A mixed-method study of community pharmacy staff's use, perceptions and acceptance of barcode scanning technology: pharmacy's experience of scanning technology

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Increasing technology is a strategic goal within pharmacy to facilitate medicines' dispensing. Barcode scanning technology (BST) is considered low cost and reliable with potential safety benefits. A barrier to BST implementation within hospital pharmacy includes staff resistance; however, few studies explore BST within community pharmacy. To address this, pharmacy staff's use, perceptions and acceptance of BST within Scottish community pharmacies were examined.

Community pharmacies within Scotland using BST to scan medicines were identified using Twitter, eNewsletters and snowball sampling; 57 pharmacies were identified. Between May-Aug 2019, managers/owners participated in semi-structured interviews to explore BST use, and staff operating BST completed an online questionnaire to examine perceptions and acceptance. Interview data underwent content analysis and questionnaire data presented as medians (IQR).

BST was used for various purposes, most commonly for dispensed item verification (n = 43 pharmacies) and to identify falsified medicines (n = 10 pharmacies). Twenty pharmacy managers/owners were interviewed which revealed multiple scanners and BST functionalities. Thirty-five participants from 16 pharmacies participated in the questionnaire. Staff considered BST as easy to use. There were positive perceptions and acceptance of BST for dispensed item verification, and negative perceptions and less acceptance of BST for identifying falsified medicines.

BST implementation was identified in a minority of Scotland's 1,254 community pharmacies, and greater effort may be needed to increase technology utilisation. The variation of BST use may affect safety due to increased complexity. BST's purpose may underpin staff perceptions and acceptance. Future studies should explore barriers and observe BST use in practice.

Public interest summary
Barcode scanning technology (BST) may help pharmacy staff to dispense medicines safely. Hospital pharmacy staff have reported disliking using BST to scan medicines; however, no similar research has been carried out within community pharmacy. This study examined Scottish community pharmacies’ use of BST to scan medicines, and the pharmacy staff's views. Fifty-seven pharmacies were identified. BST was most commonly used to verify that the correct medicine was selected during dispensing (n = 43 pharmacies) and to identify 'falsified medicines' which were not safe to dispense (n = 10 pharmacies). Staff considered BST as easy to use, but were more positive and accepting of BST for verifying the correct medicine than for identifying falsified medicines. This suggests BST's purpose may underpin pharmacy staff perceptions and acceptance. A small number of pharmacies in Scotland used BST for this purpose, therefore more efforts may be needed to promote technology use.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Policy and Technology
Early online date3 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Dec 2020


  • pharmacy
  • technology
  • innovation
  • adoption
  • barcode
  • scanning


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