A medication error is defined as any preventable action or omission that may contribute to the inappropriate or harmful use of medicine by a health professional, patient, or caregiver. Errors occur at any point during the medication process and in any setting.
Pharmacists are responsible for the safe and appropriate use of medications in all pharmacy practice setting. However, as pharmacists responsibilities expand, pharmacy technicians need to be more aware of the significance and causes of medication errors and to recognize their role in preventing those errors.
Technicians and pharmacists both contribute to the safe use of medications by the public. If their action results in patient harm, both may be held legally liable, along with the institution involved.
Below are some of the most common type of medication errors:
Prescribing (incorrect, drug, dose, form)
Omission (failure to administer an ordered dose to a patient before the next scheduled dose is due)
Wrong time (administering a drug too early or too late may affect the drug serum level)
Improper Dose (a patient is given a dose that is greater than or less than the prescribed dose)
Wrong Drug Preparation (not adding the proper dilution to dissolve a drug before dispensing)
Deteriorated Drug (dispensing drugs pass their expiration date)
Monitoring (inadequate drug therapy review)
Compliance (usually committed by patients who request refills too soon or fill prescriptions at more than one pharmacy)
When pharmacists and pharmacy technicians cause a medication error and it reaches the patient, both can be held liable in a civil law suit for compensation. This is known as a malpractice suit. Negligence charges are common in civil cases involving professional malpractice. Deviating from the common professional standards of practice may cause harm to the patient, or worse, may even cause death. A pharmacist can lose his license or in extreme cases, can even serve jail time due to negligence.
That is why a great pharmacy technician—one who provides an extra layer of safety—is a pharmacist’s best ally. Technicians should be trained to follow systems-based processes and inform pharmacists when processes don’t work.
Interested to become a pharmacy technician? Explore training options here.