Overcoming barriers to the implementation of a pharmacy bar code scanning system for medication dispensing: a case study.
ABSTRACT Technology has great potential to reduce medication errors in hospitals. This case report describes barriers to, and facilitators of, the implementation of a pharmacy bar code scanning system to reduce medication dispensing errors at a large academic medical center. Ten pharmacy staff were interviewed about their experiences during the implementation. Interview notes were iteratively reviewed to identify common themes. The authors identified three main barriers to pharmacy bar code scanning system implementation: process (training requirements and process flow issues), technology (hardware, software, and the role of vendors), and resistance (communication issues, changing roles, and negative perceptions about technology). The authors also identified strategies to overcome these barriers. Adequate training, continuous improvement, and adaptation of workflow to address one's own needs mitigated process barriers. Ongoing vendor involvement, acknowledgment of technology limitations, and attempts to address them were crucial in overcoming technology barriers. Staff resistance was addressed through clear communication, identifying champions, emphasizing new information provided by the system, and facilitating collaboration.
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ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVE: We sought to determine the extent to which adoption of health information technology (HIT) by physician practices may differ from the extent of use by individual physicians, and to examine factors associated with adoption and use. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Using cross-sectional survey data from the National Study of Small and Medium-Sized Physician Practices (July 2007-March 2009), we examined the extent to which organizational capabilities and external incentives were associated with the adoption of five key HIT functionalities by physician practices and with use of those functionalities by individual physicians. RESULTS: The rate of physician practices adopting any of the five HIT functionalities was 34.1%. When practices adopted HIT functionalities, on average, about one in seven physicians did not use those functionalities. One physician in five did not use prompts and reminders following adoption by their practice. After controlling for other factors, both adoption of HIT by practices and use of HIT by individual physicians were higher in primary care practices and larger practices. Practices reporting an emphasis on patient-centered management were not more likely than others to adopt, but their physicians were more likely to use HIT. DISCUSSION: Larger practices were most likely to have adopted HIT, but other factors, including specialty mix and self-reported patient-centered management, had a stronger influence on the use of HIT once adopted. CONCLUSIONS: Adoption of HIT by practices does not mean that physicians will use the HIT.Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association 02/2013; · 3.57 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: The safety benefits of bar-coded medication-dispensing and administration (BCMA) technology depend on its intended users favorably perceiving, accepting, and ultimately using the technology. OBJECTIVES: (1) To describe pharmacy workers' perceptions and acceptance of a recently implemented BCMA system and (2) to model the relationship between perceptions and acceptance of BCMA. METHODS: Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians at a Midwest U.S. pediatric hospital were surveyed following the hospital's implementation of a BCMA system. Twenty-nine pharmacists' and 10 technicians' self-reported perceptions and acceptance of the BCMA system were analyzed, supplemented by qualitative observational and free-response survey data. Perception-acceptance associations were analyzed using structural models. RESULTS: The BCMA system's perceived ease of use was rated low by pharmacists and moderate by pharmacy technicians. Both pharmacists and technicians perceived that the BCMA system was not useful for improving either personal job performance or patient care. Pharmacy workers perceived that individuals important to them encouraged BMCA use. Pharmacy workers generally intended to use BCMA but reported low satisfaction with the system. Perceptions explained 72% of the variance in intention to use BCMA and 79% of variance in satisfaction with BCMA. CONCLUSIONS: To promote their acceptance and use, BCMA and other technologies must be better designed and integrated into the clinical work system. Key steps to achieving better design and integration include measuring clinicians' acceptance and elucidating perceptions and other factors that shape acceptance.Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy 03/2012; · 2.35 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Purpose We assessed the effects of a bar-code assisted medication administration system used without the support of computerised prescribing (stand-alone BCMA), on the dispensing process and its users. Methods The stand-alone BCMA system was implemented in one ward of a teaching hospital. The number of dispensing steps, dispensing time and potential dispensing errors (PDEs) were directly observed one month before and eight months after the intervention. Attitudes of pharmacy and nursing staff were assessed using a questionnaire (Likert scale) and interviews. Results Among 1291 and 471 drug items observed before and after the introduction of the technology respectively, the number of dispensing steps increased from five to eight and time (standard deviation) to dispense one drug item by one staff personnel increased from 0.8 (0.09) to 1.5 (0.12) minutes. Among 2828 and 471 drug items observed before and after the intervention respectively, the number of PDEs increased significantly (P < 0.001). ‘Procedural errors’ and ‘missing drug items’ were the frequently observed PDEs in the after study. ‘Perceived usefulness’ and ‘job relevance’ of the technology decreased significantly (P = 0.003 and P = 0.004 respectively) among users who participated in the before (N = 16) and after (N = 16) questionnaires surveys. Among the interviewees, pharmacy staff felt that the system offered less benefit to the dispensing process (9/16). Nursing staff perceived the system as useful in improving the accuracy of drug administration (7/10). Conclusion Implementing a stand-alone BCMA system may slow down and complicate the dispensing process. Nursing staff believe the stand-alone BCMA system could improve the drug administration process but pharmacy staff believes the technology would be more helpful if supported by computerised prescribing. However, periodical assessments are needed to identify weaknesses in the process after implementation, and all users should be educated on the benefits of using this technology.International Journal of Medical Informatics 01/2014; · 2.06 Impact Factor
Overcoming Barriers to the Implementation of a Pharmacy Bar
Code Scanning System for Medication Dispensing: A Case Study
KAREN C. NANJI, MD, MPH, JENNIFER CINA, PHARMD, NIRALI PATEL, PHARMD,
WILLIAM CHURCHILL, MS, TEJAL K. GANDHI, MD, MPH, ERIC G. POON, MD, MPH
A b s t r a c t
describes barriers to, and facilitators of, the implementation of a pharmacy bar code scanning system to reduce
medication dispensing errors at a large academic medical center. Ten pharmacy staff were interviewed about their
experiences during the implementation. Interview notes were iteratively reviewed to identify common themes. The
authors identified three main barriers to pharmacy bar code scanning system implementation: process (training
requirements and process flow issues), technology (hardware, software, and the role of vendors), and resistance
(communication issues, changing roles, and negative perceptions about technology). The authors also identified
strategies to overcome these barriers. Adequate training, continuous improvement, and adaptation of workflow to
address one’s own needs mitigated process barriers. Ongoing vendor involvement, acknowledgment of technology
limitations, and attempts to address them were crucial in overcoming technology barriers. Staff resistance was
addressed through clear communication, identifying champions, emphasizing new information provided by the
system, and facilitating collaboration.
? J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2009;16:645–650. DOI 10.1197/jamia.M3107.
Technology has great potential to reduce medication errors in hospitals. This case report
Patient safety has become a hot-button topic in research and
media during recent years. Patient injuries are most com-
monly due to adverse drug events (ADEs), which occur at a
rate of 6.5% or approximately 1,900 ADEs per hospital per
year.1–3Many of these ADEs are caused by medication
errors and are by definition preventable. These errors may
occur during any stage of the medication use process
including ordering, transcribing, dispensing, administering,
and monitoring. Most of the solutions to medication errors,
such as computerized physician order entry (CPOE) sys-
tems, have focused on reducing errors at the medication
ordering stage.4,5However, dispensing errors are estimated
to occur at a rate of nearly 4%, of which only 80% are
intercepted. In a large hospital, these error rates can trans-
late to more than 45,000 undetected dispensing errors
Pharmacy bar code scanning technology offers a new strat-
egy to address medication errors in the hospital setting. It
seeks to ensure that the correct medications are dispensed to
patient care units and that they carry a bar code for nurses
to scan before administering the dose to a patient. The
successful implementation of this technology has been
shown to reduce medication dispensing errors alone by
85%.7,9,10In addition, emerging evidence indicates minimal
impact on nursing workflow,11,12and a positive financial
return on bar code scanning technology13from the hospital’s
Despite these promising results, few hospital pharmacies
have implemented bar code scanning technology. In general,
problems that occur during implementation have led to
complete halt of the project,14staff revolt,15or even poor
for the implementation of hospital information systems2,20–34
such as organizational leadership, the availability of capital,
and product/vendor maturity. Successful pharmacy bar
code scanning system implementation must address not
only these considerations, but also the high dispensing
volume in a hospital pharmacy and the role of pharmacists
as consultants to other clinicians. The literature on pharmacy
bar code scanning technology is sparse9,10,35and focuses on
clinicians’ use of these systems after they have been imple-
mented36–38rather than on the implementation process
itself. We present this case report to capture our lessons
learned during a recent successful implementation of a
pharmacy bar code scanning system at a large academic
The case site is a 750-bed tertiary care Academic Medical
Center in Boston, MA, where approximately 5.9 million
doses of medications are dispensed per year from the central
inpatient pharmacy. The hospital pharmacy employs sixty-
one full time equivalent pharmacists and 45 full time equiv-
alent pharmacy technicians. In Nov and Dec 2003, the
Affiliations of the authors: University of Toronto (KCN), Toronto,
Ontario, Canada; Harvard School of Public Health (KCN), Boston,
MA; Harvard Medical School (TKG, EGP), Boston, MA; Brigham
and Women’s Hospital (JC, NP, WC, EGP), Boston, MA.
