It’s no secret that pharmacists are prone to making mistakes. It’s nothing against pharmacists themselves, but merely the fact that they are human, and humans make mistakes. In fact, it is estimated that each year there are between two and three million prescription errors occurring in pharmacies across the nation. Most of these errors are caught before the patient ingests the medication, and many of those that are not caught do not result in serious life-threatening consequences. However, approximately 7,000 deaths each year are caused by pharmacy errors.
The causes of pharmacy errors are several. Most commonly, pharmacy errors are the result of overworked and overburdened pharmacists. Pharmacies, like other businesses, operate for a profit. The higher the cost of labor, the less there is left at the end of the day in profit. Thus, pharmacy management tries to staff just enough technicians and pharmacists to get the job done. However, often an unexpected demand arises, and pharmacists are put in a position where they need to fill this increased demand. This results in less time per patient and an increase in the likelihood that a pharmacist will make a mistake.
Could Pharmacists Be Replaced by Machines?
A recent article listing the top nine jobs that could be replaced by robots placed pharmacists at the top of the list. (The remaining eight professions were cab drivers, debt collectors, bank tellers, writers, astronauts, waiters and waitresses, rescue workers, and housekeepers). Regarding pharmacists, the article cited a 2011 study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, in which two hospitals implemented a completely automated, robot-controlled pharmacy. The results of the study were fascinating, in that not one error was reported in the 350,000 prescription orders that were filled.