You may have seen the commercial on television about the brand-new power drug that can cure a common problem. You most likely see the fine print that runs across the screen reporting guidelines and warning. And then you hear it, the long list of side effects, sometimes including death.

These commercials are enough to scare anyone away from trying a potential life-saving medication. But you have a duty to warn patients of the side effects.

Physicians may fear telling patients about potential negative reactions of their medications. You may fear that your patient will choose not to take the medicine to avoid any risks. But the major risk lies with you if you do not warn them, leaving you liable if something does go wrong and they were not warned.

Over time, many have discovered a right way and a wrong way to warn patients about the side effects of medications. And it is not just to blurt them out during your short visit with the patient. Keep reading to find out proper ways to inform patients about potential side effects.


Make Pharmaceutical Companies Give You A Complete Picture

When you are visited by a pharmaceutical representative at your office, there is limited time to discuss the minor details of the medicine they are promoting. You may have a quick bite to eat, an introductory session and given some written materials.

Potential side effects and negative reactions is not something a pharmaceutical representative wants to talk about with you in this short time. They don’t want to scare you off from using the drugs from their company. But this is the exact information you need to know to provide ethical and quality services to your patients.

When you meet with a pharmaceutical representative, ask them for all research and studies that provide evidence of side effects and errors. The more you know, the safer your patients.


Skip the Pharmacist

Pharmacies make critical errors every day. Many more than you would make if you were dispensing in-office.

Pharmacists are busy, and they rarely take time to provide education to patients. When they do, it is usually on how to take the medication. Explaining potential side effects and negative reactions to medicine is not something they make a priority.

In-office dispensing allows you to have more control of the information your patients receive.


Give Oral and Written Education on Medication

Education makes your patients smarter. It makes them responsible for their own care and allows you to hold them accountable. Providing education is simple. Verbally, you can communicate side effect information during the office visit. Or, your staff can verbalize potential warnings during the checkout process.

You or your staff can also provide them with written materials regarding side effects of their medication. Many software program technologies make gathering this information easy. All you must do is hit the print button.

You can provide patients with why they are taking the medication, what side effects are normal and which ones are not, and what to do in case of a negative reaction.


Build a Good Relationship with Patients

If you do not take the time to get to know your patients, they will not trust you. This can result in patients not adhering to medications. It can also mean they avoid telling you about side effects. Why? Because they don’t feel you truly care.

Building a good relationship with your patients means you listen to them, really listen to them. Try to understand their situation. Make them feel valued. After all, without them you would not have a practice at all.

You may think your patients will follow your rules simply because you tell them to. In addition, patients will not their heads as if they understand your instructions, when many times they do not. It is up to you to dig deeper, get to know them well enough that you can tell if they truly understand.

Also, showing respect for your patient’s thoughts and feelings will make them trust you enough to disclose all information, not just a snapshot.

Below are more tips for physicians who are struggling with providing side effect information to patients.


Tips for Physicians

As a physician, there are things you can do to make sure you don’t scare patients when talking to them about medication side effects. The first way is to gain knowledge. Stay on top of all FDA warnings and recalls.

Be aware of prescription drug manufacturer product disclosures and warnings. Do your research on the drugs you prescribe, don’t make guesses. One wrong guess could mean a misinformed patient and that can lead to them experiencing preventable reactions.

Look for research studies to back up the claims about side effects. This allows you to ease patient’s worries by explaining to them the numbers associated with the reactions, many of which are lower.

Require that patients provide a list of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs being taken. If you do not know all the medications they are taking, you cannot properly assess potential side effects and interactions.

Instruct patients to read drug labels. Better yet, read or highlight them together. Provide patients with written, simplified dosing instructions.

Date and archive product manufacturer disclosures and warnings. Replace outdated material with the most recent information.

Seek legal or risk management guidance when uncertainty arises. You want to do everything you can to protect your patient and your practice.

Document everything. The more information you provide in a patient’s file the better. You can create a checklist showing everything you discussed with your patient regarding their medication.

At a minimum, your checklist should cover the following: effects of the drug, side effects, instructions, warnings, future appointments and then double check to make sure they have a clear understanding.

Documentation like this can protect both you and your patient.

By documenting, implementing the above tips, your patients will feel safer, trust your directions, and reap the reward of better overall health.