Guest Editorial: Quality What?

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Pharmacists must become aware of the importance of quality assurance and what it means to their pharmacy practice.

Dr. Swanson is currently serving as executive resident with the North Carolina Association ofPharmacists. He is a 2008 graduate of Campbell University's School of Pharmacy.

Medicare fix. Comparativeeffectiveness.Health carereform. There is certainlyno shortage of buzz words that pharmacistsemploy in discussing today'shot-button issues. But how many pharmacists,when peppering their conversationswith these catchy phrases, trulygrasp the full depth of the issues? I willbe the first to admit my guilt.

Until a few months ago, if pressed todescribe the concept of quality assurance(QA), I would have offered an answeralong these lines: "assuring qualityin pharmacy practice." The more I learnabout QA, the more I cannot believe Imade it through 4 years of pharmacyschool without becoming more familiarwith an expression of such consequence.Imagine my chagrin to discoverthat my state actually has a law mandatingQA programs for all pharmacies!Fortunately, one of my first residencyprojects involved developing a QA trainingsession for pharmacy inspectors,forcing me to become knowledgeableon a topic to which I may have remainedotherwise oblivious.

Was I alone in my ignorance? Thatwas my initial fear. The more I spokewith friends still in pharmacy school,however, my peers, and even fellowpharmacists who have been practicingfor years, the answer more oftenthan not was: "quality what?" To befrank, the inspectors who participatedin our training session—none of thempharmacists—were far more knowledgeableon the subject of QA than Iwas when I sat for my boards.

The issue here is not that pharmacyschools have been negligent in educatingfuture pharmacists on QA; thefundamentals of QA were definitelypart of the fabric of my pharmacytraining, and any good pharmacistwill do what he or she can to reducethe possibility of a medication error.The real problem stems from a lackof physical visibility of QA programsin pharmacies, inevitably leading toan underutilization of the systems andpromoting the occurrence of medicationerrors.

Chances are good that you, as apharmacist, know the procedure forhandling a medication error that hasalready occurred.

Is it not just as vital that you knowhow to record the error that almostoccurred to prevent it from happeningagain? If quality assurance rings merelyas a hollow catchphrase to you, it istime to discover just what QA meansto you and to your pharmacy practice.If you are not sure where to start, yourstate pharmacy association can provideyou with the resources necessaryto establish such a program.