Study indicates that drive-through can distract pharmacists

COLUMBUS, Ohio A new study in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care has indicated that pharmacists who work at stores with drive through windows are more likely to be distracted and those distractions can lead to processing delays, reduced efficiency and even dispensing errors.

The pharmacists who were surveyed reported that the design and layout of their workplaces has an impact on dispensing accuracy, especially the presence of drive-through window pick-up services. Results also indicate that automated dispensing systems in pharmacies are likely to reduce the potential for errors and enhance efficiency.

Even with stringent internal quality controls, pharmacists nationally make an estimated 5.7 errors per 10,000 prescriptions processed, according to the study, which translates to more than 2.2 million dispensing errors each year.

According to the survey, pharmacists perceive that the drive-through window has the biggest impact on causing pharmacists and their staff to take extra steps (average agreement response of 3.7 on a 5-point scale); reducing efficiency (average response of 3.8); and causing delays in prescription processing (average response of 3.7). The respondents also attributed dispensing errors (average response of 3.2) and communication errors (average response of 3.3) to the presence of a drive-through window.

“A pharmacist or staff member could be responsible for four or five tasks, and serving people at the drive-through window is just one of them,” said Sheryl Szeinbach, the study’s lead author. “Some people seeking the convenience of the drive-through window don’t care about getting information. They just want the medication, and they want it as fast as possible. They should probably think about that and at least look at the medication and make sure it’s OK. And if they have questions, it may behoove them to come into the pharmacy.”

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