Prescription errors. They can happen, and if they do, as a pharmacist, you need to know how to handle them, because the way you handle the situation can have big implications medically and legally.
If a patient comes to you and notifies you that a dispensing error has been made, the first thing to do is find out if the patient has taken any of the medication. If the medication has caused any medical problems for the patient, you need to contact the patient’s physician immediately and provide him or her with any relevant information about the medication. If needed, you should contact the local drug information center for information. Even if the medication has not caused any problems for the patient, you should contact the patient’s doctor.
Then, ask if you can inspect the medication. This might give you important clues as to what went wrong. Keep the medication separate and don’t get rid of it because it may be needed at some point in the future as part of your investigation.
You should also apologize to the patient. While you don’t want to exaggerate the significance of the error if no harm has been done, you don’t want to downplay it either. You need to empathize with the patient and the natural concern he or she feels at getting the wrong medication.
Also, check with the patient to see if there is anything the patient wants you or the doctor to do. If the patient wants to make some kind of complaint, provide him or her with the name of an appropriate medical organization that would handle such types of errors.
You also want to do a thorough investigation to try to determine how and why the error was made. Healthcare experts advise using what is called a root cause analysis, to try and get at the underlying cause of the problem. For example, it may have been human error that led to the problem, but that error in turn may have been caused by something else, such as fatigue or inadequate procedures. Also record everything that you have done to determine the cause of the error.
Finally, notify your insurance provider in case a claim is made.
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