Pharmacy Claims Report Shows 100% Cost Increase
By Greg Freeman
The cost of defending complaints against pharmacists accused of misconduct has increased more than 100% in the past 10 years, according to a recent report.1
The report from Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) revealed the average defense payment for license defense matters is $7,650, a 43% increase compared to 2018 and a 107.6% increase compared to 2013.
The top pharmacist licensure complaints involved allegations related to professional conduct and medication management. These represented 70.4% of all license defense matters.
For malpractice claims involving a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, the average total incurred amount rose to $136,000. That is an increase of almost 3% since 2018.
Most pharmacist professional liability claims alleged that the wrong drug was dispensed. Death occurred in more than 12% of the claims. Claims involving compounding pharmacies incurred some of the highest expenses, with an average total incurred of $438,221.
Wrong dose and wrong medication errors made up a large portion of the claims, says Jennifer Flynn, CPHRM, risk manager with Nurses Service Organization.
“Top of the list is wrong drugs dispensed. That happens in about 41% of the cases that we saw. Wrong dose is the next top area at about 22%,” Flynn explains. “Just those two allegation categories combined are about 63% of all the claims that we see. Wrong dose was especially concerning because not only did we see the total cases of wrong dose increase — about 46% — but we saw the average total incurred increase as well. In our previous report, we were paying out to manage, defend, and resolve these claims just about $49,000, but that has jumped up to $72,000 in our most recent report.”
The use of technology helped prevent errors, but the medication errors could originate at any point during the prescription process, Flynn says. Even if the error did not originate with the pharmacist, it could lead to allegations against the pharmacist, such as a failure to check for adverse interaction with the patient’s current medications, or a failure to identify errors that are associated with either allergies or were contraindicated.
Human Error Plays Role
Wrong dose errors were mainly driven by either the wrong strength being dispensed, or a correct strength being dispensed but an erroneous patient instruction that resulted in the patient taking an incorrect dosage, Flynn says. Wrong dose errors mostly were associated with human error and environmental factors.
“Understaffing played a big part in some of these cases with distractions in the pharmacy when the pharmacist is putting together the patient’s medications. We also saw there were failures on the part of the pharmacist where they misinterpreted a prescription in some way,” Flynn explains. “Or they selected the wrong medication from the computer’s drop-down listing, or even some cases where they pulled the wrong strength from the shelf directly. When the pharmacy didn’t have policies and procedures, or the pharmacist was distracted and made some of those errors, they became difficult to defend.”
- Healthcare Providers Service Organization. Pharmacist Professional Liability Exposure Claim Report: 3rd Edition. 2023.
- Jennifer Flynn, CPHRM, Risk Manager, Nurses Service Organization, Fort Washington, PA. Phone: (215) 773-4513. Email: [email protected].
The cost of defending complaints against pharmacists accused of misconduct has increased more than 100% in the past 10 years, according to a recent report.
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