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Pharmacy teams in ER may help improve patient safety

Doctors in Chicago write numerous prescriptions each week, and careful consideration should be made by a doctor each time a patient needs medicine in order to protect patients from medication errors, complications or dangerous side effects.

Doctor mistakes occur when dealing with medication, varying between incorrect doses, failing to warn a patient of a drug’s possible side effects, failing to consider how a new drug will react with other medications or prescribing the entirely wrong prescription for the patient’s needs. While errors should be avoided at all times, doctors are also often in a rush to prescribe medications.

One study suggests that having pharmacy personnel in hospital emergency departments can be extremely beneficial for preventing medication errors, ultimately preventing hazardous outcomes for both patients and physicians. The study was performed at one site that took in a small number of patients needing emergency attention. The study examined the number and types of errors that were made amongst two groups of patients: those who received treatment from a doctor, and those who received treatment from a doctor and a pharmacist-pharmacy tech team.

The study identified 185 patients who were only seen by doctors. There were more than 1,700 discrepancies identified amongst those patients after treatment. More than half of the discrepancies included failing to record patients’ complete medication histories. Other problems included medication duplications and incomplete or incorrect medication orders.

When patients were under pharmacist care, the number of discrepancies dropped significantly from 425 in a control group to only a mere 25. With only taking an extra 15 minutes to verify each patient’s information, the pharmacist-pharmacy tech teams were able to correct hundreds of discrepancies that could have led to serious medication errors. The study suggests patient safety could improve significantly when pharmacists are available to review patients’ medications and medication histories before they leave the emergency room.

Source: Forbes, “Can pharmacists in the ER help reduce medication errors?” Robert Glatter, MD, Dec. 10, 2012

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