When it comes to pharmacy workflow, much of the typical discussion centers around the ways efficiency can boost productivity, helping the average independent pharmacy turn out more prescriptions every day – which, of course, benefits profitability. However, as important as profitability is to the survival of a small business, here we're going to focus on another very important benefit of improving your workflow process: increased patient safety, a factor that most independent pharmacists are more concerned about than they are about their bottom line.
So just how can a more efficient workflow benefit patient safety? By reducing risk of prescription errors. Just how significant is that risk? According to a study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, medication errors occur in pharmacies at a rate of approximately 1.7 percent of prescriptions filled, which equals about 51.5 million dispensing mistakes every year, or an average of 4 errors per every 250 prescriptions.
Here are just a few of the many ways that smooth, efficient, well-defined workflow policies can help ensure a more reliable and accurate dispensing process, minimizing risk of prescription errors in your pharmacy:
- Lower workplace stress levels – Among the most common reasons cited for dispensing errors is workplace stress. Pharmacies in which employees are feeling pressured, rushed and chronically behind schedule every day as they strive to meet production goals are more prone to such errors than those with a smooth, well-organized workflow system that easily accommodates daily prescription demands.
- Better communication with patients – Pharmacists, technicians and other employees have more time to counsel and communicate with patients when an efficient workflow system is in place, and lower stress levels make those communications more productive. Effective communication with pharmacy patients has been shown to reduce risk of prescription errors, as well as other hazards to patient safety, like undetected drug interactions.
- Better organization – Optimal efficiency in a pharmacy workflow system depends heavily on tight organization of the workplace. In a tightly-organized pharmacy, all products and materials have a place, are reliably kept in that place and are clearly labeled, reducing risk of wrong drug or wrong strength errors.
- Greater accountability – Efficient pharmacy workflow policies ensure that dispensing is a smooth, clearly defined, step-by-step process, and that everyone involved in that process knows exactly which steps or tasks he or she is responsible for completing. That increased accountability helps to reduce errors by ensuring that safety protocols built into the system are followed reliably.
Dispensing errors, of course, are an issue that every independent pharmacist is concerned with. Firstly, there is the risk that an error can cause harm to patients, which, according to the above mentioned study, occurs about 3.3 million times per year. Secondly, high error rates are bad for business, hurting the reputation of your pharmacy. Lastly, dispensing mistakes have an impact on the cost of insurance for your business, as well as its profit margin. So if you haven't, as of yet, taken steps to improve your pharmacy workflow and minimize your risk of prescription errors, there's no time like the present to put clear policies in place to increase patient safety.