Technicians and technology: Landmark medicines safety study highlights leading interventions

Led by hospital pharmacists from Alfred Health and Monash University, the systematic review – ‘Interventions to decrease the incidence of dispensing errors in hospital pharmacy’ – found interventions reduced the overall rate of dispensing errors by almost half, most notably the inclusion of pharmacy technician expertise and the evidence-based implementation of new technologies.

‘Trained technicians performing final verification of the dispensing process provided the most significant reduction in the risk of dispensing errors.

‘The majority of studies reported the implementation of technological interventions, including barcode scanning and automated dispensing machines or pharmacy carousels.’

While some individual studies did not demonstrate a statistically significant reduction, ‘Overall, a substantial reduction in the risk of dispensing errors was observed with these technologies.’

After analysing studies from Australia, France, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the ‘final verification step of the dispensing process is a key strategy for preventing errors before a dispensed medication reaches the patient’, the authors concluded.

In his inspirational oration transcript, Professor Jeff Hughes urges peers across the profession to never lose sight of the ‘why?’

‘We should always be reflecting on that as we go through our time as a pharmacist. And from my perspective, it’s very simple: I’m there to help people get the best possible outcomes from their drug therapy, while taking into consideration what they want.

‘In building our clinical expertise, we must be curiosity driven. We can’t accept that what we know today will be what we’ll need to know in the future; we need to learn continually.’

Professor Hughes’ accomplished career spans $14m worth of research grants, authorship of more than 190 published peer-reviewed papers, and a legacy of improving patient care through innovations such as including PainChek®, a facial recognition app giving a voice to those who cannot verbalise their pain.

The February 2021 issue of JPPR, available free to SHPA members, also features editorials from Paul W. Abramowitz, Chief Executive Officer of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and Eric M. Maroyka, Senior Director of ASHP’s Center on Pharmacy Practice Advancement, framing ASHP's Practice Advancement Initiative 2030 recommendations.

The PAI 2030 recommendations cover five domains: Patient-centred care; Pharmacist role, education and training; Technology and data science; Pharmacy technician role, education and training; and Leadership in medication use and safety, with five related ‘focused initiatives’ intended to accelerate the adoption of specific best practices.

Download the media release.