Safety, Savings Start With Medication History

Pharmacy TimesMay 2023
Volume 89
Issue 5

Technicians should take advantage of opportunities to work at a higher level of practice, build their careers.

Medication therapy management (MTM) is a critical component of patient-centered care and transition of care that can lead to improved patient outcomes, medication safety, and even reductions in health care costs. Pharmacy technicians are uniquely positioned to obtain complete, accurate medication histories—the first step in an effective MTM process.

Physicians applauding and supporting team | Image credit: Nina Lawrenson/ -

Physicians applauding and supporting team | Image credit: Nina Lawrenson/ -

Technicians are often the first point of contact with patients in community pharmacy settings. They play an especially important role in various points-of-care transitions, such as when patients are admitted or discharged from a hospital. Technicians who are involved in medication history responsibilities assist pharmacists during transitions of care by reviewing the patient’s list of herbal remedies, OTC and prescription medications, supplements, and vitamins, identifying discrepancies or any changes that have been made.

In community pharmacies, trusted technicians such as Jacqueline Hayes, RPhT, CPhT-ADV, certified pharmacy technician and pharmacy manager at Rise N Shine Pharmacy in Pembroke Pines, Florida, also provide patient education on medication use and potential adverse effects. Additionally, technicians assist with medication adherence and facilitate communication between hospital health care teams and community pharmacy teams to better coordinate patient care.

“Recently, a friend asked if I would take a look at her father’s medication list. He had [received a diagnosis of ] dementia but was acting very much outside of his new normal behavior,” said Hayes, who holds both Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) MTM and medication history certificates.

“I noticed he was taking 2 statins. The family immediately contacted his physician, and 1 was discontinued,” Hayes said. “Within a few days, he was less confused, and his behavior had improved.”

Research findings show that training technicians who obtain the best possible medication histories during patient admission can have a dramatic impact in hospital settings as well. This reduces risks for adverse medical events, decreases readmissions, and reduces error-related costs.

In one Wisconsin health system, trained technicians increased the percentage of completed medication histories from 49% to 98%. In this study, technicians uncovered an average of 6.1 medication discrepancies, such as drug omissions, drug commissions, and incorrect dose or frequency per patient. On average, technicians spent less than 30 minutes completing patient histories and updating their electronic medical records, which netted an estimated annual savings of more than $1.6 million for the health system.

Training technicians to obtain complete, accurate medication histories is clearly a smart financial investment. PTCB offers a specialized medication history certificate to equip technicians with the necessary knowledge and skills to obtain accurate medication histories and protect patient safety. The program covers error types, medication history procedures, medical terminology, patient interview techniques, and patient safety strategies. By completing the program, technicians demonstrate that they can conduct accurate, in-depth reviews of patient histories and identify potential errors.

The medication history certificate complements PTCB’s MTM certificate, a credential that assesses the knowledge and skills needed to support the entire MTM process, including communication, documentation, patient education, medication reconciliation, and medication therapy review.

As the scope of technician responsibilities continues to expand, earning these PTCB credentials provides opportunities for these pharmacy professionals to function at a higher level of practice, advance professionally, and build their careers. For community pharmacies and health systems, an investment in medication history training and credentials for technicians returns a powerful dividend of increased cost savings and patient safety.


Uhlenhopp DJ, Aguilar O, Dai D, Ghosh A, Shaw M, Mitra C. Hospital-wide medication reconciliation program: error identification, cost-effectiveness, and detecting high-risk individuals on admission. Integr Pharm Res Pract. 2020;9:195-203. doi:10.2147/IPRP.S269857Training technicians to obtain accurate, complete medication histories is clearly a smartfinancial investment.© Irina Strelnikova / Adobe Stock

About the Author

William Schimmel is CEO and executive director of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board in Washington, DC.

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