Despite stringent monitoring by the healthcare industry, including governmental agencies, the longtime problem of medication errors continues to exist. Technology can and should be utilized to provide a “checks and balances” system for catching human error and foolproof methodologies for managing medications. More specifically, automating the administration and dispensing processes of prescribed medicines in retail pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and from mail order pharmacies makes systems more efficient and error free while ensuring patient health.
Medication errors have a wide range of causes including: dose omission, incorrect medication, dosage (quantity and frequency), route, rate of administration and human labelling errors – and the list goes on and on. Solutions for avoiding such mistakes primarily fall into three categories: process control, human training and technological solutions.
Technology is already in use at different levels in the process of prescribing, transcribing, preparing and dispensing of medicines. In order to fail-safe a particular system as much as possible, a thorough study should be performed on each process including end user consumption. The goal should be to automate all manual steps as extensively as possible in order to provide auditable uniformity and compliance by design.
Process control in the context of medication errors is governed by the FDA through its MedWatch program. Numerous steps are in place for tracking adverse events although it is a voluntary reporting program. As such, actual error numbers may be higher than reported. The FDA provides course correction by reviewing drug names, labels, packaging, bar coding and error analyses for determining root causes.
Additional measures such as smart medication bottles and advanced dispensing mechanisms that control quantities dispensed, alert on incorrect usage and report incorrect usage also go a long way in keeping the patient from being adversely affected by medication errors. Here, again, automation provides the roadmap best traveled.
Sandipan Gangopadhyay, President and COO
Dheeraj Misra, CTO