Advancements in Tracking Prescriptions

pharmacy technicians

The health care industry always is changing and evolving with the advent of technology. Perhaps in no area is this more prevalent than in pharmacy and roles of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Advancements in this field have been rapid and far-reaching, especially when it comes to tracking prescriptions. We wanted to learn more about these advancements, so we asked a Concorde resident expert to chime in. Here’s what he had to say.

Pharmacy Technicians' use of bar codes

“What I can tell you about technological advancements in tracking prescriptions is that, over the past 10 years or so, the use of bar coding in both retail and hospital pharmacy settings has been the most prevalent and effective,” said Scott Prophet, Pharmacy Technician Instructor at Concorde’s campus in Tampa, Fla. “Bar codes are now used in almost every aspect of pharmacy operations, from the initial point at which a patient is identified and their demographic and medical history is gathered and verified, to the time that a medication is either dispensed or administered. It has become an integral part of the process for almost every pharmacy.” Bar coding is used to provide a systematic verification process that is built into most pharmacies’ computer software, Prophet said. They allow each member of the pharmacy team, including pharmacy technicians, to double check or verify their work. They are created after prescription information is entered. That bar code is used not only in double-checking work, but tracking inventory, providing real-time status information and reconciling dollar amounts billed to insurance and charged to customers. They even can be used to credit back to customers and insurance companies those prescriptions that get filled out but never picked up.

Bar codes' use in hospital settings

Patients in a hospital have a bar code printed on the wrist bracelet they receive when they are admitted. That barcode is used from the time the patient enters the building until the time they are discharged, Prophet said. The pharmacy staff, including pharmacy technicians, use bar coding also to verify they are administered the right medications. Nurses use bar coding to verify they are administering the right medication to the right patient at the right time. Barcoding is used for inventory and billing purposes as well. “To give you an idea just how important the use of bar codes has become,” Prophet said, “I can tell you that prior to the utilization of bar codes, a very well-respected hospital in Boston, known for its expertise in treating cancer patients, had a medication error occur that resulted in the death of a patient who was an employee of one of the two major newspapers in Boston. Once the newspaper decided to investigate the death further, they found that an employee had been given extra doses of a chemotherapy drug because the administration wasn’t tracked properly. This caused devastating harm to the reputation of the hospital.”

Bar codes revolutionary for Pharmacy Technicians

It was the type of error that today can easily be avoided and prevented with bar codes, Prophet said. “The use of bar coding is something that, in my opinion, has really revolutionized health care and the pharmacy industry in particular,” he said. “Who knows how many lives it may have already saved?” Students can learn about the utilization of bar codes at pharmacy technician schools like Concorde and be fully prepared for the latest developments in a quickly-changing, rewarding health care field.
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