Ensuring patient safety: The role of the pharmacy technician


At the Express Scripts Canada (ESC) Pharmacy, we are committed to delivering an exceptional patient experience. Of course that includes things like timely delivery of medication, ongoing and clear communication with patients about issues that may impact their health, friendly and informative staff to answer your questions, and a state-of-the-art online prescription manager for your convenience.

Underlying all of the above is the core purpose of any pharmacy, which is to provide the right medication at the right time to help our patients experience the best possible health outcomes. This means not only providing the right medication to treat the diagnosed conditions, but also avoiding the wrong medications that could exacerbate a health condition or lead to a dangerous reaction. This is what we refer to as patient safety.

Watch: Patient safety video

How the Express Scripts Canada Pharmacy puts patient health and safety above all

The ESC Pharmacy has stringent processes in place to make sure that the medication we deliver to every patient is the optimal medication for their condition. We will, of course, flag potential interactions with other drugs the patient is taking, but our pharmacists might also propose substitutions where there is another drug is proven to work better for that condition

Our process includes a number of checks and balances from the time that a patient first submits a prescription from their doctor, to the time when the medication arrives at the address they have designated for delivery of their delivery. We have a skilled team of pharmacy professionals that work together to deliver that exceptional patient experience, while always keeping patient health and safety top-of-mind.

To explain more about the Express Scripts Canada Pharmacy operations, we spoke with Adil Ladha, Director of Pharmacy Operations.

To start off, I’d like to go into a little more detail about the role of the pharmacy technician.

Pharmacy technicians are registered with their provincial regulatory body and need to meet certain educational and knowledge requirements. They work alongside pharmacists and pharmacy assistants to fill and ship prescriptions and ensure patient safety. At every step of the process, there are opportunities to:

  1. Verify patient and drug information.
  2. Cross-check for drug interactions.
  3. Ensure clear communication with the patient.

Related: Patient Safety Week – Asking these 5 questions about your prescriptions could save your life

The vital role of a pharmacy technician

A pharmacy technician first sees a prescription when it’s been submitted by the patient or doctor. At this point, our technicians verify that the prescription is assigned to the correct patient. This is done by double-checking at least three different pieces of information on the prescription, like name, date of birth and address. If something isn’t clear or doesn’t match the information we have on file, the technician will reach out to the doctor or patient for clarification. All to ensure that the medication gets to the right person.

Medication information also needs to be verified. There are a number of medications that have similar-sounding names, and technicians will use various methods to confirm that the prescribed medication is the medication entered into the system (and ultimately delivered to the patient). A pharmacy technician will pay extra close attention when dealing with commonly confused drug names, and may check the patient’s previous prescriptions in the system or contact the patient to confirm what condition the drug is for.

Pharmacy technicians aren’t simply worried about interpreting the doctor’s handwriting correctly (although illegible writing is a common cause of medication errors). They also ensure that the prescription makes sense, and will flag a prescription for follow-up by the pharmacist if the strength of the medication or the dosage are out of the ordinary.

Related: The evolution of the pharmacy professional leads to better health outcomes

A pharmacy technician may also accept a prescription from the patient’s doctor. They will then work closely with a pharmacist who reviews and approves the prescription before it is filled. The pharmacy technician inspects every bottle and every label to ensure that they match what is in the system. Pharmacy technicians can also verify orders that have been prepared by pharmacy assistants or other staff.

Lastly, pharmacy technicians verify all information again when prescriptions are being packaged and prepared for shipping. At every step in the process, the technician can escalate any concerns about potential safety hazards to the pharmacist.

By providing this first level of verification and triaging of potential concerns, pharmacy technicians are an invaluable asset to the patient safety process, and free up pharmacists to spend more time with patients.

We are proud of the excellent work done by our talented group of pharmacy technicians, and thank them for their unwavering commitment to patient safety.

Related: A day in the life of an Express Scripts Canada pharmacist