Article

Error Reporting in the Pharmacy

Error reporting has become a hot topic in pharmacy, and there are significant differences in the way each province is handling tracking and reporting procedures.

Currently in Ontario there is no system that forces pharmacists to report errors, however Nova Scotia has made tracking tools mandatory and Saskatchewan is currently running a pilot program.

Within the selected pilot pharmacies in Saskatchewan over the past three years, 75,000 medication errors have been reported¬– not only does this put patients at risk, it also increases our healthcare costs.

Although there is no formal reporting system, pharmacists are still liable for errors.

Once it has been proven that the pharmacist has made an error, which is generally viewed as pharmacy malpractice or pharmacy negligence, the liability is imposed on the pharmacist for the consequences.

Examples of pharmacy error can include:

• Filling a prescription with the wrong medication
• Filling a prescription with the wrong dose
• Providing someone else's prescription to the patient
• Filling a prescription without clarifying an ambiguity in the doctors script
• Giving erroneous instructions to the patient as to how they take the medication
• Compounding mediation incorrectly
• Failing to warn patient about serious drug interactions
• Failing to warn patient about serious side effects that may occur and need to be monitored

Pharmacists must be aware of these mistakes, both for the sake of patients’ health and the costly law suits that can be brought upon them, including compensation for pain and suffering, medical care, and other financial losses and expenses caused by the error.

However Jane Farnham, chair of Canadian Pharmacists Association says, "We have one of the safest medication systems in the world, and there’s little reason for people to be concerned. We should be moving in a direction of more voluntary reporting.”

We must be aware that pharmacists are held to a higher standard, but that human error is also a grave possibility in any situation where the pharmacist is suffering from exhaustion or stress due to situations involving understaffing, illness, and a wide variety of other circumstances that can make the pharmacist vulnerable to unintentional error.

Should the pharmacist always be 100% accountable?

Until laws and reporting tools are in place, the situation remains unclear, but there are a variety of steps you can take to reduce pharmacy error:

• Ensure correct entry of the prescription
• Confirm that the prescription is correct and complete
• Do not second guess any hand written documents, always clarify
• Beware of look-alike, sound-alike drugs
• Be careful with zeros and abbreviations
• Organize the workplace
• Reduce distractions when possible
• Focus on reducing stress and balancing heavy workloads
• Thoroughly check all prescriptions

For more information on how the iApotheca Pharmacy Suite can help you track and reduce pharmacy error, please contact us at (800) 209-6052 to set up a free, no-obligation demo with one of our knowledgeable staff members.