Without a doubt there are medication safety risks anywhere that medications are prepared, transported, stored, and administered. This can be in your local community pharmacy, chain drug store, hospital pharmacy, clinic, nursing unit, long term care site, surgery center and more. All these facilities are extremely busy and face multiple challenges and distractions. These facilities have a lot of medications that come in all types of dosage forms and require special storage, preparation and double checks by health care clinicians and pharmacists. So what measures are in place to prevent medication errors and to promote medication safety?
In today’s world we are surrounded by technology that has evolved to simplify tasks and create a safer medication environment. Barcode and RFID labels, robotic dispensing machines, inclusive drug databases with drug pictures, automated dispensing cabinets, automated packaging machines, scanners, pick-to-light technology, verification software and more. While these technologies are critical tools for medication safety and error prevention, we cannot forget the low-tech solutions that help fill the gaps and aid in the human element. Pharmacists, nurses, and other healthcare workers are involved in all areas of the medication processes from receipt of product, storage, preparation, and administration. Within each of these processes there are points in which medication errors might be introduced. Simple low technology products can be valuable in medication safety. Let’s start with items as simple as labels. Coming in all sizes, styles and colors labels can be used on bins and shelves where medications are stored, on medication packaging and on the medication container itself. Labels are inexpensive and low tech but communicate safety messaging effectively. The same type of messaging on labels can also appear on signs, magnets, and window clings. So, wherever your product is stored or prepared you have caution and reminder messaging to help with safe medication processes. Let’s not forget when medications leave a pharmacy to be transported to a patient room or med room or transported from a pharmacy to a long-term care facility. Using a combination of low-tech labels and transport bags can be very effective in medication safety and preventing medication mix-ups.
Technology does meet low tech in healthcare. If you can have technology to help maintain a culture of medication safety, then you should employ it. But let’s not forget the low-tech helpers that create strong reminders and add safety steps in all areas where medications are managed with the end goal of excellent medication safety.