This work was supported in part by a grant from the Agency for
Healthcare Research and Quality # HS14053-02.
Correspondence: Eric Poon, MD, MPH, Division of General Medi-
cine and Primary Care, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 3/F 1620
Tremont St, Boston, MA 02120; e-mail: ?email@example.com?.
Received for review: 12/12/08; accepted for publication: 06/02/09.
Journal of the American Medical Informatics AssociationVolume 16Number 5September / October 2009
hospital pharmacy converted to a bar code–assisted medi-
cation dispensing process. This pharmacy initiative occurred
as part of the implementation of bar code scanning systems
at the bedside, and the project was a major joint initiative
between the pharmacy and the nursing staff.
The initial implementation of the pharmacy bar code scan-
ning technology required a dedicated pharmacy-based med-
ication repackaging center, which affixed two-dimensional
bar codes onto the lowest unit dose of every medication that
did not already have a bar code from the manufacturer.7As
the medications were picked from inventory, pharmacy
technicians scanned each bar code to match the medication,
strength, and dose with the pharmacist-approved physician
order. The medications were then sent to the patient care
areas and rescanned by nurses at the point of care to further
reduce medication administration errors.
While this technology has significantly reduced medication
dispensing errors7and produced a positive return on invest-
ment for the hospital,13the implementation team initially
encountered significant challenges, which they ultimately
overcame. To capture some of the lessons learned, we
interviewed pharmacy leaders, pharmacists and pharmacy
technicians about their experiences during the implementa-
tion process. We conducted a qualitative analysis of the
barriers to, and facilitators of, the pharmacy bar code
scanning system implementation, taking a close look at
sources of resistance and how to overcome them.
To understand the barriers to and facilitators of this imple-
mentation, we conducted interviews of pharmacy staff,
supplemented by a review of project documentation.
Based on prior work related to the implementation of both
CPOE2,24,39,40and the bar code scanning system, we devel-
oped a semi-structured interview instrument to elicit the
pharmacy staff’s perceptions of barriers to, and facilitators
of, the bar code scanning system implementation in the
hospital pharmacy. Interviews took place during a 1-year
period following system implementation. Each interview
lasted approximately one-half hour and was conducted by
at least one investigator who recorded field notes during the
We contacted pharmacy personnel who were either using
the bar code scanning system or involved in its implemen-
tation. The initial set of interviewees was selected by phar-
macy leaders from a total of 150 potential informants. As the
interviews progressed, we asked our informants to help
identify other staff members who were knowledgeable
about the process. We continued the interviews until we
were no longer gaining new information or insights from
successive informants. Written consent was obtained from
all participants with the understanding that they were able
to withdraw from the study at any time. Institutional review
board approval was obtained at the study site.
Ten interviews were conducted by two investigators be-
tween Dec 2004 and Aug 2005. Two interviewees were
pharmacy leaders, four were pharmacists and four were
technicians. We presented our findings to the pharmacy
leaders to verify our results.
We analyzed the interview notes for common themes with
the aid of ATLAS.ti software (Scientific Software Develop-
ment, Berlin). Through five iterative readings of the field
notes, we developed a code list to characterize the factors
that influenced the system implementation. Using this code
list, two independent reviewers iteratively coded a subset of
three transcripts, modifying the code list and the code
definitions as necessary, until they reached 89% reliability,
defined as the fraction of phrases that were coded in an
identical manner by both reviewers.41One reviewer subse-
quently coded the entire set of field notes. The reviewer met
regularly with coinvestigators to discuss emerging themes,
organize the code list under these themes, and further
delineate the relationships among these themes. Meeting
minutes of weekly implementation team meetings from Jan
to August 2004 were also reviewed to confirm the themes
and to clarify relationships between themes.
We identified three main barriers (Fig 1) to pharmacy bar
code scanning technology implementation at our hospital
and strategies to overcome them.
