Tip of the Week: Promoting Patient Safety in Community Pharmacy

Pharmacy managers can promote a culture of safety that helps to reduce medication errors.

Reducing medication errors represents a momentous unmet need in society. This is the case even after a myriad of reports, calls for actions, and efforts by various professional organizations, state boards of pharmacy, federal government agencies, think tanks, and academic and practice leaders to address this phenomenon.

In a poignant commentary published in the journal Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy, the authors describe the prevalence of medication errors as having placed a serious medical and economic burden on the United States health care system. Government health agencies and nonprofit organizations in the US, such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Institute of Medicine (IOM), and the Joint Commission have undertaken initiatives intended to reduce medication errors, with at least some progress in inpatient settings.

The authors assert, however, that there have been fewer advances in the community setting, and that there has been limited information on community pharmacies’ involvement in reducing and preventing medication errors. Most published studies on medication errors in community pharmacy settings are cross-sectional in design and often confined to just 1 or a few pharmacies in a single city or small geographic region.

To reduce medication errors, improvement strategies such as transparency and bidirectional communication between pharmacists and patients are needed.

To improve transparency, the authors recommend that the following questions be addressed by community pharmacy corporations:

  • How does your corporation manage medication errors?
  • Does your corporation collect all medication error data to review systematically?
  • What are some strategies that your corporation utilizes to reduce medication errors?
  • Would your corporation be willing to share its data related to medication errors publicly in an effort to facilitate research in this area, which may promote patient safety in the community setting?

The authors also remind us that pharmacists are required by law to counsel patients, and research has shown that counseling can assist with detecting medication errors.

By improving transparency in quality assurance processes and promoting patient engagement to improve patient safety, community pharmacies have the potential to play a more active role in reducing medication errors and safeguarding patients from harm.

The fact that counseling helps detect errors in addition to promoting adherence says much for our professional practice.

Pharmacy managers can promote a culture of safety through transparency, simple messaging and feedback, reinforcement of patient-centric practice in company mission and values, proper workflow design, and implementation of meaningful quality assurance processes.

Additional information about medication therapy management and management functions can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. You or your institution can subscribe to AccessPharmacy to access the textbook.

Shane P. Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, is Professor of Social/Behavioral Pharmacy at Touro University California. He is author of Chapter 1: The “Management” in Medication Therapy Management and Management Functions in the textbook Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.


Hong K, Hong YD, Cooke CE. Medication errors in community pharmacy: The need for commitment, transparency, and research. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2019;15(7):823-826.

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