According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure around 1.3 million Americans every year. As pharmacists are aware, small mistakes can lead to major, even life-threatening, problems. Here are some common practices pharmacists should avoid.
John Smith picks up his prescription from the pharmacy. He glances at the bottle, sees his name, and thinks no more of it. The problem is that he is the wrong John Smith. The pharmacist didn’t carefully check that the name on the prescription matched the person at the counter. What happened? Pharmacies usually use multiple identifying information to avoid this mistake—driver’s license, date of birth, etc.—but just one moment of carelessness can be all that it takes.
A patient can receive the wrong medication in several ways. A pharmacist might misread a handwritten prescription slip or accidentally mix similar-looking medications. Whatever the case, a pharmacist should always double-check with the prescribing doctor or hospital if there is any doubt. Pharmacists should also check the contents of each bottle to ensure that no loose pills slipped in somehow.
Eyes for Ears, Ears for Eyes
It’s like a cruel trick that the medical term for ears is otic, while the one for eyes is optic. Experienced pharmacists won’t likely make the mistake, but new pharmacists could confuse one for the other, especially if they are rushed. When filling a prescription for either, a pharmacist should always check multiple times that the right solution goes in the bag.
Failure to Consult
In the bustle of a busy day, a pharmacist might forget to speak with a patient regarding a prescription. When a prescription crosses your desk, you should have an established routine that ensures you remember to do the consult. The Pharmacy Times suggests, “[K]eep the Rx at your station so when they come to pick it up you’ll have it, or staple a note over the bar code so that the technician ringing up the patient will be sure to see it.”