Using Pharmacy Workflow to Prevent Dispensing Errors

Posted by Robert Walthall on Tue, Aug, 09, 2016 @ 08:00 AM

Using Pharmacy Workflow to Prevent Dispensing ErrorsRunning a profitable independent pharmacy that recognizes the importance of remarkable customer service provided by a dedicated group of satisfied employees is an ever-engaging process. It may represent the only real means of staying competitive in a highly competitive business. Maintaining an efficient pharmacy workflow is a critical aspect of keeping your competitive edge when going up against national drug store chains, the one-stop-shop grocery store, and other big-box pharmacy outlets, as well as the ever-increasing number of internet and mail order drug providers.

An efficient pharmacy workflow is the backbone of the exceptional customer service that draws your customers to you as a preferred alternative to the other choices available out there. An improved pharmacy workflow:

  • Gives customers faster, more accurate prescription processing and dispensing
  • Reduces stress on your technicians, allowing them to maintain a more pleasant attitude and interact more appropriately with clients
  • Frees up the pharmacist to pursue important duties, not the least of which is counseling and other personal customer interfacing activities, such as administering inoculations
  • Provides a safer workplace where fewer dispensing errors and other procedural mistakes are committed

Keeping It Safe

While an improved pharmacy workflow system can bring many varied benefits, none are as important as the ability to help prevent medication errors.

According to a three-year study completed by MEDMARK, reported here in, nearly 155,000 medication errors were reported and analyzed to determine causes and outcomes, with common causes being errors of omission, improper doses or quantities dispensed, and failure to follow established procedures or protocols. According to the report, dispensing errors constitute approximately 21% of all medication errors, common problems being:

  • Dispensing of the incorrect drug, quantity, or dosage amount
  • Incorrect, improper, or inappropriate labeling
  • Inadequate or confusing directions
  • Incorrect preparation
  • Incorrect packaging or storage prior to dispensing

It's estimated that, in a pharmacy filling about 250 prescriptions daily, approximately 4 errors will occur. Nationwide, with around three billion prescriptions being dispensed annually, this works out to be more than 50 million dispensing errors.

Organizing the Workflow

Proper organization of your workflow and your workspace has been shown to yield a significant reduction of medication dispensing errors. There are many things that can be done along the lines of improving your pharmacy workflow, including improvement in lighting and providing the proper temperature and humidity settings so the work area remains comfortable. Adequate counter space, comfortable desks and chairs, easy access to needed supplies and equipment, and streamlined processes that allow for a minimum number of steps while completing a procedure will all help. Everything mentioned here goes toward making the work environment more comfortable and less stressful for employees, which has been shown to lower the number of errors committed.

Introducing Automation

The introduction of automated medication dispensing equipment into your processes will foster an immediate improvement in your workflow system and help minimize the number of errors occurring in your pharmacy's back-end area. Whether for storage, labeling, counting, mixing, packaging, or dispensing, robots and other automated devices improve accuracy, safety, and speed in dispensing. They also relieve much of the stress employees may feel when backed up with too much to do in too little time. The bottom line is a reduction in dispensing errors.

As a side benefit, an improved workflow will allow more time for the on-duty pharmacist to spend in face-to-face interaction with customers. Drug store clients look to their pharmacist for more than just counting out their pills! Improved workflow will improve customer satisfaction, which translates into better business.

Each step in workflow improvement aids not just in efficiency, but also in the safety of your dispensing operations. Keep an eye open for these ways of preventing potential medication processing errors. Everyone benefits from this attention to detail.

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Topics: Workflows