As with any system implementation, training must be
initiated early on. In an effort to get the pharmacy techni-
cians familiar with scanning, the pharmacy implemented
bar code-assisted dispensing for medications destined for
the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) 1 year before full
deployment of the bar code scanning system. As there were
usually expert system users available, and the volume of
medications requiring scanning during the NICU-pilot was
low, training was on-the-job, without formal classes. How-
ever, the volume of drugs requiring scanning increased
dramatically after full system deployment. Even though
most technicians were familiar with scanning and were
given additional informal training, this was a challenging
Certain pharmacy technicians thought that they were not
adequately trained and identified this as an obstacle to
system implementation. Although the addition of formal
training may have helped, limited computer literacy and
language barriers made this challenging. Increased time and
resources would have been required to ensure that the
training was appropriate for a range of skill sets and tailored
• The role of vendors
• Training requirements
• Process flow issues
F i g u r e 1.
Barriers to Barcode System Implementation.
Caputo et al., Overcoming Barriers to a Pharm Bar Code Scanning System
to individual differences in learning curves. Pharmacy lead-
ers also recognized the importance of training to the system
implementation process. One leader explained that “Scan-
ning is an art. People need to practice to get used to the
technique.” Consequently, as the technicians gained more
experience with scanning, their comfort level with the new
The respondents who reported a desire to have more train-
ing available made suggestions ranging from formal train-
ing sessions to simulation laboratories to “super-users”.
Super-users are peers who receive focused training and
provide ongoing informal support to their colleagues. The
superuser model functions synergistically with formal train-
ing, and was used to implement bar code-assisted medica-
tion administration for nurses in the patient care areas
subsequent to the pharmacy system implementation. Al-
though the pharmacy did not have the budget to implement
the superuser model, technicians who had difficulties with
scanning did receive one-on-one training.
Process Flow Issues
As with any large project, the pharmacy bar code scanning
system implementation had to overcome a few unexpected
challenges, which usually involved workflow redesign. For
example, during the initial system implementation, three
days worth of medication were dispensed at a time, known
as a “three-day fill”. This practice was originally intended to
limit the number of daily fills by increasing the volume of
medications dispensed. However, since a significant propor-
tion of patients remain in hospital for fewer than three days,
many medications were returned and the patients’ accounts
were credited for unused medication. This crediting process
led to increases in the overall workload for pharmacy
technicians. Fortunately, pharmacy leadership elicited these
concerns and changed the three-day fill to a two-day fill,
decreasing the crediting requirements.
Many informants reported other cases where continuous
improvement principles were successfully incorporated into
the system implementation process. For example, the phar-
macy information system was originally set up to dispense
medications at standardized times each day. This was re-
vised when pharmacists suggested that they would like the
ability to schedule the first dose of a medication at a
different time than the remaining doses. Another challenge
surfaced when the pharmacy leaders realized that the tech-
nicians found it easier to use their laptops and scanners in
central pharmacy locations than in the individual areas
where each medication is housed. By allowing the techni-
cians to optimize their own workflow, the pharmacy leaders
overcame these unexpected challenges and fostered a col-
laborative working environment.
Like most implementations of a new technology, several
technical problems affected system implementation. These
included hardware and software problems, and the role of
vendors. Hardware problems were largely related to scan-
ning equipment. Common complaints included “bar codes
not scanning” and the wireless scanner battery draining at
inopportune times. One pharmacy leader explained that
batteries drained because users were holding down the scan
button continuously, causing bar codes to repeatedly scan.
This behavior was unanticipated and therefore not ad-
dressed during the training process. However, the imple-
mentation team promptly identified the improper technique
and technicians were appropriately re-educated.
The implementation team also noted that some of the
medications encoded in the bar codes were missing from the
dictionary of pharmaceutical products or mapped to incor-
rect products. To address this issue, pharmacy leaders
created a process whereby technicians report all unscan-
nable products to designated personnel who identified and
corrected the problem. Another problem occurred when some
to scan. The pharmacy leaders identified alternate manufactur-
ers with bar codes that were easier to scan. While these issues
were promptly overcome, some respondents expressed frus-
tration with the process, suggesting that more extensive
testing before go-live might have uncovered these problems
To address many of these technology issues, pharmacists
and pharmacy leaders identified the role of vendors as a
critical success factor. Several strategies for choosing a
vendor were suggested. First, the vendor should provide
long-term on-site formal training and support that covers all
shifts. Second, to maximize workflow customization and
resolve problems that arise during the implementation pro-
cess, the vendor must have the resources to work with the
implementation team to make specific changes to its system
as difficulties arise. This is especially important with the
implementation of a relatively new technology like a bar
code scanning system.
