Most patients are not educated about their medications or the potential drug interactions that come with them.
They don’t know why they need to take it. They don’t know how to properly take it and they typically have no clue if their medicine will create a negative interaction when taken.
Patients simply trust the instructions given to them by you, their physician. They are not likely to ask questions for a variety of reasons. Some don’t know what questions to ask. Others don’t want to appear dumb, as if they should already know the answer. And still others don’t want to offend you because they know how busy you are and don’t want to interrupt your schedule. They don’t feel their needs are important enough to ask you to stop what you are doing to provide them with education. But that is exactly what you need to do. Educating your patients about their medicines and potential drug interactions can protect both you and the patient from danger.
There are specific things you can do to provide the best education to your patients. Some of these are listed below.
It would be impossible for you to educate your patients about drug interactions if you didn’t learn them first. The more you know, the more you can share.
There are several ways you can educate yourself on medications and their potential interactions.
- You can attend a conference specifically on this topic.
- You can attend an online class that teaches you valuable information on drugs and their interactions.
- You can meet with pharmaceutical representatives personally or via online programs. You can ask them direct questions about the drugs they develop.
- You can also spend time conducting your own research. Review studies that involve the medications you prescribe and analyze the results. Furthermore, take better notes on each of your patients who are prescribed prescription medication.
To take better notes, ask your patients better questions about their experiences when taking their medications. This will give you accurate information to help in creating treatment plans.
Teach Your Patients About Drug Interactions
Your patients believe everything you say. It is rare that patients question your diagnosis. They believe you are the expert in their health. And this is true. You are the expert in their healthcare. So, as the expert, you can teach patients how to better care for themselves, especially when it comes to drug interactions.
Taking a few extra minutes during a patient visit to thoroughly explain medications can be life changing for your patient. When they understand their medications, they are more likely to adhere to their regimen. This means their chances of improved health significantly increase.
Provide Patients with Correct Labels
While not much information can go on a medication’s label, you can still provide important information regarding drug interactions. The more control you have over the label information the better.
With in-office dispensing, you are given the highest authority on what is printed on each label. Providing the prescription to your patients at the point of care allows you to print the label in your office. Before printing, your staff can enter all the information you feel is necessary to keep your patients safe and preventing drug interactions.
Provide Appropriate Printed Information
When a patient gets their medications from a pharmacist, they get a bag with numerous pages of written information stapled to the outside. They are asked quickly by the pharmacy staff if they have questions and sent on their way. At no time is the printed information reviewed or explained to the patients. When the patient gets home the written material often goes in the trash. The patients who do choose to look at the information can feel overwhelmed by the technical, medical terminology, graphs and diagrams.
And what about your patients who cannot read?
You can provide individualized printed educational materials for your patients and any caregivers. You can provide information that explains the drug in relation to their diagnosis, as well as any interactions to watch out for.
Follow-Up with Your Patients
At the time of their office visit, patients may not have questions regarding their medications or possible drug interactions. They feel the pressure you have on you to complete an office visit quickly and move on to the next patient. Therefore, your patients are trying to cram in as much knowledge as they can in the little time they have with you.
And, they don’t know what they don’t know. Meaning, if they haven’t taken their medication yet, they don’t know what new symptoms will arise in the next few days or weeks.
Following up with your patients, either through a phone call, patient web portal, or email gives both you and your patient the opportunity to assess possible reactions from the medication you prescribed. Patients may not even connect their medication to new symptoms. But you can. Instead of waiting months until you see your patient in-office again, you can evaluate their progress and make needed changes early on. This means your patients do not have to experience unnecessary interactions or negative symptoms for a longer period because you followed up with them soon after their appointment. There are software programs, such as those with in-office dispensing, that can help you schedule and complete follow-ups.
In conclusion, you are the one person who can best educate your patients on potential drug interactions. And you have multiple avenues to do so. Don’t utilize just one way. Instead, take every opportunity to teach your patients about their medicine. The benefits of doing so far outweigh the risks of not educating them. Medication errors are on the rise, especially at pharmacies. These errors can lead to malpractice lawsuits and most importantly, prevents you from reaching your goal of improving the health and life of your patients.
Education is one of the best ways to prevent medication errors, especially interactions.
Start with the above listed tips on providing education to patients. You can also get creative and develop specialized education activities that meet the needs of your practice and your patients. It will be a win-win for everyone.