Pharmacists are scientists. They are trained in the science of pharmaceuticals—pharmacokinetics, pharmacology, and more.
As scientists, pharmacists are experts in drugs—the way drugs act; how, why, and when drugs should be taken; how to reduce the risks associated with the drugs they dispense; how to compound and mix drugs to make them more effective; and much more.
The first job in pharmacy is to fill a prescription correctly as written by the prescriber. Common mistakes include typing the wrong information into the computer, selecting the wrong line in a dropdown list, pulling the wrong bottle from the shelf, or handing the prescription to the wrong person. These are mechanical errors, also known as “human errors.” According to the latest Pharmacists Mutual claims study,1 mechanical errors represent 83.8% of all claims reported to that insurance company since 1988.
Compounding and miscellaneous professional claims make up 3.9% of claims in the study, while the remaining 12.3% are intellectual in nature, involving thought and knowledge. These include HIPPA violations, failure to counsel, and improper prospective drug review. Today, intellectual claims are the fastest growing type of claims against pharmacists received by Pharmacists Mutual.
The Intellectual Pharmacist
Reducing mechanical mistakes and reducing filling errors is a priority for pharmacists. For the last several years, pharmacy has made great strides in this area. Today, virtually every hospital and community pharmacy has embraced a continuous quality improvement work flow designed to stop mechanical mistakes from being made or catching them before they reach the patient. Technology is also improving patient safety. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are using these systems and making strides in reducing the likelihood of a mistake, despite the ever-increasing number of prescriptions and drug orders they must process in less and less time.
As robotics and other systems improve, the physical aspect of pharmacy dispensing is bound to change how pharmacists do their job, moving them away from mechanics to more intellectual aspects of pharmaceutical delivery. Doctors and nurses will struggle keep up with the avalanche of new drugs and biologicals coming in the next few years. Increasingly, they will rely on the drug expert—the pharmacist. But pharmacists cannot be content in their role as scientists. Practicing the “art” of pharmacy will be a large part of the future of pharmacy.
Two Crucial Skills
The future of pharmacy practice will center around two skills pharmacists have or that they must improve upon. Pharmacists’ knowledge of drugs will become more important as the number and sophistication of newer, more formidable drugs and biologicals enter the market. The scientific knowledge pharmacists possess will become even more valuable.
Knowledge, however, is not enough. All the expertise pharmacists have is useless if they cannot communicate it to the patient, the prescriber, or the caregiver. The future of pharmacy is in the art of communications.
1. Pharmacists Mutual Insurance Company. Claims Study 2017, Available at www.phmic.com.