A leading cause of poorer health and high healthcare costs
With nearly two- thirds of Americans taking medication on a regular basis, and seniors taking an average of at least five prescriptions per day, medication therapy has become quite a pill. “Regardless of age, managing medication is one of the largest challenges facing health care today,” explains Joan Carroll, director of transition of care at Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers. “It not only affects the patient’s health and quality of life individually, but also affects healthcare costs for each and every one of us.”
That’s pretty hard to swallow, considering that a majority of the reasons it exists are actually preventable! Medication errors are at the top of the list when it comes to avoidable readmissions to the hospital. Lee Memorial Health System has implemented programs to promote teamwork among patients, their doctors, and pharmacists, to combat the challenges of medication management and reduce the costs of health care.
There are many actions that you can take as well, and here’s what the doctor orders: COMMUNICATE. Talk with your doctor and find out as much as you can about every medication. Ask questions! “Many times, patients alter their dosage or stop taking a prescription altogether because they don’t understand how the medication works or why they need it,” says Carroll. “Sometimes they begin to feel better and think they are cured, but what they don’t realize is that not following a medication regimen correctly can have dire consequences on their health.” READ. Before you begin any medication, read the labels and any accompanying lit- erature. Make sure that the medication treats your condition. Often, the doctor may keep you on the same medication but change the dose. Make sure that you have the medication with the correct dose before taking it. Find out the best time to take it and if you should eat first. Will it affect any other medications that you are taking, including over- the- counter medications? What are the side effects? “Be aware of expiration dates and properly dispose of outdated meds,” advises Carroll. “There is no guarantee of effectiveness, or safety, after a medication has expired.” CREATE A SYSTEM. Forgetfulness is the most common reason for not following drug therapy correctly. Order refills fifteen days in advance and set cell- phone reminders to avoid missing doses. Medication boxes keep pills organized and reduce errors. Carroll’s advice: “Get [ a box] large enough to hold four daily times— morning, noon, evening, and bedtime— while keeping a full week of doses. The best boxes will allow you to remove individual days for travel or work purposes.” To serve as a reminder, keep pill boxes in a place where you will definitely see them. Taking meds at specific times and in a specific way will help to form a good habit and also reduce forgetfulness. MAKE A LIST. Keep a log of all your medications and their dosage with you at all times. “Should an emergency situation occur,” says Carroll, “this list will be a pertinent source of information for responders. It will also be useful at doctor visits to check for possible drug interactions.” TEAMWORK. People need to be active participants in their health care as medical professionals work to be innovative and strive to improve methods of treatment and communication. Medication reconciliation and counseling is one of the many services offered by Lee Memorial Health System’s
Care Transitions program. “Nurses meet with patients prior to discharge and once again after they return home,” Carroll says of the program. “During these visits, they review any concerns, including medication discrepancies, and educate patients on self- care.”
Lee Memorial Health System has also implemented a new records system called
Epic. It allows for seamless data sharing among our healthcare providers and Lee Pharmacy. “It’s a priceless tool that makes it easier for us to work together, and in turn, provide safer care for patients,” Carroll says.
Medication error is the most common safety issue in health care. A commitment to healing is just as much the responsibility of the patient as it is of the professionals who are treating them.
For more information about Lee Memorial Health System, visit online at leememorial. org.