Improving patient safety in independent pharmacies


Safe processes can differentiate your pharmacy

In brief:

  • Ensuring patient safety is always a top priority for any pharmacy.
  • Leverage resources and assessments to help you identify areas of improvement.
  • Constantly work to improve safety while differentiating in ways that matter to patients.

4 ideas for independent pharmacies

1. Continue to improve the safety you deliver. Share information with patients and their caregivers so they can take medications safely and effectively.


 7 ways independent pharmacies can contribute to patient safety:

  1. Organize your workspace
  2. Manage workflow
  3. Use technology well
  4. Flag sound-alike and look-alike medications
  5. Check multiple times
  6. Verify oral instructions
  7. Know common mistakes


These tips include organizing your workspace with safety in mind; managing your workflow, which includes adequate staffing for busy periods; using technology to create appropriate alerts; having multiple “check steps” in your process; and more.

2. Adopt med sync and enroll as many patients as possible. Consistent safety comes from consistent processes. Med sync involves filling prescriptions in an organized, consistent way each month and enables staff to fill prescriptions in an orderly way, without intense pressure. Med sync enables increasing volume without compromising safety. (See Improve Your Refill Rates and Revenue with Medication Synchronization.)

3. Partner with patients to avoid safety issues. Work with your patients and offer wellness services designed to improve their health and achieve their goals.


Tips to share with patients:

  • Talk to the pharmacist. Encourage patients to ask questions to make sure they know what medication they are taking, why they are taking it and any side effects. Use these interactions for education and adherence coaching.
  • Open the bag. Suggest that patients look in their bag to make sure they are getting the right medication.
  • Look at the pills. Patients who get refills often recognize their pills and can note if something looks different.
  • Read the instructions. Encourage patients to read the information that comes with their prescription to make sure the drug matches the ailment being treated.


4. Constantly differentiate. Keep in mind that customers care about a pharmacy’s safety, accuracy and knowledge. Continue to reinforce and build on these advantages in creating loyal customers.


What Consumer Reports says1

According to a Consumer Reports survey of 78,000 CR members, independent pharmacies earned high scores on measures such as courtesy, helpfulness, speed of checkout and filling prescriptions as well as pharmacists’ knowledge and accuracy.

Earning the lowest scores: large national chain pharmacies.

Source: Consumer Reports 2018, “Consumers Still Prefer Independent Pharmacies, CR’s Ratings Show”

Resources for success

Implementing safe processes and building trust with patients can make a positive impact on patient safety. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) is the only 501c (3) nonprofit organization devoted entirely to preventing medication errors. Leverage their complimentary resources to help improve patient safety.

  • Reference the guidelines for safe use of technology, specific high-alert medications, and treating high-risk patient populations.
  • Take advantage of the Medication Safety Self Assessments® to help you identify safety risks, create an action plan for improvement and track your progress.
  • Prevent future medication errors by learning from the past. This ISMP webinar outlines the top medication errors reported in 2019 with suggested prevention and mitigation strategies.
  • For additional best practices and action plan workbooks, visit

1Consumers Still Prefer Independent Pharmacies, CR’s Ratings Show,” Lisa L. Gill, Consumer Reports, December 7, 2018.