Many people are unaware, but medical mistakes are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, causing roughly 365,000 deaths per year. The category of medical mistakes is a broad category, including medical malpractice, diagnostic errors, surgical errors, and pharmacy errors.
Pharmacy errors occur when a pharmacist provides a patient with the wrong dose of a prescribed medication, the wrong directions on how to take a prescribed medication, or the wrong medication altogether. These errors may occur in the hospital setting or in a retail pharmacy, but errors occurring in the in-patient setting are even more frightening and surprising because the medication is actually delivered by a doctor or nurse. One would expect that this extra layer of interaction would result in most pharmacy errors being discovered before a medication is delivered to a patient, but that is not necessarily the case.
In a recent article discussing medical mistakes generally, as well as what can be done to prevent them, the writer mentions several precautions that can be taken to decrease the frequency of in-patient pharmacy errors. The first suggestion is to have pharmacists make rounds to see all patients in the hospital along with the doctors and nurses. The author explains that while doctors are in charge of a patient’s overall care plan, a pharmacist is a much-needed consultant when it comes to any potential interactions medications may have with one another. In fact, a recent study cited by the article notes that hospitals that have implemented this plan have seen a 94% reduction of serious pharmacy errors.