Blocking bloopers on the hospital side

July 9, 2007

Hospitals have had their share of drug errors and attendant bad publicity. What is the industry doing to prevent errors?

Hospitals have had their share of drug errors and attendant bad publicity. What is the industry doing to prevent errors?

Kasey Thompson, Pharm.D., director of patient safety at ASHP, believes that training and educating pharmacy technicians is crucial in order to reduce med errors. Pointing out that ASHP is an an accrediting body for technician education programs through community colleges as well as a key stakeholder in the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), he said, "We have a very longstanding commitment and interest in improving the quality and proficiency of the technician workforce. Our goals have been to ensure that techs are adequately educated to work in hospitals and that they are adequately trained within those hospitals to deliver the services and provide the technical support they are expected to and that they are certified through PTCB."

Emphasizing that having well-trained, educated, and certified techs frees pharmacists up to spend more time in a cognitive role of counseling and educating patients, Thompson added, "That's the real goal-to have this highly competent technical workforce that handles a vast majority of the distribution and to have pharmacists spending the majority of their time speaking to the patient, educating the patient, answering questions for the patient, and working with physicians and other providers to make sure the medication use is safe and effective."

Praising hospitals for embracing technology such as automation, robotics, and bar—coding in an effort to improve patient safety, Thompson cautioned, "Technology can serve as the source of verification that the product you have is correct, but it doesn't replace the need to have a highly competent workforce, trained through accredited programs, and certified through PTCB. Ultimately the techs are the ones who are managing the technology."

Thompson said that ASHP also believes hospitals should ensure that pharmacists and techs aren't working excessive hours, since fatigue could lead to errors and harm befalling patients.
Here are some resources from ASHP:

  • ASHP's Web site,