Staff resistance to bar code scanning system implementation
was a prominent barrier identified in our interviews. Fortu-
nately, the team also identified many strategies to overcome
Resistance was driven by three main factors: communication
issues, staff feeling overwhelmed because of changing roles,
and negative perceptions about technology.
Some pharmacists and pharmacy technicians perceived that
the pharmacy staff was “led to believe that [the new system]
would make the work a lot easier” when it in fact initially
involved “a lot more work.” One pharmacy leader explained
that “some of the technicians didn’t see the big picture.
Although it may initially take longer with the bar code
scanning system, the entire process becomes more efficient.
Maybe [the leadership] did not get as much buy-in up front
as we could have.” Clear communication around workload
expectations during the implementation process may miti-
gate much of these misunderstandings and the resulting
Changing roles were also an important cause of resistance
among staff as some had entirely different job descriptions
with the new system. As one pharmacist described, “They
weren’t embracing the system because they were accus-
tomed to doing something for a long time and all of a
sudden they had this thrown at them.” For example, phar-
macy technicians who had previously spent a significant
amount of time crediting unused medications had to elimi-
nate that activity and learn how to use the bar code scanner.
Also, the scanning system eliminated the pharmacists’ need
Journal of the American Medical Informatics AssociationVolume 16Number 5September / October 2009
to spend a significant portion of time double-checking drugs
that were manually dispensed or manually cross-checking
the patient and medication. They were instead able to focus
on collaborating with the technicians and resolving any
discrepancies that the system revealed.
While the prospect of changing roles led to significant
resistance in some cases, the change also presented an
opportunity to identify new champions to help with the
implementation process. Champions were well-respected
pharmacists and technicians who took on leadership roles
during system implementation by encouraging users to look
beyond any immediate frustrations, working through hur-
dles with them, and reminding them of the system’s down-
stream benefits. One pharmacy leader explained, “As roles
changed, certain people embraced the changes more than
others. We encouraged these people to become champions
and placed them up on pedestals so that they could set an
example for the others.”
Another contributor to resistance was negative perceptions
about the technology. Three main negative perceptions were
identified through the interviews: overdependence on tech-
nology, potential for harm, and concerns about increased
performance monitoring. One respondent explained that the
pharmacists “rely on the system more and more to be
accurate . . . When it’s down, (we) run into a hard time.”
Another expressed a safety concern with the shift from
manual checks to automated checks. She stated that “if a
mistake is not caught [by the automated check], the patient
might be at risk.” A pharmacy technician outlined her
concerns about performance monitoring, saying that “some
people think that this system was put into place as a way to
track them and [their] performance.” These negative percep-
tions about technology were mitigated by its useful func-
tionality. As users interacted with the new system, they
discovered that it offered information that they previously
lacked ready access to. For example, one informant ex-
plained, “the system allows me to track things better; if a
medication is sent wrong, I can track who, what, when and
why it happened.” Informants acknowledged the usefulness
of the increased information in preventing medication er-
rors. Another reported, “I now have the ability to see dosing
frequencies and understand the principles of drug regi-
mens!” Increased information empowered the technicians
and pharmacists to be more involved in the pharmacy
processes, leading to an increased sense of involvement in
The bar code scanning technology also facilitated collabora-
tion and teamwork, which served as a catalyst for system
adoption. Our informants reported that in situations where
the staff had increased collaboration and teamwork in a new
role, the response to change was a favorable one. As one
technician stated, “With this system, there is involvement
and I have a sense of working with the pharmacists rather
than beneath them.” Another technician explained that “we
have a better understanding of when the medications are
needed [to be administered] up on the floors and that opens
up our communication with the pharmacists regarding
availability [of these medications]” A pharmacist reported
that “there had to be more communication [with techni-
cians] to ensure that we were getting patient meds to the
unit correctly as well as identifying when things were not
working as designed. I don’t think it was the additional
information on the labels [that changed how we work
together but it was instead] a result of needing each other to
get the system implemented.” This collaboration and team-
work further fostered self-motivation and information sharing.
