How do we get rid of human error in hospital pharmacies? Human error in this situation can have serious health impacts on patients. No one wants to receive the wrong medication or the wrong strength of the correct medication. Hospital liability can be huge if a mistake is made that results in serious medical issues or even the death of a patient. One solution is to automate at least part of the preparation process. Every hospital should strive to improve hospital pharmacy safety, precision, and effectiveness.

Can Automation Help?

Automated IV Compounding can help. Using a fully automated IV compounding system to prepare IV syringes and bags can assure reliability and accuracy while freeing pharmacy technicians for other tasks. This automated process reduces the risk of human error and contamination and helps with regulatory compliance. This is a safe system for handling hazardous and non-hazardous doses for pediatric, neonatal, oncology patients, and adult patients.

Improving Pharmacy Operations and Protocols

Avoiding dispensing errors is very important since dispensing errors account for 21% of all medication errors, which are a large cause of mortality in the U.S. Some ways to prevent errors in the pharmacy include:

  • Improving the pharmacy system and organization. Better organization of the workplace with better lighting and more counter space has been proven to reduce dispensing errors. Go for a smooth flow of work. Make sure all drug containers are properly labeled. Try to reduce workplace distractions. Balance workloads, and work to reduce employee stress on the job. Hire sufficient staff to get the work done accurately. Heavy workloads have been shown to increase errors.
  • Avoiding errors when entering the prescription into the computer. Verify all patient information including full name, age, allergies, other medications, etc. Put methodology in place to confirm that the prescription is correct and complete. If the prescription is not clear, ask for confirmation.
  • Training pharmacists to be more aware of sound-alike or similar-looking drugs when entering information. Place warnings on drug containers of commonly confused drugs.
  • Being careful to avoid errors with abbreviations and zeros. Avoiding these errors might involve computer alerts or stocking a single strength of a medication. There is a list available from Safe Medication Practices of common dispensing errors.
  • Repeatedly checking and counterchecking all prescriptions to catch errors. Compare the written prescription to the information entered into the computer and what is listed on the medication label. Have another person involved in the verification process.
  • Counseling patients in ways to avoid mistakes when taking prescriptions. Up to 80% of pharmacy errors are discovered during this counseling. Opening the container and showing the patient the medication can be helpful.

The pharmacy and the pharmacist are the gatekeepers for medication accuracy.

The pharmacy must hire and train the best pharmacists, and the pharmacy must be well-organized and conducive to good work practices. New pharmacists should be overseen by more experienced pharmacists to avoid errors. When errors are made, the reason for the error must be found and, if standard operating procedures need to be changed to avoid future errors, that should be done.

Errors might be minimized by simple changes such as reorganizing the placement order of medication containers or asking the manufacturers to redesign problem containers. In some cases, introducing automation systems for some prescription dispensing such as IV syringes or bags can reduce errors. Computerized prescribing reduces errors caused by poor legibility but still requires a pharmacist’s second opinion.

Pharmacies that periodically review their organization and workflow can reduce errors and keep patients safer.