VALLEY FORGE, Penn. -- Twenty-three percent of
Americans -- or nearly one in four -- say they or a family member have
received the wrong medication at some point from a healthcare professional,
according to the latest AmerisourceBergen Index released today.
The quarterly telephone survey was conducted January 23-26, 2003 by
Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of AmerisourceBergen, the largest
pharmaceutical services company in the United States dedicated solely to the
pharmaceutical supply channel. The margin of error is plus or minus three
The survey of 1,033 adults nationwide explored a variety of issues related
to patient safety, including the best ways to prevent medication errors,
safety hazards in hospitals, and the priority hospitals place on patient
Reducing medication errors was a key topic addressed by the
AmerisourceBergen Index. One way to reduce these errors is through barcode
scanning systems, which scan medications and patient identification bracelets
at hospital bedsides to verify patients are receiving the correct medications.
Seventy-five percent of respondents said they favored the use of barcode
technologies as a way to reduce medication errors. This technology garnered
even more support from 18-34-year-olds, with 82 percent in this age group
saying the government should require drug manufacturers and companies that
repackage drugs to put barcodes on all prescription medications.
In a related question, barcode scanning of medications came in second out
of a list of five ways to increase medication-dispensing accuracy. Twenty-
four percent of all respondents selected this choice. Interest was even
higher among 45-to-54-year-olds, with 32 percent of these respondents choosing
First place went to requiring doctors to use computers to issue
prescriptions instead of writing them by hand. This was selected by 32 percent
of all respondents. Greater use of automated technologies to count pills and
check prescriptions before they are dispensed placed third, with 17 percent of
respondents picking this. At the bottom of the list were "more pharmacists"
(11 percent) and "more pharmacy technicians" (8 percent).
However, when respondents were asked whether the government should provide
low-interest loans to pharmacy students to address the current pharmacist
shortage and encourage more people to enter the field, 83 percent of those
surveyed said yes. Only 15 percent said no.
Despite concerns over patient safety, 93 percent of respondents said they
believed hospitals placed a priority on reducing medication errors and medical
mistakes, although they expressed this opinion to varying degrees. Thirty-
three percent said they thought hospitals viewed this as "a top priority,"
while 41 percent said it was important, but not a top priority. Eighteen
percent said hospitals considered this "somewhat important." However, only
five percent said hospitals did not consider it important to reduce medical or
With regard to other solutions for ensuring greater patient safety, 80
percent of respondents said they thought the healthcare industry would benefit
from the adoption of uniform safety protocols prior to administering
medication or performing a medical procedure, such as a checklist or other
measures. When asked why they thought uniform safety procedures had not yet
been adopted, 47 percent cited cost. Twenty-one percent said it was
disagreement over how to accomplish this goal, while 15 percent attributed it
to a resistance to change. Only 10 percent selected physician independence as
The current nursing shortage was perceived to be the most serious safety
hazard facing hospital patients today, according to 32 percent of those
surveyed. This was followed by residents and interns who work long hours
without sleep (27 percent), the risk of getting an infection while
hospitalized (22 percent), and the risk of a medical mistake or medication
error (15 percent).
AmerisourceBergen is a leading distributor of pharmaceutical products and services
to the hospital systems/acute care market, physician's offices, alternate care
and mail order facilities, independent community pharmacies, and regional