Magazine article Drug Topics

Shed More Light on Dispensing Drug Errors

Magazine article Drug Topics

Shed More Light on Dispensing Drug Errors

Article excerpt

Pharmacy owners could help cut down on dispensing errors by turning up the lights behind the counter, advised an Auburn University researcher.

Increasing the lighting level in the dispensing area to a measured brightness of 140 footcandles resulted in a "significant decrease in dispensing errors at a high-volume pharmacy," said Elizabeth Allen, R.Ph., Ph.D., research associate, department of pharmacy care systems, Auburn University. Reporting on the results of a dispensing error study at 23 outpatient pharmacies, she noted that the error rate dropped from 3.6% at 40 footcandles to 2.6% when the area had brighter lighting.

"Increasing the lighting in all areas will increase the efficiency and accuracy of workers who retrieve medications from the shelves, generate prescription labels, and enter prescriptions in the computer," Allen told attendees at the recent NACDS Pharmacy Conference. "Lighting also helps make the handwriting on prescriptions clearer."

Workload is an obvious area to consider when evaluating dispensing errors, because the higher the number of Rxs filled, the higher the error rate, said Allen, who added that hiring more pharmacists is "the last resort." Short of a staffing increase, pharmacy managers should consider work flow.

"You might try to redistribute the workload to level off peaks," suggested Allen. "You might install an automatic telephone refill system so refills can be filled at off-peak hours and give patients incentives to refill prescriptions in off-peak hours. If you have a peak all day, you might perform a task, time, or travel analysis to try to increase the efficiency of your operation."

Interruptions and distractions during dispensing can also boost error rates. Since some people are better than others at staying focused, managers might want to consider testing their pharmacists for distractibility. …

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