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College Resource Center : Health Careers : Readings in Subject Area : Guide to Preventing Prescription Errors

Guide to Preventing Prescription Errors

The following simple procedures will help avoid errors in the pharmacy.

  • Always keep the prescription and the label together during the fill process.
  • Know the common look-alike and sound-alike drugs, and keep them stored in different areas of the pharmacy so they will not be mistaken easily.
  • Keep dangerous or high-alert medications in a separate storage area of the pharmacy.
  • Always question bad handwriting.
  • Make sure prescriptions/orders include the correctly spelled drug name, strength, appropriate dosing, quantity or duration of therapy, dosage form, and route. Missing information should be obtained from the prescriber.
  • Use the metric system. A leading zero should always be present in decimal values less than one. Remember that an error of this nature will mean a dosage error of at least tenfold!
  • Question the prescription/order that utilizes abbreviations you are not familiar with or are uncommon. Avoid using abbreviations that have more than one meaning, and verify the meaning of these abbreviations with the prescriber.
  • Be aware of insulin mistakes. Insulin brands should be clearly separated from one another. Educate patients to always verify their insulin purchase.
  • Clear stock bottles no longer needed away from the work area in a timely fashion. Only keep what is needed for immediate use in the work area.
  • The label should always be compared to the original prescription by at least two people. If an error occurs at this stage, the refills may be filled incorrectly as well!

What can the technician do to reduce errors?

  • Triple check your work.
  • Verify your own data entry before processing.
  • Do a mental check on dosage appropriateness.
  • Observe and report pertinent OTC purchases.
  • Keep your work area free of clutter.

What can the pharmacist do to reduce errors?

  • Check prescriptions in a timely manner.
  • Initial checked prescriptions.
  • Visually check the product in the bottle.
  • Encourage OTC and herbal remedy documentation.
  • Document all clarifications on orders.

What can the pharmacy do to reduce errors?

  • Automate and bar code all fill procedures.
  • Maintain a safe work area.
  • Provide adequate storage areas.
  • Encourage physicians to use common terminology.
  • Provide adequate computer applications and hardware.


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