Like most businesses, pharmacies are busy and stressful places. Just like other businesses, they also face time, budget, production, and staff constraints. In pursuit of speed and production, sometimes pharmacies make mistakes. These mistakes can cause patients to suffer serious injuries and disabilities. In other cases, medication errors can cause deaths.
A medication error is “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm.” According to the American Hospital Association, there are some common types of medication errors:
- Incomplete patient information (not knowing about patients’ allergies, other medicines they are taking, previous diagnoses, and lab results, for example)
- Unavailable drug information (such as lack of up-to-date warnings)
- Miscommunication of drug orders, which can involve poor handwriting, confusion between drugs with similar names, misuse of zeroes and decimal points, confusion of metric and other dosing units, and inappropriate abbreviations
- Lack of appropriate labeling as a drug is prepared and repackaged into smaller units
- environmental factors, such as lighting, heat, noise, and interruptions, that can distract health professionals from their medical tasks