Americans often research prescription drugs ahead of time and play an active role when discussing the best treatment options for a wide range of conditions and illnesses, and if something goes awry, fingers typically point to the doctor as the one who should’ve known better.
But how does this need for knowledge actually play out in one’s everyday life, and could more information actually help patients to adhere to their prescription medications or does it only confuse the issue?
A recent study performed at the University of Kent took a close look at the burden of long-term medication use in an effort to understand just how pharmaceuticals impact people on a day to day basis. Professor Janet Krska and her colleagues developed a survey that addressed eight key areas including general concerns about medication, practical difficulties, side effects, and more.
The results were surprising, with 16% of participants stating that they didn’t feel their physicians listened to their concerns and 11% citing their doctor didn’t acknowledge their questions about side effects. While a wealth of data was uncovered, these two factors play into a larger trend at hand – the desire to know more about medication and to have authentic conversations with one’s medical provider.
Other studies note a huge discrepancy between doctor and patient communication, with 75% of physicians believing they provided information to a satisfactory level, and only 21% of those patients feeling as if they were truly heard. When it comes to learning about your options for various types of prescriptions and how they might affect you, an open dialogue is crucial.
It’s one thing to examine the ineffective communication that can sometimes plague our relationships with healthcare providers, but it’s quite another to explore the after effects of what this lack of transparency actually causes. Information at the 2018 International Pharmaceutical Federation Congress shines some interesting light on what really happens after a patient leaves their doctor’s office.
As many as 30% of patients who are diagnosed with a long-term health condition do not begin a new prescription regiment when their doctor first recommends it. Even for diseases like diabetes and hypertension which almost always require pharmaceuticals in order to maintain health and longevity, it becomes far too easy for individuals to simply never fill their initial prescription or find they are too confused or scared to begin.
Bernard Vrijens, an IPFC presenter who is a Professor of Biostatistics at The University of Liége, Belgium, said that one of the main ways to combat this issue comes from the use of prescription and refill databases. While similar technology is used for prescription drug monitoring programs that identify the distribution of controlled substances, perhaps patient compliance could be increased by more than just a tracking system.
How To Get Information
For the time being it seems as if gaining more transparency around your prescription medications is in your own hands, and making sure you communicate with your doctor is key. If you find that you aren’t aware of the side effects of certain drugs or have questions about other options available to you, try utilizing some of the following tips from the National Institutes of Health:
- Take notes about what your doctor says, allowing you to recognize if you’ve missed any crucial information
- Bring a friend or family member with you, as having an additional advocate in the examination room often helps
- Learn how to access and understand your medical records to help improve your own understanding of your care
- Establish a rapport with both your nurse and pharmacist if you need additional sources of information
Not having the details you need about medication side effects can certainly become a deterrent to taking them, yet a number of online resources are available to help you understand your options. Whether it’s an issue of cost, convenience, or the potential for concerning drug interactions, you deserve to have honest answers to your questions and to partner with a physician who addresses your concerns.
If you find that a lack of communication leads to resistance when starting a specific prescription regiment or you simply feel unheard, don’t hesitate to find another physician who wants to work as a team. After all, things have come a long way since the age of house calls and special elixirs, and it’s up to all of us to take an active role in our healthcare.