Pharmacists are among the highest respected professionals in the healthcare industry. They are one of the few people that are allowed to be in contact with prescription medications. The responsibility of a pharmacist is to manage the safe distribution of drugs to, from, and within the hospital, clinic, or pharmacy. They provide the healthcare providers with support and patient experience, consultation and education. Pharmacists also provide a governance and regulatory role. Sometimes, the pharmacist is also responsible for most store functions that may include: stocking shelves, billing, inventory management, administrative work, and theft control.
What is risk management?
Risk management is the prevention or mitigation of uncertainty to reduce your chances of a bad outcome. The goal of risk management is to lessen the chance of a bad outcome using a plan that will detail the strategies and tactics for avoiding or mitigating the risk. A risk management plan should include a process for monitoring the risk.
Why pharmacists should consider risk management?
Risk management is the process of identifying, anticipating, evaluating and taking appropriate action to control risk with the goal of reducing the probability of undesirable outcomes and potential losses.
Risk management is a core value of the pharmacy industry, and it’s how pharmacists can ensure they help their patients avoid potential risks while getting the medications they need.
Risk management is used in pharmacy to look at the different ways that medications, drugs, and other substances can impact patients and pharmacy staff, and how to control or eliminate them. It can also be used as a tool within a pharmacy setting to identify and control the risks of a particular substance. Pharmacy risk management is used to identify the hazards of handling, preparing, storing, preserving, and dispensing medications, as well as those of their potential interactions. Risk management offers several benefits on its own, for example:
1. Risk management in pharmacy is used to prevent problems that may occur during the dispensing process.
2. Risk management is a way to prevent problems in administration of medications.
3. Risk management is used to avoid lawsuits as a result of any situation that may occur with respect to dispensing and administration of medications.
How risk management is used in the pharmacy?
Pharmacists manage patient risks by dispensing right drug, in correct dose and to a right patient. They are often one of the first points of contact for patients when their concerns are related to medication.
Managing risks is incredibly important for pharmacists and patients alike. Pharmacists use techniques like risk education and prevention to minimize those risks.
Pharmacists employ risk management techniques to reduce patient risk to prescribed or over-the-counter medications and ensure that the patients receive the safest possible treatment.
The three risk management techniques pharmacists employ are education, prevention, and management.
Education – education of the pharmacy staff, doctors, nurses, technicians, patients, and caregivers.
Prevention – prevention including proper label, adequate and correct use instructions, avoiding medication interactions, contamination, expired drugs and theft control.
Management – managing inventory including life-saving drugs, managing procedures to avoid regulatory non-compliance, patient non-compliance, and to provide the best pharmaceutical / patient care
Pharmacists have vital role in educating healthcare professionals: doctors, pharmacists and nurses. Pharmacists also educates patients about proper storage of their medications and side effects.
By employing these techniques (education, prevention, and management), a pharmacy can reduce risk and create a healthier environment for the people who use the pharmacy. This also creates a culture of good stakeholder relationship between the pharmacy staff, doctors, nurses, patients and the caregivers.
Risk management is an important part of the industry. Pharmacists must take the necessary steps to minimize the risk of mistakes, contamination, or theft.
Steps in risk management
Pharmacists are responsible for assessing how much risk their patient needs to be exposed to, as well as formulating a plan for how to reduce their exposure to these risks. Some examples of risk management that pharmacists can provide are ensuring patients have adequate assistance with self-care, warning patients of how medication may interact with other medications, advising patients about other preventive factors, such as stress, use of alcohol, or sleep disorder. Risk management process may include these five main steps:
1. Pharmacist performs a risk assessment.
2. Pharmacist determines what risk is acceptable.
3. Pharmacist puts into action a plan to reduce risk.
4. Pharmacist communicates about the risk and controls.
4. Pharmacist evaluates effectiveness of plan – Follow-up is the key.
Pharmacists also have to examine the labels on the products to make sure the products are allowed for use (regulatory), legally distributed (licensed), and not expired (technical).