For example, another technician added, “My responsibilities
have increased [to include checking the medication dose and
frequency, tracking the medication and identifying and in-
tercepting errors as opposed to just dispensing the medica-
tion] but not because someone told me to do something. It
comes from my own doing. I take it upon myself to fulfill the
Relationship among the Three Major Barriers
Staff resistance and process and technology barriers are inter-
related and all lead to system flaws such as workarounds, in
which users find creative ways to bypass the intended safety
features of the system. For example, inadequate training,
process flow issues, and technology shortcomings contrib-
uted to resistance as pharmacy staff felt overwhelmed and
developed negative perceptions about the technology. This,
in turn, encouraged users to find creative alternatives to
scanning. As one technician reported, “If it didn’t scan right
away, we would manually override everything.” Another
expressed a concern with scanning multiple doses of the
same medication. Instead of scanning 25 separate tablets,
she reported that “one tablet is being scanned 25 times.” Our
pharmacy leaders dealt with this by being aware of these
behaviors, continuously resolving any system issues that
arose in a timely fashion and ensuring ongoing communi-
cation between pharmacy technicians, pharmacists and
Using a qualitative approach, we identified three major
barriers to implementing pharmacy bar code scanning tech-
nology at our center: Processes, technology issues, and staff
resistance. Although these barriers were significant, our
informants identified strategies to overcome them.
Our results are consistent with barriers to CPOE system
implementations that are reported in the literature.18,24,25
Ash reported that when clinicians have access to more
information with which to make decisions, and when the
system fits with their workflow, they tend to use it. Miller
stated that champions and positive physician attitudes to-
ward technology were essential to successful CPOE imple-
mentation. Our case suggests that these principles hold true
not only for physicians but also for pharmacists and phar-
macy technicians with varying backgrounds, responsibilities
and levels of education.
Our results are also consistent with problems with clinician
use of bar code medication administration systems that are
reported in the literature.36Our case suggests that many of
the workarounds created by clinicians, such as omission of
process steps or performing steps out of sequence36are also
created by pharmacists and pharmacy technicians during
the system implementation process. Important safety issues
introduced by clinician use of bar code scanning systems,
such as degraded coordination between nurses and physi-
cians,37nurses dropping activities to reduce workload dur-
ing busy periods37and changes in communication between
nurses38have been reported in the literature. Many of the
Caputo et al., Overcoming Barriers to a Pharm Bar Code Scanning System
barriers we identified in the pharmacy environment are
similar to these issues identified at the bedside and our
solutions may be useful outside of the pharmacy.
Pharmacy bar code scanning systems present several unique
implementation issues. For example, training requirements are
less uniform than those of physicians during CPOE implemen-
tation due to a larger variation in education and skill level
within a pharmacy. Furthermore, unlike physicians, pharmacy
technicians are generally employees of the hospital and not as
influential in the decision making process since their activities
are not directly tied to hospital revenues. Although these
differences represent unique organizational and interpersonal
challenges that contribute to resistance, they can also be lever-
aged to overcome the resistance.
An interesting paradox was noted with pharmacy and
pharmacy technicians’ reactions to the increased informa-
tion available to them through the new system. While some
were concerned that the technology would allow their own
work to be tracked, others welcomed the opportunity to be
able to track a medication through it entire cycle in the
hospital. As with other information systems, this tracking
capability can be a double-edged sword, acting as either a
barrier or facilitator to implementation.
In this case example, the hospital chose a “big-bang” ap-
proach by implementing the entire bar code scanning sys-
tem within a short time frame. Although some pharmacists
and technicians expressed preference for a more incremental
implementation, pharmacy leaders preferred the big-bang
approach because they felt they had the political capital to
execute a series of significant workflow changes and that
momentum for these changes would be lost if they were
introduced individually. Also, in a geographically and or-
ganizationally coherent area like the pharmacy, systems
may be so interconnected that it is impractical to implement
components one at a time. Much debate around this issue
has been documented in the literature.17Although our work
cannot universally endorse the big bang approach, in this
case it seemed to be a reasonable choice.
Many opportunities exist for hospital leaders and policy
makers to facilitate the adoption of pharmacy bar code
scanning systems. First, hospital leaders need to consider the
true cost of technology implementation, beyond just soft-
ware and hardware. The largest roadblocks are often related
to process redesign and organizational resistance, and hospital
leaders should devote sufficient financial resources and personal
attention to this. Second, policy makers should actively promote
knowledge sharing from the implementation process itself, as
ogy projects sponsored by various agencies within the federal
government such as the office of the national coordinator for
health information technology (ONCHIT) and the Agency for
Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) provide ideal mecha-
nisms for this information exchange. Third, a shift in work-
force capacity may be necessary, with a focus on clinicians
who understand workflow issues well enough to redesign
processes and are also trained to select appropriate technol-
ogies and manage vendor relationships.
In summary, bar code scanning system implementation is a
difficult process with several barriers involving processes,
technology and organizational resistance. Fortunately, our
informants identified many strategies to overcome these
barriers. We hope that other health care centers can use these
lessons learned to realize the full benefits of bar code
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