Within the field of health care there is a constant effort to improve the quality and efficiency of your care. New advances and technology have given us the ability to treat patients with an unprecedented level of speed and positive outcomes, and we’re always working to improve upon that. Our patients have come to expect the most rapid and effective possible care, and we do our best to provide it.
There are, however, many things that patients can do to improve the quality and efficiency of their care, including making sure they’re keeping and carrying a record of their medications.
A key part of my job as a pharmacist is ensuring that new medications you’re receiving won’t exacerbate an old problem or create a new one. There are thousands of medications available and consistently used and many of them interact with each other. Before adding to or changing your treatment plan we take precautions to ensure that this change isn’t going to cause a harmful interaction or impact the effectiveness of your current treatment.
However, as a pharmacist who works with patients in the hospital each day I routinely ask people about their medications and learn they don’t know what they’re taking. “My doctor has it on the computer,” they tell me. Technology does open the door for medical professionals to share a lot of information, but accessing those resources takes time and the information we’re able to gather is not always complete or correct.
Tracking down prescription information isn’t always as simple as a few keystrokes. Sometimes we need to talk to someone at a pharmacy or another facility that’s closed for the evening. Sometimes we’ll need to talk to a family member we can’t immediately reach, or who gives us incomplete or inaccurate information. Having complete and up-to-date information readily available helps us get you feeling better faster.
It’s also worth noting that your doctor’s office or pharmacy may not know if you’ve stopped taking a medication or have been experiencing problems with it. Simply put, no one knows what you’re taking and how it impacts your body better than you.
As such, you can take ownership of the situation and help improve the quality of your own care by making sure you’re able to tell us what we need to know. The best way to keep complete and accurate information available is to write down what you’re taking and keep a record with you at all times. Make sure you’re writing down any supplements or over-the-counter medications you may be taking in addition to your prescriptions.
It’s important to remember that this information might be most important at times when you’re not at your best, when you come to us confused or unable to communicate. That’s why having a written record is helpful. We’ll be able to act faster and more efficiently if we know everything we need to know right away.
I’m not asking for you to carry around a binder of information or write it down every time you take a pill. This record could be as simple as a slip of paper you keep in your wallet or purse that tells us what you’re taking and when you take it. Having that information available makes it much easier for us to develop and execute a plan to get you feeling better, and to keep you feeling better after you leave.
Furthermore, keeping records of your own medication can help prevent mistakes. Most of us, for example, keep track of our spending by updating our checkbook and comparing it to bank statements instead of simply relying on the bank to tell us how much money we have. The same principle applies here: by taking ownership of the situation you can help us avoid making a mistake.
As a pharmacist I take pride in helping provide you with the best and most efficient care. By taking this simple step, though, you can help us help you.
Laura Lobner is an Appleton native, Doctor of Pharmacy and Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist. She works as a pharmacist at Appleton Medical Center.