Scanning scrutiny


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Scanning is not an automation technology and it does not change the professional responsibilities for pharmacists

However, PDL strongly recommends pharmacists use barcode scanners when dispensing medicines in pharmacies and pharmacy departments. 

The two most common practices are barcode scanning of a dispensed item (Scan Check) and scanning of a presented electronic transfer of prescription (eTP). In dispensing, scanning contributes to improved accuracy, reduced data entry and improved efficiency but it fails to omit errors in the process.

Risk for error may be implicit for the dispensing pharmacist in the potential facilitation of a pre-existing error, which may have occurred originally by the prescriber at the point of drug selection. 

For example, where a presented repeat form is scanned directly into the system without cross checking the accompanying original script. If a previous dispensing is not accurate the error could be perpetuated along a chain of up to five repeats.

The wrong medication, or wrong dose, or wrong strength drug could be dispensed in this instance. All of these factors present a risk of harm to the patient and a professional risk to the dispensing pharmacist and the initial prescriber. 

On the PDL radar is another kind of scanning error where the item is actually scanned but the dispenser pharmacist disregards a warning message.

Case Study

“Dispensed prescription correctly (script for amitriptyline 50mg) but handed out the 25mg. Did scan on dispense but didn’t check whether it was correct. Only picked up the error after customer left.” – Dispensing Pharmacist

Alert fatigue could be an issue in this instance where too many red flags are triggered across work flow applications and the pharmacist overlooks the warning. Alert fatigue does not change the professional responsibilities for pharmacists and importance of the role of the pharmacist with the supporting role from the scanning technology.

Employing a system of manual checks, implemented by the dispensing pharmacist, to support the scanning technology is a way of omitting errors in scanning.

Computer Input – Excerpt from PDL’s ‘Guide to Good Dispensing’

On inputting prescription details using either electronic identifier (eTP) or using the pharmacist’s original copy of the prescription, it is strongly advised you check the following:

  • Prescription data matches patient and prescription details
  • Medication profile for consistency of treatment and compliance
  • Interactions
  • Evidence of misuse
  • Use computer software to select and record any brand change.
  • Ensure the prescriber’s intended specific directions are printed on the label
  • Generate labels (one for each pack if multiple packs), repeat authorisations and CMIs where applicable 

PDL’s guide to good dispensing is designed to minimise the potential for dispensing errors and to save you time and expense. A number of routine checks and procedures have been prepared for your guidance. You are strongly advised to observe them on each occasion you dispense a prescription. The guide is available for download via member login  

If you have a question about scanning and dispensing call our support service for professional advice and confidential guidance on 1300 854 838 or use your member login

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