How pharmacists can use risk management to help keep patients safe?
A significant part of the pharmacist’s duties include verifying patient allergies, verifying that a patient has a valid prescription and is an authorized user, ensuring that the prescription is an appropriate medication, and understanding the patient’s medication regimen. Each of these actions can have risk involved, and risk management is a major component of the role.
A pharmacist should consider these three conditions and use them wisely: chance, necessity, and neglect. Chance is an unavoidable risk factor, such as prescription malpractice. Necessity and neglect are avoidable risks, such as mislabeling or improper disposal.
The profession of pharmacists has increased so much in importance in recent years. They’re the rational decision makers for patients who have so many choices with the development of the internet. They provide information about side effects, indications, benefits, and dangerous interactions, all to help people make informed decisions. In addition, pharmacists can administer vaccinations, administer therapy, and even deliver therapies to patients by administering injectables and other injectable treatments. They also work to educate the public about the side effects of medicine, medication misuse, and substance abuse. To avoid this, pharmacists make sure they have adequate resources, apply their knowledge, skills and ability. Pharmacists should always follow the “Principles of Professionalism” to ensure quality of healthcare service and patient safety.
Pharmacists follow the principles of risk management to ensure their patients safety and well-being.
The risks that pharmacists take when calculating prescriptions
Although risks associated with medication use are often quantifiable, the exact nature and severity of risk can be difficult to gauge. Taking that risk into consideration, pharmacists can use evidence-based risk management processes to effectively lower risks for patients and reduce adverse effects. Here are several ways that pharmacists can use risk management to help keep patients safe: Consult with experts in risk management, practice safe prescribing, conduct surveillance and follow-up.
Pharmacists should never believe that a certain activity can ever be completely risk-free. Any intervention, in any situation, is likely to carry some risk.
Pharmacists can use pharmacy database or other reliable resources to get accurate and the latest information. Pharmacists can also seek advice from pharmacists who have more experience and knowledge of prescribing and in administration of drugs including vaccination. Generally, pharmacists should apply those principles:
1. Think about rationale use of drugs and communicate to all involved.
2. Think about what happens if a mistake occurs
3. Think about implementing a system for tracking all drugs (inventory and dispensed medications)
4. Follow-up with all stakeholders and think about decision making.
The risks that pharmacists take when calculating prescriptions are complex. When there are shortages of certain medications pharmacists have more challenges and take the risk to supplement the prescription with another drug that falls within the same class or condition of use. The problem starts when the pharmacy does not have the drug that is on the prescription. The pharmacist can check with other nearby pharmacies that may be able to fulfill the prescription, but sometimes they must improvise and change the prescription. There are risks that pharmacists take when calculating prescriptions, and when there are shortages, they are exposed to the dangers from the calculation errors with regard to dose and drug itself.
There are many risks associated with pharmacy work which can be managed through risk management. With the increasing pressure on hospitals and pharmacies to deliver a stellar patient experience, the risk of errors has increased dramatically. The need for sound risk management has never been more vital than in today’s environment.
Bonus topic – How the pharmaceutical industry is using risk management to avoid lawsuits*
Pharmaceutical companies often cite as a defense against lawsuits that they have risk management plans that were in place to warn against adverse events. Behind this is an assumption that if companies have risk management systems in place, then their products are “safe.” Risk management is a common topic in business financial management, including for small to medium-sized enterprises. As a risk management strategy, pharmaceutical companies have put drug incidence reporting systems in place to monitor side effects of medications. Drug companies believe that they can react to any reports of adverse reactions and issue warnings if necessary. Most of the time, risk management strategies are simply about taking precautions and avoiding overdose, and misuse.
*Bonus topics are selected based on our readers’ interest. You can read more in the future.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on PharmaRead are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency or organization. PharmaRead articles are provided for information only with focus on global health, pharmacy practice, and healthcare systems in developing countries. Readers should seek expert opinion for use, implementation or application of this knowledge based on their individual circumstances.