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Fifteen Best Practice Recommendations for Bar-Code Medication Administration in the Veterans Health Administration

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Background: Since 2000, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has pioneered the development and deployment of a bar-code medication administration (BCMA) system. Based on VHA experience, 15 "best practices" for BCMA implementation, integration, and maintenance are recommended.

Methods: Data were collected on potential barriers to the effectiveness of BCMA to improve patient safety by direct observation of medication administration, simulated BCMA use in a laboratory setting, a survey of nursing informatics specialists regarding policies and procedures, and 30 unstructured interviews with diverse stakeholders.

Recommendations: Fifteen practices were proposed, categorized by implementation and continuous improvement, training, troubleshooting, contingency planning, equipment maintenance, medication administration, and maintenance of paper patient wristbands. For example, Recommendation 15 ("Periodic replacement of wristbands") advises weekly bar-coded wristband replacement in long term care settings to improve the scanning reliability.

Discussion: Lessons learned about best practices to address challenges may offer insight to others considering implementation of bar-code technology.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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