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Pharmacy Technician Policy and Procedure Custom Consulting

Pharmacy Technician Policy and Procedure Custom Consulting

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
3. Filling/Dispensing
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:

Development of Custom Policies and Procedures
– Technician Utilization Documentation
Pharmacy Management Consultation

Contact us now online or call us today for a Free Consultation at 800-642-1652  to discuss how we can help you.


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Pharmacy Technician Errors – Policy & Procedure Reviews

Policies and Procedures for Pharmacy Technician Errors:

Pharmacy technicians are an integral part of every pharmacy team. Whether in a retail, hospital, institutional or specialty setting, pharmacy technicians are taking on increasingly important roles with expanding responsibilities. However, as  roles expand, so does the potential for pharmacy technician errors to increase and prove dangerous or even fatal. The 2006 death of a young two-year old girl named Emily Jerry spurred the initiation of numerous intensive studies regarding pharmacy technician dispensing errors. In the 2006 tragedy, the conclusion was clear that her death was due to a preventable pharmacy technician error that took place. Basically the infant died during her final chemotherapy treatment after receiving a dose of an improperly diluted IV prepared by a hospital pharmacy technician. An investigation revealed that the hospital pharmacy was short-staffed on the day of her death, the pharmacy computer was not properly working, and there was a backlog of physician orders.

It is important to note that the above case took place in Ohio and resulted in numerous legislative changes. At that time (2006) pharmacy technicians in Ohio were only required to have a high school diploma with no certification or oversight by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. The passing of Ohio Senate Bill 203, or “Emily’s Law,” in 2009 now requires all Ohio pharmacy technicians to pass an exam and to be approved by the Ohio Pharmacy Board.

Medication dispensing errors are on the rise according to many studies. A study released in 2006 (at the time of the technician error that resulted in the infant’s death) by The Institute of Medicine stated that medication errors harm at least 1.5 million patients every year. Another study showed that over 400,000 patient injuries take place in hospitals in the US alone due to medication errors. Yet even if a Pharmacist is “overwhelmed”, when pharmacy technicians contribute to dispensing errors, the pharmacist is still ultimately responsible and liable for the error.

If you utilize pharmacy technicians in your practice, when was the last time that you took a good look at your policies and procedures regarding their roles and utilization?? Are you following “best practices” and limiting the chance for potential medication dispensing errors (and therefore reducing your risks of potential lawsuits and bad publicity)? If the answer is “not lately”, then we strongly advise that you get a qualified Pharmacy Consultant to take an objective look at your policies and procedures! Being in the business of Pharmacy consulting for over 25 years now, HCC has been stressing for decades that addressing and preventing issues before they occur is the key to avoiding future problems and bad publicity that pharmacies so frequently encounter these days. With the rise of social media, digital mass media and internet “real-time” news, our advice that the old cliché that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been more relevant. Although we all hope that we will never personally deal with such situations cited in the example above, HCC strongly urges you to be prepared. Contact us on line or call us today for a Free Consultation at 800-642-1652 to discuss how we can help you.

Bob Miler

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