Almost 4.7 billion prescriptions have been filled for patients across the United States this year, according to reports from the medical sector. That number is projected to reach nearly 4.8 billion next year and continue on an upward trend during the years to follow. Of course, as the number of prescriptions increases, so do the number of medication errors that harm patients or even cost them their lives. These errors range from giving patients the wrong medications or dosages to prescribing medications that could react negatively with others they’re taking.
How Pharmacists Can Improve Patient Safety
In a perfect world, potentially dangerous medication errors would never happen. Since this isn’t a perfect world, the number of patients who are injured or killed by mistakes like these has risen steadily over the years. Measures are in place to help prevent these issues, but no plan is foolproof. Research and ongoing programs have proven that pharmacists can play an essential role in improving patient safety by greatly reducing the number of medication errors.
Technology is increasingly making its way into various branches of the pharmaceutical sector, and medication packaging systems are among the latest of these innovations. They aid patients by assembling preportioned packages of the medications they need rather than leaving them to sort through multiple bottles of pills and remember when to take each one on their own.
In using these systems, pharmacists can help prevent medication errors in a few key ways. For one, they can check to ensure the correct medications are being packaged for patients. They can also confirm the proper dosages of those medications are being placed in the individual packages. Checking the packages’ labeling comes into play as well.
Monitoring Medication Dispensing
Pharmacists can also foster patient safety in hospitals by monitoring the medication dispensing process. Along the way, they can make sure each patient receives the correct medications at the proper intervals. Additionally, pharmacists can keep track of all the medications being given to a specific patient and ensure none of them could cause harmful reactions when taken together. They may also be able to determine if certain medications shouldn’t be taken due to patients’ underlying medical conditions that may have been overlooked by doctors and nurses.
Providing Patient Education
Patient education is another essential way that pharmacists can be advocates for safety. They discuss medications with patients when prescriptions are filled. When doing so, they make sure patients understand what the medications are for, when and how to take them, and what their effects may be. They may ask patients about medication allergies and other factors that could lead to harmful reactions. Pharmacists can also advise patients on which medications or other substances shouldn’t be consumed together. Education alone can significantly improve patient safety.
Helping Patients Benefit from Their Medications
Both prescriptions and medication errors have increased over the years. These issues occur in hospitals as well as outside clinical settings. Many hospitals, pharmacies, and other facilities are going to great lengths to reduce the number of medication errors.
Pharmacists can certainly be an effective tool in combating the problem. Monitoring and controlling medication packaging and dispensing systems and cross-referencing patients’ information against the medications being given are only a couple of the ways they can help. At the same time, the power of patient education shouldn’t be overlooked.