Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Prescription Errors

In the United States, on average there are four billion prescriptions filled every year. (See LINK).

That's a lot of prescriptions.

But the average patient has no idea what's involved at the pharmacy. People only see the pharmacy from the outside, much like we only see my son's head poking out from the sand in the picture... and have no idea that there's so much involved in the filling of their prescription.

When you drop off your prescription, first it is typed into the computer. If you're new to the pharmacy, we have to get all your personal information first, including your pharmacy prescription insurance. Most of the time this is fairly smooth, but at least 10-15% of people have no idea their prescription coverage might be different from their health coverage.

Sometimes we have to call your prescription insurance to get the billing information. This is odd -- it's YOUR insurance, not ours. If you didn't have your Visa card with you, we wouldn't call Visa for this information, right? So that can add time to the process.

Next we make sure the medication is correct. We check the dosage, instructions, and quantity. We make sure your medication doesn't interfere with any of your other medications or allergies. 

If it does, we may call the doctor to get it resolved or find a way to tell you how to manage it. All of this takes time. You'd be surprised how many doctors write for medications that you're allergic to or conflict with something else you're taking even though you told the doctor.

We make sure we fill your medication with the correct medication. This is where a lot of pharmacists take heat in the media when a mistake is made, but in actuality, this rarely happens. I read a figure that pharmacists are 99.98% accurate when filling. That sounds great, but it's not 100% which we all strive for. Suppose your local neighborhood pharmacy fills 50,000 prescriptions a year. That calculates to 10 mistakes a year. That's less than one mistake a month. 

Most of those mistakes are something completely harmless or caught before it ever gets to the patient. But there's always one or two prescriptions that are ingested before the error is discovered. Fortunately most of those situations are harmless too.

We always do our best. We're always 100% focused on our job and there's a lot of checks and balances in the process to stay accurate, but it is not perfect. Mistakes do happen.

But YOU can help. The next time you drop off a prescription at the window, remember... you're only seeing the head of a boy buried in sand. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Demanding that we hurry never helps the situation and increases our likelihood of error and nobody wants that.


Matt M said...

4 billion filled every year. Not every day. Still, it is a lot.

Crazy RxMan said...

Matt is right. I changed it.