As a physician, it is your job to protect your patients. They come to you asking for help, for a solution to a problem they are experiencing. The worse case scenario would be you advising them to take medication without notifying them of potential drug interactions, and then have them experience a negative reaction because of your oversight.
Your schedule is limited. You are expected to see several patients within each hour. You may even feel rushed at times when meeting with patients. This is not fair to you, or any other physician. You truly do want to give each patient significant time and attention.
But with today’s expectations, this is not always possible. Therefore; the time you spend with patients must be structured in a way to provide proper care, answer questions, and ensure patients are aware of potential hazards such as drug interactions.
In doing so, you are protecting your patients from medication errors and interactions, and your practice from liability or malpractice suits.
There are several things you can do to further ensure your patients are informed of drug interactions.
Teach Patients What Cause Drug Interactions
Adverse reactions can happen for many reasons and it is important you notify your patients about all of them. Teach you patients that even their genetic disposition can cause a drug interaction. It’s true, the genes a patient was born with could react negatively to certain chemical formulas.
Other causes of drug interactions includes incomplete labeling, as well as how honest your patients is when discussing their health with you. Your patients need to understand just how essential it is for them to tell you the truth when it comes to their medication compliance, non-compliance, and side effects they may be experiencing.
Another cause for drug interactions can be when two drugs provide similar effects. For instance, aspirin taken with blood thinners, because they both thin blood and could thin your patient’s blood to a dangerous level.
Just the opposite is true also. Taking antacids can often neutralize the effects of some medicines. Therefore; if you take an important medicine at the same time you take an antacid, you may not receive any of the positive benefits of the medicine prescribed.
Other substances can interfere with prescribed medication. Any type of alcohol, while taking medication, can create a negative reaction. There are even some vitamins and minerals that should not be taken alongside certain medications.
Communicate with Patient’s Entire Healthcare Team
You may not your patient’s only doctor. That’s why it is important for you to advise your patients to communicate with each of their care professionals about the drugs they are taking. Even better, ask permission from your patient to allow you to communicate with their other healthcare professionals.
Together, you can begin to treat the whole patient properly because you will have all the necessary information to help you treat their health issues.
Use Interaction Checkers
There are many apps and online websites that provide tools your patients, and you, can use to determine if there are or have been interactions between drugs you prescribe.
Your patient simply must enter or scan in their medication information and the tool will search for potential interactions.
Drugs.com has one such tool. When teaching patients about these tools, make sure you tell them to include any vitamins, minerals, herbs or over-the-counter supplements also, as these can also create an adverse reaction.
Educate Patients on Their Medication
You should never prescribe a medicine to a patient without educating them on that medicine. It is your duty to talk to the patient about what their medication will look like. You do this, so they will not confuse similar looking medicines, and accidentally mistake one for the other.
Your patients need to be told the right time of day to take the medicine you prescribe. A drug that can give a person energy doesn’t need to be taken before bed. Your patients will not automatically know this. You need to teach them.
You can also teach them the correct route to take the medication. Just telling someone to take it orally is not acceptable anymore. You must inform patients that orally means to swallow the whole pill with water. Otherwise, they may crush their pills and ingest them the easiest way they find. Crushing pills can make medicine ineffective, especially if the drug is a time released variety.
It’s also important to discuss the dose you prescribe and why you are prescribing that amount, teach patients what you hope to accomplish with that dose and what you plan to do if the dose is ineffective.
There is one method of prescribing that encompasses all of these and is best in helping keep patients informed of drug interactions, with the use of in-office dispensing.
Dispense Medicine at the Point of Care
When you become the physician and the pharmacist, your patient benefits the most. Dispensing at the point of care gives you the most control over your patient’s medicines and gives you more direct information on if your patients are compliant.
Prepackaged medicine is used with in-office dispensing. This means your patient’s medicine has passed through several quality control and safety checkpoints. It has clear instructions on the labels helping patients know when to take each pill. Prepackaged medicine provides safety that helps patients prevent overdosing, under-dosing, and even temperature degradation.
Best of all, in-office dispensing comes with software technology that easily tracks patient compliance with medication, refill data, potential interactions, and can print informational materials you can review with your patients.
Finally, encourage your patients to become actively involved in their own healthcare. Meaning, help them see the benefit in taking the steps to stay informed about the medicines they take, document any symptoms they have, and who to contact if they feel they are having a drug interaction.
Ultimately, it is up to your patient to follow through with their treatment plan. However, the more you can keep them informed, the more likely your patients will experience better health outcomes.