Pharmacy technicians are an integral part of every pharmacy team as discussed in our previous posts. It is interesting to note that recently three major studies were conducted comparing error rates between Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians. Keeping in mind that the studies actually only evaluated the order-verification performance or error-detection capabilities of pharmacy technicians versus pharmacists, the conclusions of each study indicated that there was very little difference in accuracy between the two groups. One of the studies actually resulted in technician accuracy being higher than that of the pharmacists! Several reasons for the higher reported accuracy of technicians versus pharmacists were discussed, but it really pointed out the already accepted fact that pharmacists deal with a multitude of interruptions that reduces their focus on “the work directly at hand” (while technicians primarily benefit from uninterrupted workflow routines).
Whose Ultimately Responsible for Pharmacy Technician Errors?
The purpose of this post is not to discuss the value of utilizing pharmacy technicians, but to point out that it is the pharmacist who is ultimately responsible for any errors that may occur. That being said, there were four points of workflow identified that the potential for errors occurring revolved around:
1. Prescription drop-off (or prescription delivery in clinical settings)
2. Order Entry
4. Point of Sale (or medication delivery in clinical settings)
The studies all concluded that in each step of the workflow process it’s imperative that a pharmacy have up-to-date and well documented Policies and Procedures (P&P Manuals) regarding the exact roles that both the pharmacists and pharmacy technicians fulfill.
Each Individual State Defines a Tech’s Roles
It is also important to note that there are no federal guidelines regarding the utilization of pharmacy technicians, but that their roles are basically defined by the state in which the pharmacy operates. This applies to both the ratio of pharmacist to technician and the requirements established in becoming a technician (in regards to education, training and certification). It is up to each pharmacy to know the requirements and to follow them. Recently the National Pharmacy Technician Initiative and Scorecard was created, which grades each state on the strength of its technician requirements and regulations. According to the foundation’s website, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Hawaii each have a score of “0,” indicating that they currently have no laws in place regulating pharmacy technician standards. Pennsylvania recently passed House Bill 854, however, which would require all technicians to complete a training program approved by the state pharmacy board, but the bill awaits a vote in the state Senate.
Who Can Help You With Pharmacy Technicians?
As we have previously pointed out, whether in a retail, hospital, institutional or specialty setting, pharmacy technicians are taking on increasingly important roles with expanding responsibilities. However, as pharmacy technician roles expand, so does the potential for their errors to increase and prove dangerous or even sometimes fatal. Does your pharmacy have written policies and procedures in place regarding all the areas that your pharmacy technicians are utilized? Does this include all four areas of potential errors (Rx drop-off, order entry, filling/dispensing and delivery)?
If not, then contact HCC today to see how we can help. Healthcare Consultants Pharmacy Staffing has been a full service Pharmacy staffing agency and consulting firm that has been in business for over 33 years now (established in 1989). HCC has been helping pharmacies plan, prepare and deal with issues such as these since 1989. Just a few examples of our services include:
Contact us now online or call us today for a Free Consultation at 800-642-1652 to discuss how we can help you.