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Emergency Rooms Introduce Pharmacists to Cut Prescription Errors

Prescription errors account for 7,000 deaths per year in the ER.  Unfortunately, medication errors can be caused by something as mundane as poor handwriting, confusion over drug names and measurements, and poor packaging designs.  To try to remedy this problem, ER doctors are starting to put pharmacist right in the middle of the fray–in the ER–so that they can help to review each medication and and ensure dosage.

Children’s Hospital in Dallas One of the First to Introduce Pharmacists in the ER

Children’s Hospital in Dallas currently has ten full-time pharmacists on staff in the ER who are on-call 24 hours a day.  Although Children’s Hospital isn’t the only hospital currently using this strategy, they are the hospital with the greatest number of pharmacists in the ER.  Having pharmacists on staff in the ER is particularly important for a children’s hospital, since children are sensitive to prescription drugs and are three times more likely to suffer from a medication error.  Pharmacists at Children’s Hospital look at approximately 20,000 prescriptions during any week, and review child’s weight, allergies, medications and health insurance.  There are also automatic spell checkers in the electronic medical records system to prevent errors.

Why Isn’t Every Hospital Hiring Pharmacists for the ER?

While having a pharmacist on call in an ER is a great way to reduce prescription drug errors, it isn’t a cost effective measure for many hospitals at this point.  If you’re a smaller ER, it’s hard enough having enough nurses and techs per patient, let alone a pharmacist.  However, even if having a pharmacist on staff isn’t feasible for every ER, experts still say that having a pharmacist in the ER can reduce costs in the long-run by preventing future hospital admissions for prescription errors.

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