The cost of implementing inpatient bar code medication administration

Am J Manag Care. 2013 Feb 1;19(2):e38-45.


Objectives: To calculate the costs associated with implementing and operating an inpatient bar-code medication administration (BCMA) system in the community hospital setting and to estimate the cost per harmful error prevented.

Study design: This is a retrospective, observational study. Costs were calculated from the hospital perspective and a cost-consequence analysis was performed to estimate the cost per preventable adverse drug event averted.

Methods: Costs were collected from financial records and key informant interviews at 4 not-for profit community hospitals. Costs included direct expenditures on capital, infrastructure, additional personnel, and the opportunity costs of time for existing personnel working on the project. The number of adverse drug events prevented using BCMA was estimated by multiplying the number of doses administered using BCMA by the rate of harmful errors prevented by interventions in response to system warnings. Our previous work found that BCMA identified and intercepted medication errors in 1.1% of doses administered, 9% of which potentially could have resulted in lasting harm.

Results: The cost of implementing and operating BCMA including electronic pharmacy management and drug repackaging over 5 years is $40,000 (range: $35,600 to $54,600) per BCMA-enabled bed and $2000 (range: $1800 to $2600) per harmful error prevented.

Conclusions: BCMA can be an effective and potentially cost-saving tool for preventing the harm and costs associated with medication errors.

MeSH terms

  • Costs and Cost Analysis / methods
  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Electronic Data Processing / economics*
  • Hospital Costs*
  • Hospitalization*
  • Medication Errors / economics
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control
  • Medication Systems, Hospital / economics*
  • Medication Systems, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / economics
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Retrospective Studies