and adult intensive care units, respectively (Khammarnia et al., 2015). The research also uncovered the effectiveness of wristband barcodes in increasing clinical workflows’ efficiency by 25% (Khammarnia et al., 2015). This was especially true for systems integrated with documentation capabilities, such as clinical advisory systems.

This study demonstrates that barcode systems can improve clinical workflows and medication safety by ensuring that drugs are being administered to the right patient. Advanced versions of the system can automatically generate a clinical advisory of a drug when scanned, thereby improving clinical workflows’ efficiency in the process. For instance, a nurse can scan the barcode in a patient’s wristband, and the drug advisory system will automatically generate the drug data for that patient. Consequently, the time spent on paper-based recording and searching is saved. For these reasons, the study strongly recommended the adoption of the system in clinical settings.

Healthcare providers must understand the efficacy of health technologies before implementing them in clinical settings. Leung et al. (2015) examined the evidence to support the use of barcode systems in improving medication safety. The study demonstrated that this technology is effective in improving medication safety. The survey also revealed that the integration of drug dispensers with the barcode system could result in a 93% to 96% reduction of drug dispensing errors. The analysis further indicated this hi-tech system’s efficacy in reducing adverse drug events by 85% and drug administration errors by 80% (Leung et al., 2015). The research also proved that barcode systems were efficient not only in adult inpatient settings but also in pediatric units.

Drug dispensers are systems used in delivering or releasing medications to a patient. Automatic drug administration systems include intravenous infusions, microneedle arrays, pharmacy-based IV admixtures, and point-of-care activated systems. According to Leung et al. (2015), over 50% of adverse drug events are caused by transcription, dispensing, and administration errors. Although drug dispensers have contributed to medication safety improvements, they are still susceptible to transcription errors. Leung et al. (2015) demonstrate in this study that integrating barcodes with drug dispensers can result in the substantial elimination of transcription errors. Additionally, the systems were proved to significantly decrease medication errors, adverse drug events, and drug dispensing errors. The authors concluded the study by recommending the implementation of barcode systems to improve medication safety in clinical settings.

Healthcare facilities are still prone to medication errors despite the adoption of protective technologies in clinical practice. To understand the effects of barcode systems in reducing medication errors and the factors associated with its use, Strudwick et al. (2018) conducted an integrative review consisting of eleven studies. The research revealed that barcode systems significantly reduce medication errors in acute care settings. The technology was proved to decrease medication errors by preventing patients’ misidentification and inaccuracies from the wrong dose, time, and route. The factors associated with using this hi-tech device in clinical settings include scanning rate, system features, and its functionalities, administration rights, and the record system. The study concluded by advising clinicians to advocate for the adoption of such systems as barcodes to improve medication safety outcomes.

Although this study lacks statistical data, it demonstrates the efficacy of barcode administration systems in minimizing medication errors. These researchers’ most crucial point is that the implementation of this technology does not automatically result in medication safety. The underlying factors, such as clinical workflows, system usability, and expertise level of the end-users contribute to the system’s success. Therefore, to maximize the use of the barcode system, nurse leaders must ensure that workflows are structured to encourage the inclusion of the devices into clinical workarounds.

The existence of other patient safety technologies has prevented the widespread adoption of BCMA technologies. Truitt et al. (2018) conducted a systematic review to determine the impact of BMCA when used in combination with electronic medication administration records (eMAR). The study showed that barcode systems significantly reduce drug administration inaccuracies, transcription errors, and total medication errors when integrated with eMAR. The survey also demonstrated that it could minimize dosing, wrong time, and wrong route errors, as well as incorrect medication. In congruence with the above studies, this research indicated that barcode systems could reduce adverse drug events in clinical settings.

Due to financial issues, healthcare facilities always have to prioritize budgetary allocation. The outcome of this decision is that some health technologies are given important consideration over others. Truitt et al. (2018) demonstrate in this survey that integrating multiple health systems for the same clinical outcome can maximize patient outcomes. In addition to showing the efficacy of the barcode systems, the research provides evidence that BMCAs can maximize medication safety outcomes when combined with an eMAR. Therefore, healthcare care settings seeking to achieve optimal results should consider an integrative approach to the systems.

Medication errors are one of the primary causes of patient harm in clinical settings. These inaccuracies commonly emerge from transcription, drug administration, and dispensing errors. This literature review analyzed four peer-reviewed articles consisting of primary research on barcode systems’ impact in preventing medication errors. Two of the studies provided statistical data to support their findings; additionally, a quality appraisal report was given in each research. Three themes emerged from the literature review: medication safety, clinical workflow, and the integration of the barcode systems with other health information technology. All four studies demonstrated that barcode systems significantly improve patient safety by preventing medication errors. Inaccuracies during drug administration are prevented by ensuring that the right medicine and dose is being administered to the right patient at the right time and route. Integrating these systems with other technology in healthcare settings will significantly improve patient outcomes. The surveys also implied that these hi-tech devices could improve clinical workflows by reducing the time and workload associated with manual drug administration and recording. Barcode systems should be implemented in clinical settings to better patient safety practices.


Khammarnia, M., Kassani, A., & Eslahi, M. (2015). The efficacy of patients’ wristband bar-code on prevention of medical errors. Applied Clinical Informatics, 6(4), 716-727. Web.

Leung, A. A., Denham, C. R., Gandhi, T. K., Bane, A., Churchill, W. W., Bates, D. W., & Poon, E. G. (2015). A safe practice standard for barcode technology. Journal of Patient Safety, 11(2), 89-99. Web.

Strudwick, G., Reisdorfer, E., Warnock, C., Kalia, K., Sulkers, H., Clark, C., & Booth, R. (2018). Factors associated with barcode medication administration technology that contribute to patient safety. Journal of Nursing Care Quality, 33(1), 79-85. Web.

Truitt, E., Thompson, R., Blazey-Martin, D., Nisai, D., & Salem, D. (2016). Effect of the implementation of barcode technology and an electronic medication administration record on adverse drug events. Hospital Pharmacy, 51(6), 474-483. Web.

Cite this paper

Select style


NursingBird. (2022, February 9). Use of Barcode Systems in Preventing Medication Errors. Retrieved from


NursingBird. (2022, February 9). Use of Barcode Systems in Preventing Medication Errors.

Work Cited

"Use of Barcode Systems in Preventing Medication Errors." NursingBird, 9 Feb. 2022,


NursingBird. (2022) 'Use of Barcode Systems in Preventing Medication Errors'. 9 February.


NursingBird. 2022. "Use of Barcode Systems in Preventing Medication Errors." February 9, 2022.

1. NursingBird. "Use of Barcode Systems in Preventing Medication Errors." February 9, 2022.


NursingBird. "Use of Barcode Systems in Preventing Medication Errors." February 9, 2022.