Pharmacists make more errors when they are busy

Anyone who has ever stood in line at a pharmacy in Arizona knows that they can be busy places. In addition to filling orders, pharmacists must counsel patients, communicate with insurers and perform other tasks. New research shows that the busier a pharmacist is, the greater likelihood there is of making a mistake.

The pharmacy study was authored by pharmacists from the University of Houston College of Pharmacy and Houston Methodist Hospital and published in the September issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. Researchers reviewed over 1.9 million inpatient and outpatient medical prescription orders that were filled by 50 pharmacists between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012.

The study found that pharmacists committed a total of 92 medication errors during the study period, and the overall error rate was 4.87 errors per 100,000 orders. Researchers found that a higher number of order verifications during a single shift would increase the risk of errors. Specifically, filling more than 400 orders per shift corresponded to a high risk of errors. Pharmacists who had been working at the medical center for many years were shown to make fewer errors. A majority of the errors involved duplicate orders for pneumococcal vaccine.

Because some medications have negative side effects for people who don’t need them, a medication error can have potentially devastating consequences. A person who has been harmed after taking the wrong medication due to a pharmacist’s error may want to talk to an attorney about happened. Legal counsel may be able to help the injured patient to file a medical professional negligence claim seeking applicable damages.