Maintaining Safe Practices During the COVID-19 Pandemic

An interview with Yashar Rafi, PharmD, 2019-2020 Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) Medication Safety Management Fellow.

Pharmacy Times spoke with Yashar Rafi, PharmD, 2019-2020 Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) Medication Safety Management Fellow, about the importance of safe medication protocols, especially during the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Rafi said 3 of the most common medication safety concerns are software issues, such as selecting the wrong medication from a drop-down list; incorrect prescribing of methotrexate at a daily dose for non-cancer diagnoses; and look-alike stock bottles that cause confusion.

These concerns have been amplified, Rafi said, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas a pharmacist could normally chat with the patient and catch an issue before handing the prescription to the patient, curbside delivery may make it more difficult for a busy pharmacist to catch these issues.

When errors do arise, Rafi encouraged pharmacists to report them. He added that error reports to ISMP are confidential and are not legally discoverable.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also offered other areas for community pharmacists to take on greater roles, such as when some treatments are now being given in a home environment. Although health system pharmacists would typically handle infusions or other treatments in a clinic environment, the effort to keep patients safely at home has resulted in opportunities for community pharmacists to step in an ensure continuity of care and patient safety.

“If you dispense a medication that’s new to you and it’s normally not a medication that’s self-administered at home, I would take the initiative to call the patient and offer consulting or see if they need even help,” Rafi said.

For pharmacists looking for further support or information on medication safety practices, Rafi added that ISMP offers newsletters as well as a COVID-19 resource page with information specific to the pandemic.