Are Hospital CIOs Not Paying Enough Attention to BCMA?

I can’t imagine that there has ever been a time when hospital CIOs were more overwhelmed with government required healthcare IT changes than they are right now.  Top of the list for most hospital CIOs  has to be preparing for meaningful use stage 2 and even starting to plan ahead for meaningful use stage 3.  This on its own would be a large task, but hospital CIOs are also dealing with ICD-10, 5010, ACOs, HIEs, new HIPAA Omnibus rules, healthcare reform, and an entire alphabet soup of other government regulations and changes.  With so many government requirements, it is worth taking a step back to see what items might not be getting enough attention from the hospital CIO.  I think one of those areas could be bar code medication administration (BCMA).

There are many studies and examples that show the promise of reduced risk of medication errors thanks to BCMA.  In fact, these studies even got BCMA included in the meaningful use stage 2 requirements.  Those creating the meaningful use guidelines saw the benefit of a closed-loop medication administration system in healthcare.  I think many smaller hospitals underestimate the challenges associated with implementing BCMA.

Many of the larger hospital systems have been using BCMA for a while.  However, many of the smaller hospitals are behind on their implementations of BCMA.  This presents a great opportunity for those institutions that haven’t implemented BCMA to learn from other institutions’ experiences.

What are some of the things you need to consider when doing BCMA and why should hospital CIOs start focusing on it now?

The two biggest challenges with BCMA are implementing the hardware and integrating it with the various hospital IT systems.  The later has often been done by other hospitals that use your same IT systems.   The hardware piece has been done as well, but hardware implementations take time.  Think about the hardware implementation cycle time requirements: time to evaluate the hardware, time to order the hardware, time to get the order approved, time to receive the hardware, time to test the hardware, and time to implement the hardware.

Of course, we’re not even taking into account the time it takes to replace the hardware if you make a poor selection.  Plus, there always seems to be some hardware requirement that’s missed in the planning process.  For example, the additional BCMA hardware places new demands on power systems.  Are your power systems ready for the additional load or will you need to upgrade those?

Hardware implementations take time in a hospital and meaningful use stage 2 BCMA requirements will be here before you know it.  Leaning on someone who’s experienced in BCMA can help, but only can save you so much time.

While meaningful use only requires a small percentage of BCMA adoption, it is generally a mistake for hospitals to approach BCMA in a bifricated fashion with some paper and some electronic processes.  90% of all costs to implement BCMA are already absorbed regardless of what percentage of BCMA adoption you implement.  So, it’s well worth taking the time needed to do a system wide BCMA implementation.

Finally, it takes time for hospitals to shepherd the change management process required to safely modify long-established workflows.  Better to get the BCMA change process started now.

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