PS-102 Barcode scanning in the drug dispensing process improves patient safety

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Drug dispensing is a process with a high risk of errors. Barcode scanning can improve patient safety when implemented and used correctly. In 2010, a barcode system was implemented at several hospitals but a study from 2012 showed that only 53% of all dispensed drugs were scanned.


To determine to what extent barcode scanning was used during drug dispensing and to identify the number and type of errors identified by the system. Furthermore, nurses’ perceptions of the effect of barcode scanning on patient safety was evaluated together with nurses’ perceptions of time consumption related to the use of barcode scanning. Finally, actions to improve scanning frequency were investigated.

Material and methods

Data were collected from March to April 2016 from 4 medical wards. Drug dispensing was performed manually by nurses/assistants. All drugs were dispensed directly from the original package. Nurses/assistants were observed during drug dispensing and subsequently interviewed using a structured interview guide. Structured interviews were performed with 1 charge nurse from each ward. Results from the observation study were analysed using descriptive statistics. Interviews were audio recorded, verbatim transcribed and analysed by categorisation.


A total of 685 dispensed drugs were observed and 28 nurses were interviewed. On average, 76% (68–88% per department) of all drugs were scanned. A total of 8 errors were identified by the barcode system (error rate 1.2%) and 2 errors were potentially serious (wrong drug dispensed). Interviews showed that 95% of the nurses/assistants believed that barcode scanning was safe to use and 89% believed that barcode scanning can prevent medication errors. A total of 57% of the nurses/assistants believed that time used on drug dispensing was reduced after introduction of the barcode system. Improved scanning frequency was supported by actions such as continuous focus from leaders, happenings and use of scanning frequency as a quality measurement.


On average, 76% of all dispensed drugs were scanned. A total of 8 errors were identified by the system, emphasising that barcode scanning can prevent dispensing errors. Nurses believe that scanning improves patient safety and decreases time used on dispensing. Successful implementation of barcode scanning was supported by ongoing focus from users and their leaders.


No conflict of interest

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