Safety or Quality, or both?

My long term relationship with medicine is a love and hate one. I love it when it does what it says but hate it when it gives my patients more than they can handle.


One of the skills I’ve learned from being a pharmacist is the ability to create a meaningful relationship with drug(s). This unique set of skills gave me the ability to see beneath the beautiful and into the deepest corner. But at the same time have the optimism to see a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. Because of this ability, I do believe pharmacists generally understand that perfection is not possible, but we are willing to embrace both the good and the bad sides.


One terrible habit that my job has taught me over the years is never to trust anyone – not even ourselves. This is because I know too well that errors and mistakes happen more often than everyone thinks, no matter how bulletproof the system is.


I remember vividly during the graduation ceremony, the dean of our pharmacy school at the time gave a speech that had a significant impact on shaping my own set of principles as a pharmacist.


He said: “…We are there to safeguard the healthcare system. We are there to promote patient safety and to minimise the chance of harm to the patient…”


This statement is the core existence of pharmacists. The more I work, the more I realise that although it’s what we strive to do each day, it is not 100% attainable because at the end of the day we are all humans. Sometimes error does slip through the cracks. However, ensuring the right drug at the right dose is reached the right patient at the right time by the right route is the minimum standard by which a pharmacist can do to safeguard their patients.


After years of working as a pharmacist, the number of mistakes and errors I’ve seen myself and other healthcare professionals have made is avoidable. A lot of the times are due to our ignorance or overconfidence in what we do.


There is a famous quote from the “Dark Knight” movie that goes like this – “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”


With every job and profession, everyone will eventually reach a stage where they know their job inside and out and can pretty much develop the ability to “auto-pilot” our way through the day at the job. This, in my opinion, is the worst kind of habit or ability that none of the health care professionals should be developing, and in most cases it existence can contribute to our downfall.


“Assumption” is also another skill set that is destined to fail us. Assuming that the doctor knows how to calculate a paracetamol dose for an infant, assuming that the change in dose by the doctor is a sound decision, and assuming the doctor has stopped a medication because it was not prescribed on the prescription are only a few examples where assumption can have a negative impact on patients health.


This week is patient safety week, and I wanted to share with you all my thoughts about pharmacy and why everyone deserves more than just mediocre.


Practising pharmacy is a balancing act between promoting safety and providing quality of care. Most pharmacists would agree with me that sometimes we as pharmacists can get caught up with the technical aspect of patient safety while compromising on the quality of care being delivered. On the contrary, some patients value more on getting quality efficient service than the safety element that is necessary to keep them from harm’s way. In my opinion, both patient safety and quality of service go hand in hand. A well-balanced pharmacy will spend time promoting patient safety through effective communication and education but also at the same time investing in efficiency of care, focusing on doing things well to raise the ceiling, so the overall care experience is a better one.


Patient safety is, therefore, an important aspect of an effective, efficient pharmacy where quality prevails.


Most people’s idea of a health care team consists of their nurse, doctor, and pharmacist. However, one big piece of the puzzle that ties everyone together is themselves. It is important to remember that you, too, are a crucial part of the health care team. So next time when you are at your doctor’s office, or your local pharmacy, do take the time to share your experiences with them to make sure you are getting the best care possible. Always speak up if you see something that is out of the ordinary or not safe.


One of the things that I’m very proud of everyone at the pharmacy is that we actively make safety and quality information available to everyone in the community. We strongly believe that you deserve a pharmacy that can provide you with reliable information to make informed choices about your health. Because we understand that in this information abundance world, getting the most reliable source of information, on the contrary, is getting more difficult.


I feel that we must bring this information to light in a way that is easy for you – my inner circle of friends – to use.


The bottom line is that a pharmacy may have the most products and the greatest value compared to some, but unless it is preventing harm and eliminating errors, it is not delivering on a very basic premise: – ensuring the safety and the quality of care for you and your loved ones.


Once again, you can always reach us to my team or me when you have concerns about the safety and quality of care that you are receiving. We are here to listen and help.


In much health and happiness,