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Customer Experience and Design

Medication Management: 3 Important Safety Tips

One of the hot healthcare topics at health plans this year has been medication therapy management. Hopefully, you have had the drill with your primary care physician of listing the medications that you are taking and discussing the impact of one medication on another for you as a patient. Having said that, I have heard some real horror stories lately of senior citizens taking a long list of daily drugs, then being hospitalized and on discharge given a new set of prescriptions. Confused, the senior citizen ends up taking double doses of some dangerous medications like blood thinners, for example. We are all seeking the least expensive co-payment or cash payment for Medication Management: 3 Important Safety Tipsmedications for a chronic condition, sourcing medications from different pharmacies, and no one is looking at the drug interactions. Health plans that see these pharmacy claims are moving rapidly to address the need for a comprehensive review of medications for an insured individual, especially those people taking eight or more medications.

It isn’t well known that some drugs taken for one chronic condition can make another chronic condition worse in the same patient. Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine and Oregon State University have found that 23% of Medicare patients with multiple chronic conditions were taking at least one prescription medication that could adversely affect a co-existing condition. One clear example is the nearly 4 million older Americans that are being treated for high blood pressure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Taking a beta-blocker for hypertension could make your COPD worse. Alternatively, taking the COPD drugs can worsen hypertension. Nearly 3 out of 4 older Americans have two or more chronic health conditions and they are often diagnosed and treated by different doctors.

Here are 3 important tips help improve your medication safety as a patient:

  1. Keep a complete list of your medications with you for visiting with all medical personnel, including your dentist. It is important to list the name of the medication, the dose and how frequently you take it. Your list should include vitamins, supplements and over the counter medications that are used on a regular basis.
  2. Talk to the pharmacist when you get refills about potential drug interactions or side effects using your complete list of medications, especially when taking a new medication for the first time. Maybe keep your medication list in Notepad on your smartphone for convenience.
  3. Talk to your general practitioner or family doctor immediately if you believe you have a drug interaction or side effect from a medication. Use your family doctor to coordinate with your other medical specialists to avoid medication issues. Get one quarterback for the team and stick with them!

One final note, it is important to continue to ask your family doctor if you need to continue on a medication periodically and not assume that you will take a medication indefinitely. It is a healthy conversation to review your medication list and see what can be removed or replaced with a newer, more effective drug, for example. Health plans are working hard to avoid their insured members ending up in the emergency room with medication problems and each of us can do our part to be smarter healthcare consumers.

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Martin Sizemore

Enterprise Architect with specialized skills in Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Consultant and a trusted advisor to Chief Executive Officers, COOs, CIOs and senior managers for global multi-national companies and healthcare organizations. Deep industry experience as a consultant in manufacturing, healthcare and financial services industries. Broad knowledge of IBM hardware and software offerings with numerous certifications and recognitions from IBM including On-Demand Computing and SOA Advisor. Experienced with Microsoft general software products and architecture, including Sharepoint and SQL Server. Deep technical skills in system integration, system and software selection, data architecture, data warehousing and infrastructure design including virtualization.

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