News & Events

Pharmacists can help keep meds straight

November 14, 2016

Dustin Carneal

Keeping medications straight can be a daunting task, but patients often don't realize that there is plenty of help available to sort through the confusion.

Even with vast improvements in electronic health records, there is still a possibility that the electronic records and the prescriptions from physicians may not match. As a result, health care facilities like Alliance Community Hospital have implemented clinical pharmacists in key patient care areas.

Clinical pharmacists are often doctoral level, residency trained, heath care providers completing seven to eight years of training. Clinical pharmacists help patients get the most out of their medications and help them sort through their medication lists.

They also help patients and physicians understand their medications and determine the best medication regimen for maximum effectiveness while reducing costs and side effects.

One such clinical pharmacist at Alliance Community Hospital is Dustin Carneal. According to Carneal, many patients have a primary care physician as well as several medical specialists, almost all of whom issue prescriptions.

"With a large number of prescriptions from different sources, it is not uncommon for patients to get confused. We have to intervene and sort out the most accurate medication list for patients, "Carneal said. "In fact, studies have shown that miscommunication and confusion can lead to inconsistencies from what the patient actually takes and prescription orders by 30 to 70 percent."

He encourages patients at Alliance Community Hospital to contact a pharmacist to help them make the right decisions regarding their medications.

Record-keeping is an important part of taking the right medications and below are some recommendations to help keep a medication list up-to-date:

1. Use one pharmacy: If you are able to fill all of your medications at one pharmacy the pharmacist will be the "keeper" of your most accurate list even if all of your medications may be prescribed by more than one physician. List this pharmacy and phone number on your medication list.

2. Ask your pharmacist: Your personal pharmacist knows your medications the best. Pharmacists are trained in medication therapy management, a process by which all medications can be reviewed for drug interactions, side effects, and cost reduction. Ask your pharmacist if you can schedule a comprehensive medication review, which may be covered by your insurance.

3. Put it in writing: During this comprehensive medication review the pharmacist will help you create a medication action plan to help you write down and understand your medication and help you express medication-related concerns to your physicians. If you are unable to schedule a meeting with your pharmacist ask a family member to help you write down all of your medications, then have it reviewed by your pharmacist.

4. Medication name: Medications names are often unfamiliar and can be confusing. Some medications come in different formulations, for example, the medication metoprolol comes in two formulations. Subtle differences such as, metoprolol tartrate and metoprolol succinate can make big differences on how the medication affects the body. This difference can also affect decision making by a physician.

5. Vitamins count: Be sure to also include over the counter medications, inhalers, vitamins, herbals and nutritional supplements on your medication list as they may interact with prescription medications.

6. Dose and Directions: The medication dose is often listed as mg or mcg on the bottle and your directions will list the number of tablets and time of day you take the medication. However, some medications like insulin may have complex directions which may change frequently. When these changes occur be sure to update your list accordingly.

7. Reason for taking: Make sure you know what each medication is for as some medications have multiple purposes. If you are unsure, ask your pharmacist or physician what the medication is for. This can help you understand your medication therapy better.

8. Date it: Medication changes can occur very often; be sure to place a date on your medication list so the health care provider at the office or hospital can ask if any changes have occurred since the last time you updated your personal medication list.

9. Medication allergies: To prevent a recurrent adverse event it is essential to know if you have had any abnormal reactions to medications. This can change decision making by a physician. Ask your pharmacist or physician if a previous reaction should be listed on your medication list as an allergy.

10. Have it: Ensure the medication list will fit in your wallet or purse in case of an emergency.

11. Bring them: When in doubt bring all of your medication bottles, inhalers, vitamins, herbals and even over the counter medications to the hospital in an emergency.

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