A literature review of human factors and ergonomics within the pharmacy dispensing process

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

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Within healthcare, Human Factors explores the fit between people and their working environment to improve safety, performance and wellbeing. The pharmacy setting is an area of particular interest considering the high-risk nature of the work activities in relation to dispensing errors. Internationally, the pharmacy setting is experiencing significant workforce changes, including the introduction of pharmacy technicians performing accuracy checks, and the adoption of novel technologies such as automated dispensing.
A literature review was conducted to identify studies which have explored the pharmacy dispensing process from a Human Factors perspective.
The databases Medline, EMBASE and PsycINFO were searched on the 27th of November 2018. All study designs were eligible for inclusion from community and hospital settings. Key study findings were extracted and reported using a descriptive narrative synthesis method.
Thirty-two studies were identified, with most published from 2010 onwards. The review identified that a myriad of aspects influence safety within the dispensing process; that the dispensing process is complex in nature and can be depicted in many different ways; and lastly, that deviations from intended practice appear commonplace. Most studies used two or more data collection sources, and various theories, models and frameworks were applied. Although the focus of all studies was within the wider domain of Human Factors, 14 studies did not explicitly refer to a Human Factors approach within the manuscript.
The complexity of the pharmacy dispensing setting suggests that adopting a Human Factors approach to explore this context is appropriate. Future Human Factors research should explore the implementation of new technology and services and focus on obtaining empirical evidence that adopting a Human Factors approach improves safety and/or efficiency within pharmacy practice. Clear guidance on how to apply the range of Human Factors approaches would help support such research and facilitate the development of sound theory.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalResearch in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Early online date12 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Aug 2019


  • medication safety
  • workflow
  • risk
  • patient safety
  • socio-technical systems
  • healthcare technology


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