Prescription errors have a huge impact on Canadian hospitals and patients.

In fact, the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI) revealed that 1 in 18 hospital patients – or 138,000 people each year – experience harm from preventable errors.[1]

Many of these errors are related to medication. For example, patients may receive inaccurate dosages or the wrong medication. These mistakes can lead to allergic reactions, sickness, and infections. Medication errors place a huge burden on patients, their families, and hospital staff. 

According to CIHI, patients’ risks increase if they receive care from multiple specialists. This suggests a disconnect in how doctors, nurses, and pharmacists share information. The more people and steps involved in your pharmacy order management process, the more likely you will encounter errors. Ultimately, these mistakes impact patients and taxpayers.

For example, CIHI found that hospital-related harm cause patients to spend an average of four extra days in a hospital bed. This amounts to more than half a million additional hospital days with “an estimated cost of $685 million that could be used to help meet the needs of other patients.” As demand for hospital services increases while budgets decrease, it will become vital to improve pharmacy accuracy. This will help hospitals provide higher-quality service while they improve their efficiencies and lower their operating costs. 

How to prevent prescription errors

Many Canadian hospitals are automating their pharmacy order management processes so that they can provide patients with faster, more accurate service. A trackable, auditable workflow prevents errors and allows staff to catch mistakes before it’s too late. When you automate your pharmacy workflows, you can:

  • Prioritize your orders. Hospitals can receive thousands of prescription orders each day, making it hard for pharmacy staff to keep pace. A pharmacy order management system will colour-code your orders to denote the ones that you must fill first. It will even alert pharmacists if a high-priority prescription is late. This makes it easier for pharmacists to fill orders in timely fashion.
  • Consolidate all of your orders into one system. Whether orders come in by fax, pressurized tube, or hand-delivery, they will all go into the same pharmacy order management system. Pharmacists can sort everything in the queue and fill orders based on priority, as opposed to a first-come, first-served basis. Meanwhile, hospital staff can check the status of orders in real time. A single, central system also minimizes errors, as everyone works from the same information.
  • Improve communications between hospital staff. Pharmacy order management makes it easier for doctors, nurses, and pharmacists communicate – without changing how they do their jobs. For example, a doctor can still write a prescription by hand. Then, a nurse or pharmacist can scan the handwritten prescription into the system, where it will automatically go into a queue. Hospital staff can view the queue at any time to track the status of the prescription. Meanwhile, if pharmacy staff have questions because something is unclear, they can launch a chat session with the nurse. The transparency minimizes back-and-forth and reduces errors – ultimately leading to a better staff and patient experience. For example, staff can spend less time managing pharmacy orders and more time with patients at the point of care.
  • Get real-time access to pharmacy metrics. Customizable reports allow you to identify workflow bottlenecks and get up-to-the-minute data on your operations. For example, the head pharmacist can view metrics on demand to ensure that the pharmacy is staffed appropriately. These metrics can also help you maintain audit trails, ensure regulatory compliance, support confidentiality, and give the right patients the right medications.

Pharmacy order management serves as a bridge between your paper and digital processes. You don’t need to go all digital, all at once. You can keep using your existing technologies and infrastructure. Pharmacy order management also mirrors yours existing processes so that you can improve your speed and accuracy without changing how you work.

For example, you can keep your current pharmacy processes and improve upon them by simply scanning paper prescriptions into a standards-based, electronic workflow that integrates with your electronic health record system. This creates a work queue that improves transparency, communication, and collaboration between caregivers and pharmacists. It also provides an audit trail and historical records.

How an Ontario hospital pharmacy saved 8 hours per day

Automating your pharmacy order management can transform your processes and give both your hospital staff and your patients a better experience. In fact, Grey Bruce Health Services shaved 30-40 seconds off every prescription order. Since the hospital’s pharmacy fills more than 1,000 orders per day, they estimate a time savings of eight hours per day. These efficiencies eliminated the organisation’s need to hire an additional pharmacist to meet demand. Click here for the full story.

Ricoh is helping thousands of organizations streamline processes and improve the standard of care across the healthcare continuum. Learn how we’re increasing workplace productivity by up to 40.9% so you can focus on what matters most: improving patient care.


[1] Global News: 1 in 18 Canadian hospital patients experience harm from preventable errors: study, October 26, 2016