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Pharmacists in ER may reduce medication errors

Most individuals in the Pittsburgh area have at one point or another found themselves taking a prescribed medication to deal with an ailment. Those individuals are undoubtedly aware of just how beneficial such medications can be–that is, assuming that the proper drug is being administered at the correct dosage. This is true whether the medication is to treat a condition at home or in the emergency room of a hospital.

While most pharmacies where medication is dispensed are fairly calm places, depending on the time of day and the location of a hospital emergency rooms can be extremely busy. The hustle and bustle can at times make it difficult for medical providers to get all of the information necessary to make sure the correct drug is given to a patient. A suggested solution to the problem is to have pharmacists in the emergency rooms to go over medication lists with patients and the correlating dosages. A recent study tracked the mistakes caught using such a model.

The study, which is considered to be a small one and was conducted at one hospital only, determined that prior to pharmacists being involved in the emergency room, there were an average of 9.5 discrepancies in the information taken per each patient. That's a total of 1,750 discrepancies affecting 185 individuals seeking assistance in the emergency room. Some of those discrepancies which could lead to medication errors include:

  • Incomplete information regarding when medication was taken by a patient
  • Medication orders that were not complete
  • Medication orders that were wrong
  • Medication orders containing omissions

The number improved greatly once pharmacists were posted in the emergency room. The average number of errors per patient decreased to 0.2 compared to 2.4 recorded for patients who were a part of the control group. Some believe these results indicate a broader study should be conducted. What are your thoughts on the matter?

Source: Forbes, "Can pharmacists in the ER help reduce medication errors?" Robert Glatter, M.D., Dec. 10, 2012

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