Case Study 1
Statistical Thinking in Healthcare
Professor Dr. Suzanne Page, MAT 510 – Business Statistics, May 1, 2016
In this case study, we will examine the process of filling prescriptions by a pharmacist, his assistant and perhaps other staff members. Currently, the pharmacy has been under scrutiny due to the inaccuracy of prescriptions being filled and numerous customers have complained and lawsuits have been filed against the pharmacy.
We will develop a process map about the prescription filling process in which we will specify some key problems. Next we will use the supplier, input, process steps, output and customer (SIPOC) model and analyze and identify main root causes of the problems. And we will identify the main tools we use along with the data that we will need to collect in order to analyze the process and correct the problem. Finally, we will propose a solution to the on-going problems and suggest a strategy to measure the solution to be certain that it is sustainable.
The Process Map and SIPOC
Let’s first begin by looking at the current process of the pharmacy filling a prescription:
In any process, there is a potential for variations, both common and special, that can cause problems along the way. In this process, there is a potential of inaccurate information being written on the prescription. Another problem is the information may not be getting into the system correctly because the assistant couldn’t read the prescription as written by the doctor. When actually filling the prescriptions, problems arise when assistants aren’t familiar with a particular generic brand of the drug that may be required by the type of insurance although the doctor wrote the brand name of the drug on the prescription.
So looking at the SIPOC model which consists of the Supplier, Inputs, Process, Outputs and Customer (Hoerl, Roger, Snee, 2012) we can further analyze the business process.
Doctors by profession have terrible hand-writing. I haven’t seen a doctor yet to have great handwriting so it behooves the assistant entering the data into the system to be certain and not guess at the type of drug that is written on the prescription. An assistant also may not know the generic form of the brand that is being prescribed and possibly enter the wrong drug. Or, a drug can be spelled and sound similar to another drug. There can be several factors that play into the reason as to why a medication gets incorrectly dispensed. But there’s an old saying of garbage in, garbage out. These are common-cause variations as it is all a part of the normal day to day process. However, if it is found that after correcting these common cause variations, the problem still exists, then another cause variation in the process can be corrected. Meaning, if it is found that the prescriptions were entered correctly and it was on the actual filling or dispensing of the prescriptions incorrectly that is the problem, then other factors creating the problem need to be eliminated.
- Suppliers – The suppliers in this model are the doctors who write the prescriptions.
- Inputs – The inputs are the prescriptions that are being written.
- Process – The process is getting the prescriptions in the system and filling the prescriptions to give to the customers.
- Outputs – The outputs are the medicines or drugs that are being filled by the prescriptions.
- Customers – The customers are the patients that are in need of the drugs the pharmacist or his assistants were responsible to disbursing.
The Tools and Solution
The tools that we’ll be using to determine that exact cause of the problem will be the data collection and knowledge-based tools (Hoerl, Roger, Snee,. 2012) In collecting data, we can determine the number of prescriptions that are being dispensed a day, how long a pharmacist and assistants are working in between breaks, how many distractions in the workplace. And, after sampling and implementing some additional steps in the process, we will ensure that the problems have been resolved.
Ensure correct entry of the prescription and confirm that it is correct and complete. Double-check with the doctor’s office especially if the prescription is illegible or confusing with another drug. Organize the workplace and reduce the distractions when possible. Reduce heave workloads and stress. It is important to be alert and focused so taking regularly scheduled breaks is important. Thoroughly check all prescriptions. After the prescription is dispensed, check it against the written prescription to be certain of its accuracy. And lastly, always provide patient counseling. This last measure can ensure the patient has the right medication and understands the dosage amount etc. (Nair, Kappil, & Woods, 2010)
Hoerl, Roger, Snee, R. D. (2012-04-09). Statistical Thinking: Improving Business Performance, 2nd
Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved
Nair, R. P., Kappil, D., & Woods, T. M. (2010, January 20). The Most Common Medication
Errors by MedicineNet.com – Page 2. Retrieved from
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