News and Commentary

Errors Traced To Counters of Pharmacists

There's been a lot of talk in recent years about consumers taking a more active role in deciding what health services they'll receive, but the issue often turns on whether the public is capable of — or interested in — doing so.

According to a Rand survey for the California HealthCare Foundation, consumers often lack the information needed to make health care decisions. There is an even greater "information deficit" among certain groups of people.

Four thousand Californians were interviewed. Researchers found that 46 percent sometimes or never had the information necessary to make appropriate health care decisions.

In addition, 54 percent of people with less than a high school education and 58 percent who reported themselves to be in fair or poor health said they generally lacked sufficient information to make proper health care choices.

CHCF made several recommendations, including a suggestion that providers teach consumers where to find health information.

One place where patient ignorance often goes unaddressed is at the pharmacy counter, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. A JAMA study points unequivocally to the pharmacy counter as the most "important and underutilized intervention point" in preventing mistakes in drug interactions.

The study sought to uncover the level of "contraindicated coprescribing by the same physicians and codispensing by the same pharmacies." It found that pharmacies accounted for far more contraindicated medication pairs than prescriptions from the same physicians.

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