Hospital puts pharmacists in ED to reduce med errors

December 1, 2014

A Texas hospital has stationed pharmacists in its emergency department in hopes of reducing medication errors.

A Texas hospital has stationed pharmacists in its emergency department (ED) in hopes of reducing medication errors.

According to a report by NPR, Children’s Medical Center in Dallas is using pharmacists who specialize in emergency medicine to examine each prescription to ensure both the dose and the prescription are correct. The hope is that the pharmacists will identify and correct errors that often result from bad handwriting, confusion over dosing units, or similar sounding medications.

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"Every single order I put in is reviewed in real time by a pharmacist in the emergency department prior to dispensing and administering the medication," Chief Quality Officer Rustin Morse, MD, told NPR.

Morse said the pharmacist review is particularly important at a children’s hospital because children are more likely to be hurt by a medication error than adults.

At Children’s Medical Center, pharmacists review nearly 20,000 prescriptions a week, focusing on factors such as a patient’s weight, other medications, and allergies. 

James Svenson, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Wisconsin, said having pharmacists in every ED is cost-prohibitive, especially for smaller hospitals.  "If you're in a small [ED], it's hard enough just to have adequate staffing for your patients in terms of nursing and techs, let alone to have a pharmacist sitting down," he told NPR. "If the volume isn't there, it's hard to justify."

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