The Effects of Bar-coding Technology on Medication Errors: A Systematic Literature Review

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The bar-coding technology adoptions have risen drastically in U.S. health systems in the past decade. However, few studies have addressed the impact of bar-coding technology with strong prospective methodologies and the research, which has been conducted from both in-pharmacy and bedside implementations.


This systematic literature review is to examine the effectiveness of bar-coding technology on preventing medication errors and what types of medication errors may be prevented in the hospital setting.


A systematic search of databases was performed from 1998 to December 2016. Studies measuring the effect of bar-coding technology on medication errors were included in a full-text review. Studies with the outcomes other than medication errors such as efficiency or workarounds were excluded. The outcomes were measured and findings were summarized for each retained study.


A total of 2603 articles were initially identified and 10 studies, which used prospective before-and-after study design, were fully reviewed in this article. Of the 10 included studies, 9 took place in the United States, whereas the remaining was conducted in the United Kingdom. One research article focused on bar-coding implementation in a pharmacy setting, whereas the other 9 focused on bar coding within patient care areas. All 10 studies showed overall positive effects associated with bar-coding implementation.


The results of this review show that bar-coding technology may reduce medication errors in hospital settings, particularly on preventing targeted wrong dose, wrong drug, wrong patient, unauthorized drug, and wrong route errors.

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