Magazine article Drug Topics

Perceptions Impact Pharmacy Errors, Researcher Finds

Magazine article Drug Topics

Perceptions Impact Pharmacy Errors, Researcher Finds

Article excerpt

It's not just conditions behind the counter that affect how often pharmacists make mistakes but how those conditions are perceived, according to a leading researcher. Perception, he said, is what drives human behavior.

Employers need to give more consideration to the way pharmacists at ground zero see their work environment-not just how it looks from company headquarters, said Anthony Grasha, Ph.D. Grasha, a professor of psychology at the University of Cincinnati, conducted a workplace study for the chain drugstore industry and shared his findings at the recent pharmacy, managed care, and technology conference sponsored by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores in San Diego.

"As I looked at the industry, I [found] that the model used to deal with issues of performance and efficiency focused mostly on the dispensing process," he told attendees. "People tended to look at things like making the professional practice standards a little better, putting an extra check in the process, or increasing the lighting or workspace area. There's nothing wrong with that, but you have to begin to look at the human being if you're going to get a handle on what's going on. It's not so much the workload; what's important is the way people perceive the workload. It wasn't the number of breaks that was important; it was whether those breaks were perceived as adequate."

Adequate lighting is a known factor in error reduction, but more important is the way the pharmacist perceives the light level, Grasha said. Part of his research included adding a high-intensity task light in the work area. Pharmacists rated it as the most helpful aid in the study.

"The more adequate the perception of the lighting, the more process errors were detected," he said. "I know you have lighting engineers who come in with light meters, and they know how much light to put in the pharmacy. But unless you look at the pharmacist's perception of that lighting, you're missing something. People gobbled up those task lights. Whether it was a spanking new pharmacy or an older version, each had problems with lighting that high-intensity task lights took care of."

Although a lot of attention has been paid to pharmacists putting in long hours, there's no relationship between the length of a work shift and error rates, Grasha said. "We have to use the psychosocial lens to see things that create distracting thoughts and tension in the system," he added. …

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