Chain pharmacies are well known for their drive-through services. The trend is becoming the norm for many of America’s smaller pharmacies, as well. However, while convenience may be handy for picking up fast food, it may not be your best choice when picking up medication. In the United States alone, the number of dispensed prescriptions is nearing four billion annually with an average of 2.2 million prescription errors. A study by Ohio State University (OSU) researchers reports that pharmacists who work at locations with drive-throughs believe the drive-up service creates additional distractions that contribute to pharmacy errors. Customers who pick up their medication at a drive-through may put their safety at risk.
Researchers indicate that a pharmacy with a drive-through requires employees to perform “unreasonable multitasking” along with dispensing drugs and answering customer questions about medication. A pharmacist or technician can be responsible for four or five tasks, including the drive-through window.
The Problem With Pharmacy Drive-Throughs
Pharmacists who responded to the OSU study survey felt the drive-through window had the biggest impact on dispensing and communication errors, reduction in efficiency, and processing delays. Here is a brief look at why these drive-through windows can contribute to pharmaceutical errors:
- Drive-throughs force employees to multitask. Eighty percent of respondents to the OSU survey attribute prescription mis-fills to cognitive errors, which are often the result of excessively stressful working conditions. Too much multitasking can be dangerous, especially when dispensing antidepressants and narcotics. Employees who monitor the drive-throughs have an extra step that disrupts workflow, making it more difficult for them to maintain quality control.
- Communication is lost. Using a drive-through reduces personal interaction with pharmacy employees. The window may dissuade people from speaking up with questions or concerns.
- Convenience can also mean rushed. Many use the pharmacy drive-through because it’s convenient but feel pressured to pick up their medication as quickly as possible. When this happens, they may not check the package to verify they received what the doctor ordered.
- Employees perform tasks quickly. Customers expect a short wait time for their medication, and pharmacists have to work quickly to meet this demand. Rushed employees may not have enough time to double-check their work before passing the medication along.
The consequences of receiving the wrong medication can be extremely serious and even deadly. With many drugs resembling each other in name and appearance, mistakes are easy to make on a busy day or when a worker has to multitask. Pharmacists are concerned with human safety, but they must also meet the requirements of the job—and sometimes those requirements make it easy to ignore risks. It’s possible that a company may weigh the risks of having their pharmacist give someone the wrong prescription against the costs of slow-paced prescription fills and wages for additional employees.
To protect yourself from receiving the wrong medication, you can take the following steps:
- Keep a record. Ask your doctor to write down name of your medication, and compare it to the name on the package you receive at the pharmacy. The label may display a generic name for the same medication, but it never hurts to ask.
- Speak up. If you take multiple medications and are afraid they may interfere with each other, ask your pharmacist. Seconds of conversation could save you life-threatening problems.
- Take your time. Go inside rather than use the drive-through. If you prefer to take advantage of this service, make a point to check that you have received the correct medication.
- Open the package before you leave. If this is a new prescription or your medication doesn’t look right to you, ask your pharmacist to take a second look to verify that you received what you were prescribed.
People who are injured by prescription errors can experience physical pain and emotional distress. Often, these individuals miss work and, in some cases, are unable to return to work. If you are affected by a pharmaceutical error, seek immediate medical attention, and then call the pharmacy error attorneys of Kennedy Hodges at 888.526.7616.