Preventing Medication Errors in Pharmacy


How to avoid common errors in pharmacies to protect patients.

Medication errors are common in pharmacy, but mistakes can lead to severe consequences, ranging from illness to death. Unintentional harming of patients is avoidable and there are ways to ensure it doesn’t happen.

Why Errors Occur

Pharmacy errors are preventable. Common mistakes include:

• Prescribing the wrong medication.

• Prescribing the right medication, but giving the wrong dosage.

• Failing to see dangerous complications, particularly the harmful interaction of drugs.

• Failing to warn patients of the dangerous side effects of drugs

• Marketing defective or unsafe medications.

Pharmacies are supposed to be establishments of trust, so why do errors like these happen?

Overworked pharmacists. Shifts are usually 12 hours per day and in that span, pharmacists fill between 300 and 450 prescriptions. The pressure to fill as many prescriptions as possible can lead to mistakes.

Insufficient pharmacist training. There is not enough time spent on mentoring or training in pharmacies. This shouldn’t be overlooked, as training helps pharmacists to identify the exact medication that customers need.

Negligence in supervising pharmacy technicians. Pharmacy techs are in charge of measuring medications, labeling bottles, and dispensing to customers. Pharmacists are supposed to keep a close eye on them, but usually don’t have much time to watch them.

Poor communication between pharmacists and doctors. Demands for the time of doctors and pharmacists prevent them from having clear communications about the kind of medication and its proper dosage. Usually, information is passed on from the doctor’s receptionist to the pharmacy clerk.

Overreliance on automated systems. Modern day automation, such as computer-generated refills and express prescriptions, were put in place to speed up the process and minimize errors. However, the technology seems to cause trouble, especially when older customers find it difficult to deal with the system.

How to Prevent Errors

Medication errors in pharmacy are preventable. Here’s how to ensure it doesn’t happen:

Ensure sufficient staffing. One of the reasons cited for dispensing errors is the increase in workload. It is important to reduce stress and balance the workload, especially in industries such as this. Having enough staff ensures that responsibilities are shared. Plus, providing regular breaks allow staff to relax.

Check that the prescription entry is correct. Errors in transcription accounts for part of all dispensing errors. Using reliable methods to identify patients, as well as other information about them (age, allergies, etc), helps reduce errors.

Clarify any unclear information. Prescriptions that are illegible or ones that use non-standard abbreviations and other symbols need to be verified rather than just taking a guess at what it really is.

Check prescriptions thoroughly. Checking that the written prescription matches what is in the computer reduces errors. It’s also best if the verification can be done by another person.

Provide patient counseling. Informing patients on how to properly take the medication rather than just handing the bag directly to them offers opportunities for questions to be asked and verifications to be performed. Also, opening the containers and showing them the contents prevents errors, as patients can raise an alert if the medication looks different from what they usually take.

It should be the goal of every pharmacist to ensure there are no medication errors. Taking time to ensure that everything is right makes all the difference.

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