By Dr. Kristen Hollist, Pharrm D, Cph
SOUTH FLORIDA – Over half of the US population takes prescription medications, with an average of 4 prescriptions taken by American adults. Advancements in healthcare have resulted in major improvements for many people with different diseases. However with these advancements comes increasing use of medications and brings forth riskier consequences.
Medication-related problems and medication mismanagement are a major public health problem in the U.S. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 1.3 million people went to the Emergency Room due to adverse effects in 2014 and about 124,000 died from those events. An estimated $200 billion per year is spent in the US towards medication related morbidity and mortality. Many experts suggest that up to half of those events were preventable.
What can we do to reduce medication errors and associated adverse events?
Improving prescription safety across the U.S. will involve the entire healthcare sector, government institutions and communities to shift the culture views on prescription’s usage.
Several organizations have already implemented systems to reduce medication errors, promote medication adherence and improve the overall safety of patients.
Several clinical offices are following medication safety best practices. These practices may include updating the patient’s health history every visit, making thorough therapeutic decisions, prescribing clear instructions, counseling patients and many more processes.
Pharmacists, the medication experts, are increasingly evolving their role to provide solutions that minimize risk to patients and help them reach their best health outcomes.
Pharmacists may provide Medication Therapy Management, a personalized consultation that optimizes therapeutic outcomes through evaluating the safety, appropriateness and efficacy of medication treatment plans.
In addition, they provide medication counseling, suggest cost saving medication alternatives and can offer first line healthcare professional advice.
Safe medication use is a shared responsibility between you, your doctor, the pharmacist, and other healthcare providers. Therefore it is very important that patients/caregivers take a proactive approach with managing their health. This will help significantly to reduce medication errors and help improve patient outcomes. Here are some tips on how to be an expert at managing your medication therapy.
Medication Safety Tips
- KNOW YOUR MEDICINE
Know what you’re putting inside of your body, especially medications. You should have a basic knowledge on what medications you’re taking and their purpose. This will help you to communicate easier with your healthcare team. This will also help you to make more informed decisions related to your health.
- KEEP A LIST
Keep a current list of your medications that details your medication’s name, strength, dosing frequency, precautions, drug allergies and any other significant details. Make sure the list includes over-the-counter drugs, herbal medications, and supplements. Bring this list to your medical appointments, pharmacy and any emergency room visits. This will help your providers adjust your medications and identify potential interactions.
- TAKE YOUR MEDICINE
Taking your medication as prescribed can help reduce future chronic disease related complications and hospitalizations. There are many medications that you may feel like they aren’t making any difference, however the medicines may be indicated for prevention and/or maintenance. Always follow your physicians and/or medications’ directions on how and when to take the medication. This also includes precautions, such as avoid alcohol or take with food. This will help ensure that your medication therapy is safe and effective.
- GET ORGANIZED AND SET A ROUTINE
It can be challenging to keep up with taking your medications on a daily basis, especially if you’re taking 4 or more. Analyze your daily routine and figure out the easiest way for you to remember to take your medicines. Use pill organizers, phone reminders and medication phone apps to help you manage your medications. Plan ahead by refilling your medications at least one to two weeks earlier and pay attention to your remaining refills.
- USE ONE PHARMACY
Sticking to one pharmacy has shown to reduce medication errors and improve safety. However, there are many people that use multiple pharmacies to save money on prescriptions. Healthcare costs have been rising and more people are using multiple pharmacies to save money on prescriptions. If you are using more than one pharmacy, make sure to provide an updated medication list for them to check for possible interactions.
- KEEP YOUR MEDICATIONS SAFE
Medications can be lifesaving when used appropriately and deadly when used incorrectly. Ensure that your medications are labeled correctly to avoid taking the wrong medication or over dosing. Keep medications stored safely away from children.
- ASK QUESTIONS
Ask to be counseled on all of your medications, especially when you’re starting a new therapy. There is always more to know about your medication than just how many times a day do you take it. Your doctor and pharmacist are valuable resources for drug information. Let your questions help them know what additional information to provide you.
- COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR PROVIDERS
Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have a problem taking the medication for any reason, including cost or side effects. Fortunately, there are many options available. Your providers would be able to explore the best option for you.