According to the American Medical Association, one of the reasons patients don’t take their medication is due to a lack of understanding. This means they are not reaching positive health outcomes because they may not understand the how’s and the why’s of your orders.
A visit to your office can be stressful for some patients. They know their time with you is limited so they prepare by picking what they consider to be the most important questions or statements related to their condition.
Unfortunately, not many of these questions are about their medications, leaving patients confused about their instructions. Here are some facts that may surprise you:
- Many of your patients will blindly follow your instructions regarding medication, even if they notice new negative symptoms.
- Many of your patients do not read the printed materials you give them regarding their medication
- Many of your patients do not how to pronounce the medication you prescribe; much less understand why they need to take it.
- Many of your patients do not know what to do if the medicine you prescribe causes a negative interaction.
- Many of your patients do not understand how taking their medication can improve their health.
- Many of your patients will stop taking their medications if they have trouble (affordability, pharmacy issues, transportation issues, hard to swallow, etc.).
- Many of your patients are on multiple medications, and the facts above apply to all of them.
Knowing this, you should be motivated to take the extra time to explain medications to your patients. These are not the only consequences that can happen if patients do not understand. Below are just a few more.
Liability and Lawsuits
During a visit with your patient, you tell them to take their medicine three times a day. They don’t write down your instructions and the message on the pill bottle, written by the pharmacist technician, says to take three pills, three times a day.
The patient can’t remember your specific instructions, so they follow those given by the pharmacy. Instead of ingesting three pills a day, they are consuming nine. They experience an overdose that could lead to fatal results.
Guess who may be held liable and sued for malpractice? You.
Taking extra time to discuss the medication in detail with your patient could have prevented this. The patient would have noticed a discrepancy on the pill bottle and called you for verification before taking the first dose.
This is just one example of a medication error that can cause harm to your patient.
Prevent Medication Errors
Medication errors are becoming more common. Pharmacists and technicians are making considerable errors including mistaking a pink-colored blood pressure pill for a pink-colored allergy medicine. The patient gets the wrong medicine and their health suffers.
Without perfect pill separation in packaging, patients can get similar pills mixed up too.
Other medicine errors can include cross-contamination, dosage typos, giving the right medicine to the wrong patient or mixing up doctor orders with patients who have similar names.
These errors happen daily, but they don’t have to if you give your patients better service.
Gives Patients Power
The more you know, the better. This is true for patients understanding their medications too. The more knowledge they have about their medication, the better decisions they will make. If they know that if they suddenly stop taking medication, it can cause adverse reactions, they may choose to continue following your instructions.
If patients know the exact benefits of taking their medicine, they may be more likely to follow through with the treatment plan.
Most importantly, providing the most education to patients gives them more power and control over their health. The more invested they become in improving their health, the more success you will see. In the end, improving patient health is the goal of both you and your patients.
Improve Patient Health
If you prescribe a blood pressure medicine to treat high blood pressure in your patient, don’t just prescribe it and send the patient home. They may or may not take it, they may take it sporadically, they may take it at the wrong time of day or mix it with other drugs that can cause problems.
None of these will improve patient health.
However, if you prescribe the medication, explain why you chose that specific medication. Tell them how the medicine will improve their blood pressure. Tell them what effects to notice and how long until they appear.
Explain to your patients what side effects are normal and which ones are abnormal. Instruct them on what to do if they have negative side effects, which ones need emergency room help and which ones need a call to your office.
Explain exactly how the medicine works with your body to lower blood pressure. Explain what can happen if they do not take their medicine.
Having all this knowledge helps the patient recognize its importance. They are more likely to take their medicine as prescribed. Both of you will see improved patient health.
Changes You Can Make
There are many things you can do as a physician to better explain medications to your patients. You can create videos of yourself offering detailed information about medicine. You can teach your assistants to become medication educators and each time you prescribe a new medicine, have them meet with the patient.
One of the best ways to ensure patients understand medications is to start dispensing medications at the point of care. Meaning, you become the pharmacist and before they are discharged from your appointment, they have their medication.
This eliminates pharmacy errors and give you more time to meet with the patient. Dispensing programs come with multiple safety and educational benefits for patients, equipping you with better information providing tools to help you empower your patients.
The advantages of an in-office dispensing program lead to convenience for patients, better access to your office staff, easier refill systems, and better prescription monitoring capabilities for you.
All these lead to improved patient health.