At some point in your life, you may have used medication. Did you stop to think whether that medicine was safe for you? Did you question the choice? Were you asked if you have an allergy? Were you told how to store the medication?
These, among other considerations, are some discussion points that you should have with your pharmacist before taking any medication. This is essential to ensure medication safety. Medication safety is the freedom from preventable harm with medication use.
It is important to involve patients in decisions about their medicine as this increases the probability of medicine being used appropriately. Good communication (with patients and caregivers, and between health and social care practitioners) and good practices when prescribing medicine can give patients a more active role in their treatment and reduce any shortcomings.
A multidisciplinary team of professionals, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, pharmaceutical technologists and specialists, may be involved in prescribing and managing a patient’s medicine. These professionals should have the relevant knowledge and skills to help patients with their medicine. Social workers may also be involved in the care of patients.
Healthcare providers should talk to patients about getting the most from their medicine and explain any necessary support they can be offered to enable them make informed decisions. The patient’s family or caregiver can be involved in helping the sick make decisions as well, with the patient’s approval especially where children and the elderly are involved.
They can have a discussion with their pharmacist about the different treatment options, how the medicine is likely to benefit them, and any anticipated side effects.
Healthcare providers should use the best available evidence when discussing medicine with patients. They should also ask patients what is important to them about managing their condition and their medicine, and consider patient values and preferences when making a decision about treatment.
Healthcare professionals may suggest using patient decision aid tools to help the sick. This tool can be used during an appointment to help patients weigh the risks and benefits of treatment depending on their health, lifestyle and preferences.
More than one appointment may be necessary before a treatment option is selected. A patient should be able to talk about their decision again and be able to change their mind, particularly if health or circumstances change. It is important that healthcare professionals have an up-to-date list of all the medicine patients are taking. This is particularly important if patients are admitted in hospitals, if they are transferred to a different hospital, and when they are discharged.
During transitions of care, it is important that relevant information about patient medicine, and a list of drugs they are taking, is discussed and shared with them, their family members or caregivers. Pharmacy staff through the concept of therapeutic drug monitoring, can facilitate appropriate dose adjustments to ensure optimal treatment outcomes. Hospitals should embrace this concept to promote safe medication use in special populations.
Arwa and Mutungi are clinical pharmacists at Aga Khan University Hospital