Nurses often skeptical of bar coding for med administration

While bar-coding technology can improve medication administration safety by reducing errors, it's not always preferred by the nurses who use it. Worse, some nurses try to override or work around the technology. 

Researchers publishing online this week in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association concluded that before hospital administrators implement and require use of bar codes--or any other technology--by staff, perceived ease of use should be determined in order to limit such work around attempts.

The study was small, as survey results from only 83 registered nurses at a 236-bed Midwestern hospital were examined. Overall, a majority of nurses rated bar coded medication administration (BCMA) as moderately easy to use, but more than half indicated that they thought BCMA did not make patient care any easier.

What's more, while BCMA use intentions were high, 28 percent of nurses said they'd opt not to use it if they had the choice. Additionally, those nurses said that they thought their colleagues would use workarounds when available.

"Perceptions are more than the personal opinions or preferences of individuals: they are the building blocks of human behavior," the researchers wrote. "By measuring nurses' perceptions related to BCMA, we were able to explain nurses' acceptance of BCMA, which is an antecedent to behavior."

The authors added that context for such results were of high importance, as it can help in creating more specific strategies for designers creating certain technologies.

"Contextualization might need to address the target clinicians, the type of health IT, and the purpose for using the health IT," the researchers said. "Our contextualization of [perceived usefulness] to patient care shows that generically trying to improve nurse performance with BCMA will not be sufficient to improve acceptance; rather, designers should focus on ensuring BCMA supports nurses' abilities to provide patient care."

Such research is important, as bar coding is likely to be a key criteria in the Meaningful Use Stage 2 final rule.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract
- check out this New England Journal of Medicine study on bar coding and medication errors

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