BOX 4-5

Core Information for Educating Patients About Their Medications

  • Routine evaluation of all medications. Providers should routinely evaluate the need for and effectiveness of all medications a patient is taking, and ensure that the patient understands critical information about the medications.

  • Different treatment options. Providers should discuss with the patient all medication and other treatment options, including the expected benefits and risks of each option, in an objective manner (without overselling treatment benefits).

  • Name and purpose of each prescribed medication. Most patients know the name of a medication they are taking, but fewer know why they are taking it, what type of drug it is (its class), how it works in their body, or how regular and long-term use differ (Raynor et al., 2004).

  • When and how to take the medication. The patient needs to understand the regimen—how much of a medication they should take (dosage), how often (frequency), and with what special instructions (e.g., with food or on an empty stomach). When reviewing the regimen, providers should also review general medication safety practices.

  • Side effects and what to do about them. Patients need to know:

    • About short- and long-term side effects of taking a medication (including the risk of dependency) and how to rely on self-observation to assess these effects.

    • About both minor and more severe effects, how they will affect day-to-day functioning, what to do about them, whom to contact, and when (Caress et al., 2002; Garfield et al., 2004; Raynor et al., 2004).

    • About the rate of occurrence of a side effect (e.g., X percent of patients experience it).

with changes in patients’ health status. They should follow up closely on their patients’ success or difficulties with a medication regimen so as to overcome the barriers to self-management discussed above and facilitate desired health outcomes. And it is essential that primary care providers function as the chief coordinator and record keeper of their patients’ medication regimens from multiple providers.

Hospital providers also serve as important sources of patient education both during inpatient care and at discharge. Research shows that many patients desire more information about their health conditions, treatments, and procedures than they currently receive (Wilson et al., 2002; Scott and Thompson, 2003). During an inpatient stay, however, the extent to which patients want to be educated about their medications may vary according to individual preferences, severity of illness, or other factors. Patients or their surrogates should have access to regular consultations with physicians, nurses, and pharmacists to gain knowledge about the medications involved in the treatment plan. Evidence supports a team approach among these providers as a successful means of improving patient safety, quality of

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