Safety First: Protocols For Dispensing Medications Properly

Safety protocols loom large in the day-to-day work pharmacists conduct.

From personal safety to medication storage to safely dispensing prescribed medication, pharmacists are acutely aware of the importance of workplace procedures and processes grounded in safety. 

Beyond wearing face shields and protective gowns and gloves to ensure personal safety, pharmacists need to be mindful of safe dispensing practices — most critical to the safety of patients and a priority concern for long-term care facilities working with pharmacies.

Medication-related errors, after all, are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine as cited by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The report estimates that one in every 131 outpatient deaths and one in every 854 inpatient deaths are attributable to medication-related errors.

Those errors have several influences

including safety protocols, patient or caregiver misuse, miscommunication, or prescribing errors. Additional factors include: 

  • Medications with similar names and/or packaging.
  • Uncommon or rarely used medications.
  • Allergies associated with common medications such as antibiotics, opiates, or NSAIDs. 
  • Prescriptions that require testing to determine proper dosing levels.

Researchers, however, admit that the true scope of medication errors and their exact origins are hard to track.

The five stages of the medication process include ordering and prescribing, transcribing and verifying, dispensing and delivering, administering, and monitoring and reporting. That last stage, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, is new and lacks sufficient research. 

To avoid or diminish medication errors, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement suggests that those administering medications follow a process that has been dubbed the 5 Rs or the “five rights of medication administration.”

 Those Rs include:

  • The right patient
  • The right drug
  • The right dose
  • The right route
  • The right time

Some industry professionals and advocates, however, believe the 5Rs fall short of creating a holistic safety protocol and suggest the practice of following the “five rights” is simply a starting point. 

When it comes to filling, dispensing, and administering medication,

pharmacists and clinicians in long-term care facilities may make all-too-human mistakes due to influences that commonly lead to missteps. Those include poor working environments, poor communication, professional burnout, staffing deficiencies, and a lack of institutional, industry, clinical or patient knowledge.

The pharmacists at UnitedRX work with caregivers and clinicians in a variety of long-term care settings across the country. From assisted living communities to correctional facilities and a number of other care settings, we understand that accuracy and safety are paramount to the work we do when dispensing medications properly — which is why we follow an established safety protocol.

It is that protocol that allows us to feel confident knowing the medications we provide to the facilities we serve are reliably accurate and error-free.

And, the relationships we foster with our clients allow for effective and efficient communication, which can be critical for dispensing medication properly.

At UnitedRX, we deliver a hometown pharmacy experience to more than 350 clients across the country. Contact us to learn more about how our approach to treatment can meet the pharmacy needs of your long-term care facility.