According to an article in Today’s Geriatric Medicine, patients in nursing homes receive an average of eight routine and three “as needed” medications each day. Since all medications have side effects and may interact with other medications, it’s critical to have a nursing home pharmacy available for consultation and recommendations.
Why a Nursing Home Pharmacy?
People in nursing homes are more likely than the general population to have multiple medical conditions. They are also more likely to have cognitive impairments ranging from mild to serious dementia. Nursing homes have lower numbers of professional nursing staff and minimal physician involvement. There may also be multiple physicians involved in a patient’s care. It is not uncommon for patients to cycle back and forth from the hospital to long term care. All of these factors increase the risk of medication errors and complications.
Preventing Medication Errors in Nursing Homes
A nursing home pharmacy can often make recommendations to prevent medication errors and the pharmacists are excellent resources when questions arise. Among the possible strategies to prevent medication errors:
- Improve communication among nurses, doctors and pharmacists involved in patient care.
- Establish a medication reconciliation system and use it every time patients are admitted or transferred into long term care from the home or hospital.
- Implement computerized order entry systems for medication prescribing. This prevents errors from illegible handwriting, misplaced decimal points and the like.
- Ensure staff are properly trained before they begin medication administration.
- Investigate medication errors and implement procedural changes if necessary.
Medication errors do and will happen as long as humans are involved. However, research shows at least 40 percent of these errors are preventable. The key is to implement reasonable safeguards and to learn from mistakes. Your nursing home pharmacy can help at every stage in the process.