In a bid to reduce prescription errors and promote better relationships with patients, the Board of Registration in Pharmacy has instituted a new program aimed at improving pharmacy policies and procedures. Among the initiatives is implementation of proposed Best Practice Recommendation* standards, adopted by the Board, which may include on-site procedure reviews by a Board quality assurance expert.

"This program represents a change in the way the Board does business," said Harold Sparr, president of the Pharmacy Board. "Rather than being reactive to a problem, the board is being proactive and working to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. The Board will be educating pharmacists on these best practices and helping them to implement them in their own pharmacy settings."

The best practice recommendations represent a unique, non-punitive approach by the Board to respond to medication errors and promote optimum pharmaceutical care in pharmacies. Pharmacies, with the Board's assistance, are now being urged to review their existing policies and procedures and implement the Board's recommended best practices as a way of preventing errors from occurring rather than just responding to an error after it has been reported.

The 23 Best Practice Recommendations were developed by a Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Advisory Committee, which included Board members, representatives from institutional and retail pharmacy settings, professional associations, the colleges of pharmacy, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, the Department of Public Health and related regulatory agencies. The Recommendations were based on a review of current literature on medication dispensing systems and recent research on the incidence and causes of medication errors, as presented by the Board's Quality Assurance Surveyor and CQI Advisory Committee Chairman. These recommendations cover most pharmacy settings and include a variety of measures that can be implemented immediately as well as other processes that involve technological changes that can be instituted over a longer period of time.

"The Board urges all pharmacies to make review of these recommendations a high priority and to consider implementation of those measures that are appropriate to their particular pharmacy setting, " said Sparr. "The Board believes that adoption of these practices will result in improved performance, increase patient safety, a reduction in medication errors, and enhanced pharmacy medication delivery systems in general."

Massachusetts became the first pharmacy board in the country to commit resources to such an initiative and hired a quality assurance surveyor to form partnerships with pharmacists and assist them in developing best practices in their pharmacies. The Board will continue working with the Advisory Committee to educate and assist pharmacies in this program.

* The Best Practice Recommendations To Promote Optimum Pharmaceutical Care In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can be viewed online in the Board of Pharmacy Section of our website.

This information is provided by the Division of Health Professions Licensure within the Department of Public Health.