Prescription Formularies

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Formulary management is a critical element in the preventing of errors in the dispensing of medications. Proper development of formularies is another link in the flow of a prescription from healthcare worker to patient. These lists of drugs can be simple itemizations, or they can be a compilation of formulas, prescriptions, and recipes for creating medicinal compounds.

Importance of Accurate Formularies

When a clinician prescribes medicine for a patient, this seemingly simple act relies on many elements to ensure the accuracy and safety of that act. If handwritten, the lettering should be legible. Abbreviations for dosage and frequency of medication should be standard and easily deciphered. In addition, formularies provide a safeguard against errors by providing a listing of all medications used by a particular institution or plan.

When an itemization of drugs the healthcare workers have in common is publicized throughout an institution, it reduces errors by eliminating the unfamiliar. All drugs on a formulary can be readily checked with the written prescription for correct name, dosage, labeling, and appropriateness for the specific patient. Familiarity alone can help cut down on misread prescriptions, such as a pharmacist reading Plendil for Isordil because of the physician's handwriting.

As with other aspects of implementing a universal electronic system, standardizing formularies is hindered by individualized systems used by various health plans. Patients belong to so many different health plans, clinicians who write prescriptions find it all but impossible to use formularies to benefit patients. Nevertheless, electronic prescribing systems can store and use multiple lists of approved medications. A universal, computerized structure would contribute significantly to better prescribing and safer patient care.

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