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ASHP Publishes New Statement on Benefits of Bar-Code-Enabled Medication Administration

Note that BCMA has “tremendous potential” and is NOT a evidence based practice.   The focus of the statement really is a call for documentation and study of the benefit of BCMA. 

ASHP Publishes New Statement on Benefits of Bar-Code-Enabled Medication Administration

ASHP Publishes New Statement on Benefits of Bar-Code-Enabled Medication Administration

Technology Has “Tremendous Potential” for Improving Patient Safety


The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) has published a new statement encouraging hospitals and health systems to adopt bar-code-enabled medication administration (BCMA) technology in all areas of medication use. BCMA has “tremendous potential” for improving patient safety, according to the statement.
To ensure accurate medication administration and documentation, ASHP supports the use of BCMA to verify all medications electronically before they are administered to patients. The Society also urges health professionals to conduct multidisciplinary research to show how BCMA reduces preventable medication errors and decreases costs.

Nearly 41 percent of U.S. hospitals are planning to implement BCMA by 2010, according to ASHP’s 2007 pharmacy informatics survey. Nearly a quarter of hospitals already use BCMA, survey results showed, representing a significant increase from the 13 percent of hospitals using this technology in a 2005 study.
“For BCMA systems to be effective pharmacists must be involved in all phases from technology selection through implementation” said ASHP President Kevin J. Colgan, M.A., FASHP. 
The ASHP Statement on Bar-Code-Enabled Medication Administration Technology, authored by Arash T. Dabestani, Pharm.D., MHA; Alicia B. Perry, Pharm.D.; and the ASHP Section of Pharmacy Informatics Advisory Group on Automation and Documentation, appears in the March 15, 2009, issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy.

The statement highlights the critical role pharmacists must play in leading BCMA implementation, including being responsible for maintaining the system’s infrastructure and working with other health care providers to plan, develop, and manage these systems. ASHP also urges hospitals and health systems to provide pharmacists with the necessary funding and personnel to fulfill this leadership role.

ASHP’s statement also recommends the following:

  • Drug manufacturers should be required to use symbologies that are readily deciphered by commonly used scanning equipment,
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturers should provide all medications used in health systems in unit-dose packages,
  • Coding should be provided on all drug packaging, including unit doses and injectable drugs, as well as the National Drug Code, lot number, and expiration date,
  • Manufacturers of BCMA systems should collaborate with key stakeholders to minimize or eliminate false rejections of valid medication doses,
  • Stakeholders should work together to develop a system that more reliably identifies the unique drug (or combination of drugs), strength, dosage form, and route of administration, and
  • New technologies that develop beyond BCMA should follow the principles in this statement.

 The statement is available online at

About ASHP
For more than 60 years, ASHP has helped pharmacists who practice in hospitals and health systems improve medication use and enhance patient safety. The Society’s 35,000 members include pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who practice in inpatient, outpatient, home-care, and long-term-care settings, as well as pharmacy students. For more information about the wide array of ASHP activities and the many ways in which pharmacists help people make the best use of medicines, visit ASHP’s Web site,, or its consumer Web site,

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