Dawn Mangine

    The last line between a patient and medication errors is at the pharmacy. Pharmacists and pharms techs are accessible and trusted healthcare providers, and they catch a lot of mistakes before harm can come to patients. However, 21 percent of medication errors that affect patients may stem from dispensing errors at the pharmacy, so extra vigilance can be applied.

    Prescribing healthcare professionals can only do so much. Here are some things to teach pharmacy students about avoiding medication errors.

    1. Ask the patient to verify information. Pharm tech and pharmacy students should be instructed to check patient information every time a patient picks up a medication. Patients should be asked to confirm their name – first and last – date of birth, and address.
    2. Check for allergies. Most software used in pharmacies to manage patient prescriptions is designed to catch if a patient is going to experience a possible allergic reaction caused by a prescribed medication. If the software flags a prescription, the pharmacy can reach out to the prescribing healthcare provider to find a safe alternative.
    3. Patient history. Pharmacies should know patients' complete medical histories: their health conditions and other medications they are on. Again, pharmacy software is helpful here, because it is designed to cross reference new prescriptions with current medications and track for possible drug interactions. Teaching pharmacists communication skills to help them become comfortable speaking to patients is also key.
    4. Ask if they have questions. Before handing off a medication, be sure to ask a patient if he or she has any questions. Teach students to let patients know that pharmacy personnel are always available for face-to-face communication.
    5. Be aware if patients need a translator. Language barriers can contribute to medication errors including accidental non-compliance. While it's not up to pharmacy schools to teach foreign languages, making students aware of translation needs in their communities can go a long way toward helping patients. Help students research translation services for their future patients.

    Pharmacists and pharm techs are knowledgeable about medications and health conditions, and they are ready to help their customers. Teaching pharmacy students how to ask questions, listen to patients, and use software management efficiently will go a long way to reducing medication errors.

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    Health, UCSD, OTC: Avoiding errors at the pharmacy