When I get a hankering for fast food, I usually go to Burger King. It’s not so much because I like Burger King (though I do prefer it to McDonald’s or Wendy’s for a burger). I go there because they always get my order right.
I could have any combination of three kids, a spouse and a dog in the car, all yammering or barking in my ear about what they want. Yet no matter how particular they are with their menu choices, the right food in the right quantity is always in the bags. And I appreciate it. Those of you who are parents know the grief that comes with a cheese Whopper with everything that was supposed to be plain.
I don’t have the same level of confidence in my local pharmacy. Although I use it to fill my prescriptions, I think the fact that the pharmacists and technicians there have never screwed up my order is more a matter of luck than skill. When you can ring up an antibiotic and a frozen pizza at the same register, it makes me a little suspect.
A number of recent reports and research articles suggest that medication errors—whether at the pharmacy, physician’s office or hospital—are more common than most of us believe. For employers who offer prescription drug benefits to their workers, the situation should be of concern. In the best-case scenario, you’re paying for the wrong order. In the worst-case scenario, you’re paying to recruit a replacement for an employee who was injured or died from taking the wrong medication.
Medication errors accounted for a fraction of the adverse health events reported by Minnesota hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers from Oct. 7, 2015, to Oct. 6, 2016, according to a Minnesota Department of Health report on adverse health events in the state (bit.ly/2mbkkiJ). Only 10 of the 336 adverse health events were medication errors, with one resulting in a patient death. That’s an improvement over the previous reporting year, when the state recorded 14 medication errors, with four resulting in a patient’s death (see chart). Employers should incent their employees through benefits in their health plans to use retail pharmacies, physician practices and hospitals that make medication safety a priority and have a demonstrated and transparent record for medication safety. That’s my prescription, and I hope you get my order right.
David Burda (twitter.com/@davidrburda, firstname.lastname@example.org) is editorial director, health care strategies, for MSP-C, where he serves as the chief health care content strategist and health care subject matter expert.
Let’s pretend that a copy of my May column “Mental Health Mindfulness” (bit.ly/2qkPIjm) was magically available to 314 employers last October, and they read it right before they took a survey from Willis Towers Watson. Then, I could take credit for how the employers responded to the survey, which asked them about behavioral health issues in the workplace and how they intend to address the issues. Some 88 percent of the employers said managing the behavioral health of employees is a top priority over the next three years (bit.ly/2qvQ1nC). Specifically:
“Employers are concerned about behavioral health issues because of the impact on costs, employee health and productivity, and workplace safety,” Willis Towers Watson said in a release.