Pharmacists handle prescriptions and medication orders every day. Their work can be so monotonous that it may sometimes cause inadvertent lapses in attention. This can sometimes lead to unintentional mistakes. For example, they may miss the potential risks of adverse drug events.
Common errors by pharmacists
There are two categories of pharmacist errors: judgmental and mechanical. Judgmental errors occur when:
- They overlook drug interactions
- Drug use review is insufficient
- Screening is inappropriate
- Patient counseling is inadequate
- Monitoring not done properly
On the other hand, mechanical errors involve mistakes in dispensing or preparing prescriptions such as:
- Administering the wrong drug or dose
- Providing incorrect directions
- Dispensing the wrong quantity, strength or dose
The main causes of these errors are often related to factors such as heavy workload. There may be a lack of support staff and limited time for patient counseling. In addition, similar drug names and illegible handwriting may also contribute to these errors.
Consequences of prescription error
Prescription errors are not always the fault of pharmacists. These dedicated health care professionals undergo extensive training to ensure error-free care. But the consequences of a prescription error can significantly impact a pharmacist’s license.
When an error happens, it can cause harm to the patient. This may raise concerns about the pharmacist’s competence and professionalism. Regulatory bodies responsible for overseeing pharmacy practice take these incidents seriously. They conduct investigations to assess the circumstances surrounding the error. They also look into the pharmacist’s adherence to protocols and standards. They may impose disciplinary actions based on the severity of the error and investigation findings. They may enforce reprimands, fines, suspension or even license revocation.
Prescription errors are a prevalent issue in health care. While efforts have been made to address these errors, it still is a widespread problem. However, pharmacists are not always at fault. Despite their best efforts, prescription errors can occur. Harsh penalties also await them if they do not adhere to protocols. Instead of assigning blame, the focus should be learning from mistakes and improving patient safety.