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Getting it Right: The Value of Pharmacy Checklists

Commercial airline travel is the safest method to get from one place to another (motorcycles come in last). Despite the complexity of getting very heavy objects off the ground, avoiding nasty weather, and landing on relatively small plots of land, commercial aircraft accidents are so rare that when they occur they make headlines.

The safety record is largely due to the technology inside the plane, but an equally important element is the continuous training of aircraft crews. Pilots undergo regular training and have to pass evaluations every six months in order to operate commercial airliners.

One of the main components of professional flight training is the use of checklists. There are checklists for every phase of flight. Prior to starting the engines, a checklist. Before you taxi to the runway, another checklist. The list goes on, even while cruising at 39,000 feet. When there is a malfunction in the cockpit, yet another checklist.

For private pilots, checklists are a fact of life – on the ground and in the air. Failure to use a checklist almost always results in a flight test failure for the checkride needed for a new rating.

How about Pharmacy?

The reason you don’t normally get prescriptions filled at the gas station is that the act of dispensing prescription drugs is risky enough that the state requires a high level of expertise and training before it allows an establishment to engage in this process. Because checklists have such an impressive record in preventing accidents, even healthcare has begun using them to improve safety during surgery and general patient care. Dr. Atul Gawande, noted author and surgeon, has been vocal about the value of checklists in saving lives.

Checklists are best used when the process involves repetitive actions or is likely to be overlooked when the team is in a hurry. Sound like your pharmacy? Even though LTC pharmacies have exceptional safety records, the industry can always strive to improve. Not all situations are good candidates for checklists, but perhaps you can find ways to short-circuit accidents by developing processes that rely on this tool. Continue Reading >>

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