Virtual Verification’s Impact on Patient Safety

Mitch Larson | October 13, 2021

Virtual Verification, an innovative prescription verification process which untethers the pharmacist from the physical handling of products, has become a more common practice in the pharmacy world and a topic of interest for pharmacy professionals across the country. Virtual Verification provides several benefits to pharmacies; it increases efficiency, maximizes pharmacists’ time to perform clinical activities, and increases organization. But the main goal of Virtual Verification is to improve safety and accuracy of filling and verifying prescriptions

Of course, patient safety is a main topic of discussion for any new innovations that modify the traditional pharmacy workflow. Ultimately, no matter how beneficial a new innovation might be to workflow efficiency or pharmacy profitability, it’s all a moot point if it poses any threat to patient safety.

If you’re unfamiliar with Virtual Verification, I recommend checking out our recent article “What is Virtual Verification?” as it will provide you with an overview of the practice. Otherwise, reading this article first would be like watching Toy Story 2 without having watched the original. What kind of monster would do such a thing? (Probably someone like this.)

Let’s walk through the ways in which Virtual Verification impacts the accuracy of the prescription fill process, as well as patient safety, in the points below:

1. Safety is Built into the Virtual Verification Process

Virtual Verification maintains the scope of practice for both the pharmacist and technician and enables the pharmacist to perform the same level of detailed verification, while adding in additional safety checks. 

The technician initiates the prescription fill process by scanning the NDC barcode. They then capture high resolution images of the tablets, the bottle (with lot number and expiration date), and prescription vial with the accompanying label. The Virtual Verification software integrates with the pharmacy management system to share relevant prescription and patient information.

It’s at this point that the technician hits a hard stop in the virtual workflow. They are unable to dispense the prescription to the patient until the pharmacist completes the review and approval in their queue, which requires a pharmacist’s login credentials to access.

The pharmacist accesses the verification queue within the software to review all of the images of the fill, as well as the full patient profile. This gives the pharmacist a comprehensive view of all the pertinent information they need to verify a prescription. 

Virtual Verification does not reduce the amount that the pharmacist has to review - they are still performing a comprehensive verification process, and the built in processes ensure patient safety.

2. Virtual Verification Retains an Audit Log with Images for Future Review

Another way Virtual Verification differs from the traditional verification process is that a full audit log is retained in the system of all the steps in the fulfillment process. The audit log maintains a record of each image and every action taken on a given prescription. This leads to a higher level of quality assurance and improvement for the pharmacy staff, as any prescriptions can be searched in the system and their details and images can be reviewed.

If an error is made, it is now simple for a pharmacist to search the system and identify the error (potentially in the images the technician captured), discover who made the error, and take action to correct the error. The prescription record contains all the pertinent information carried over from the PMS, with the addition of high quality images, which is an added layer of transparency not available in the traditional verification process. 

Virtual Verification gives the pharmacist a more thorough knowledge of what is being processed in the pharmacy and ultimately dispensed to patients, and also aids in the continual improvement of processes to reduce errors over time.

3. Virtual Verification Streamlines Workflow and Reduces Multitasking

The clunky, disorganized traditional verification workflow is in dire need of change.

With technicians getting interrupted mid-workflow, and pharmacists trying to juggle their patient-facing duties with no reprieve of the behind the counter duties they have to perform, you’re left with a staff full of half-focused multitaskers, and that is absolutely not ideal. A recent study testing the efficiency of pharmacy students who were multitasking versus not multitasking showed that subjects took an average of 23% longer to complete a task when multitasking. Additionally, the non-multitasking subjects scored 26% better on the prescription-checking task.

If you need further evidence of the problems with this style of working, go ahead and google “effects of multitasking” and see if anything positive comes up. The search results are full of headlines saying things to the effect of “Why Multitasking Doesn’t Work,” or “Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Career,” or “10 Risks of Multitasking to Mind and Body.” 

As you saw in the first article, Virtual Verification has a huge impact on organization and clutter-reduction in the back of the pharmacy.

Virtual Verification enables the technician to move a single prescription through the entire fill process and then quarantine the prescription in the will-call to await approval from the pharmacist to dispense. This decreases multitasking because the technician can focus on filling one prescription all the way through, eliminates the stacks of baskets awaiting pharmacist verification, and allows the technician to continue filling prescriptions for pharmacist approval without creating bottlenecks. The pharmacist (when available) will pull up the virtual queue of prescriptions awaiting verification, rather than rifling through a stack of baskets and working to get through them as quickly as possible.

When the counter space is tidy and organized, and the workflow is optimized to reduce multitasking, technicians are able to work more efficiently and get prescriptions through the process in a quick and organized manner, while the pharmacists are able to return from their patient-facing interactions to find a clean, clutterless workspace. 

Conclusion

As we said before, there are several benefits of Virtual Verification for a pharmacy business. However, all of those benefits are far less important than ensuring patient safety. 

When the pharmacist feels organized and focused, they’ll be able to take more time to ensure they’re verifying accurately and taking the time necessary to ensure the best possible care for their patients. When the prescription baskets stack, multitasking runs rampant, and pharmacists and technicians frantically fly through the prescriptions to get them finished as quickly as possible, there is a high likelihood that the quality of their work is diminished in the rush. 

The potential dangers of errors made in a pharmacy setting are great, as they could cause major problems for patients. It is incredibly important that pharmacists and technicians are able to fully focus on their roles without the undue pressure to work too quickly.

Virtual Verification makes the process clean, efficient, and ultimately allows all members of the pharmacy staff to take their time with their work, feel less rushed, and ensure optimal safety for the pharmacy patients.

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