If you don’t tell your patients about potential medication side effects, it is likely they won’t learn about them at all. Unless you are dispensing medication directly to them, it is highly unlikely they will learn anything about their medicine from the pharmacist.

When patients pick up their medicine at the pharmacy, they are asked if they have any questions. Unfortunately, your patients do not know what questions to ask. They do know to ask if there are side effects.

Even those who do know to ask about medication side effects refuse to do so because they often feel guilty about holding up the line behind them. They know how it feels to wait and wait to get their medicine, so they claim to understand their prescription.

In addition, they can see the pharmacist working diligently behind the counter, trying to keep up with orders. They don’t want to distract the pharmacist from his or her duties.

It is this type of situation that causes uneducated patients to suffer side effects and not know how to respond. Too many times, those suffering with side effects will simply quit taking their medications, causing their health to decline.

It is up to you to advise your patients about the side effects of their medications. Doing so can provide many benefits, as listed below.


Prevents Liability Lawsuits

When a patient develops a new symptom after starting a drug, it is usually the drug’s fault. However, patients will blame you.

Medical malpractice lawsuits happen every day, even when the physician has a great reputation. There are eager people who want to file negligence claims against physicians, even when the doctor has done everything right.

To avoid any liability such as this, make sure you cover all your bases. This means educating patients on all the potential dangers of the prescription they are taking. Teach them how to avoid negative interactions.

Make them aware of normal side effects and side effects that need to be addressed by emergency personnel. For example, some side effects include mild headaches that subside once the patient’s body has adapted to the medication.

Other medication side effects, such as heart palpitations or passing out need to be addressed immediately, by emergency personnel, to avoid any potential fatalities.

Because most patients are prescribed multiple medications, you can educate them on potential interactions. Not all the medications they take will be prescribed by you. But it is just as important for you to be aware of all their medications and how they work, or don’t work, with one another.

What happens to your patients after following your treatment orders, will reflect on you. Educating them on side effects can prevent many negative reactions for them, and potential lawsuits for you.


Helps Patients Feel in Control

Patients often feel out of control of their physical and mental illnesses. They feel no matter what they try, their symptoms do not get better. This can be due to them experiencing side effects of their medicine.

They follow your orders, they do everything you tell them to do, yet they begin having new symptoms that are unpleasant. Unless you educate them, patients will feel like they are failing at improving their situation.

You can help them feel more confident in their own care, helping them take ownership and giving them hope.


Helps Patients Remain Compliant

When a patient begins taking a drug, and suddenly develops new negative symptoms, they are not likely to remain compliant.

Common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, headaches, blurred vision, dry mouth and even pain.

If a patient starts feeling worse after taking a medication, even if these symptoms will be temporary, they will do what it takes to feel better. That may mean they quit taking the much-needed medication you prescribed.

This can be dangerous for patients because they are no longer receiving the help they need to improve their health.

However, if they are educated and aware of possible side effects associated with their medication, they are likely to continue their medication. They are not surprised by new symptoms. They remain compliant and over time, side effects subside, and their health outcomes improve.


Helps Patients Avoid Withdrawal Symptoms

Patients stop taking their medication for many reasons, one of them being the side effects associated with the medicine. Patients are not aware that by stopping medication abruptly can create negative withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the best medications in the world, ones that save lives daily, can have negative withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range from mild stomach cramps to nausea and vomiting. Other withdrawal symptoms can include:

    • Anxiety
    • Panic
    • Blood pressure changes
    • Even nerve problems

Withdrawal symptoms can be frightening for patients. To avoid this problem, educate patients on potential medication side effects. When they know what to expect on the front end, they will be less likely to just stop taking medication prescribed. Therefore, they will avoid negative withdrawal symptoms.


The Best Way to Advise Patients About Side Effects

The single most effective process of advising patients about the side effects of their medication is when you provide point of care dispensing. This is because you are the one handing them their medication.

With this personal in-office exchange, you have the perfect opportunity to explain the side effects of that medicine, on the spot. Your patients will no longer have to hope the pharmacist will explain it to them. They will no longer be expected to read the brochures provided by the pharmacy, most of which are written in medical terminology hard to understand.

Prepackaged medicines used in point of care dispensing provide easy to read instructions, side effects, and interactions. They help you take control of the prescription care of your patients. They give you the opportunity to document all the education you have provided to your patients, providing evidence that you have done your part in teaching about side effects.

Taking the time to advise patients on side effects provides you protection and peace of mind, knowing you have given the best patient care.