As medication experts and one of the most accessible and most-trusted healthcare professionals, pharmacists are available to help you sort through any confusion or questions you have about your medications, healthcare plan, and disease management. From explaining how to take your medication to providing disease education, your pharmacist can help you maximize your health.
The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) encourages patients to know and understand their roles and responsibilities when it comes to taking medications. Patient rights include the right to information, the right to ask questions, and the right to take part in treatment decisions. Their responsibilities include communicating with their healthcare professionals and doing their part to help the recommended treatment succeed. The relationship between the patient—you—and the pharmacist is a two-way street. It can only be successful when you provide your pharmacist with the most accurate and up-to-date information.
Here are the five most important things to be sure to tell your pharmacist:
1. Personal information. This includes your date of birth, address, and phone number. You want to ensure that the pharmacy team is able to get a hold of you in case there are issues or concerns with your medications. Pharmacists may also need to contact your doctor to discuss your treatment plan or get specifics about your prescription. Once they resolve the issue with your doctor, the pharmacy staff will contact you and make sure you get the right medication as soon as possible. Having the correct, most convenient contact information for you supports these communication efforts.
2. Health insurance information. Your pharmacist and pharmacy team are great resources to help you navigate your prescription insurance and other financial assistance programs. When out-of-pocket medical costs are a financial burden (called financial toxicity), many people can feel helpless and frustrated. This is where your pharmacy team can help. The first step is to make sure they have your current health insurance information. This will allow them to submit your medications to the plan to see if they are covered and if you have to pay a copayment.
If you have any issues or challenges paying the copayment or if your medication is not covered, your pharmacist may have additional avenues for helping you get your medication. These may include prescription discount cards, manufacturer coupons, or even grant programs. The pharmacy team can also help with prior authorizations required by your insurance company. If your insurance denies coverage of your prescription, your pharmacy team may be able to help you submit an appeal for coverage. They may also be able to suggest less-expensive, generic versions of the medication. Be sure to keep them in the know about any changes to your insurance company or coverage right away.
3. Medical history. This includes your past and current diseases or conditions, family medical history, allergies, and vaccine history. Most pharmacies do not have access to the same medical records as doctors or other healthcare providers do. You can help to bridge any gaps by providing these details to your pharmacist. When your pharmacists have inside knowledge about conditions you have, they can help make sure your prescriptions are safe and effective. Inquire about any paperwork you can complete for the pharmacist to have this information on record.
4. Drug history and current medications. Make sure your pharmacist is aware of all medications (prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and any herbs or supplements) you’re taking, as well as past medications that have caused adverse reactions. This is important in helping you to avoid harmful drug interactions and side effects. With this information, pharmacists can recommend an appropriate medication plan to your other healthcare providers. They can also recommend the right vaccinations for you and appropriate over-the-counter medications, herbs, and supplements based on your prescriptions and conditions in order to avoid serious drug interactions, allergies, or prescription errors. Make a list and bring it to the pharmacist so it can be entered into the system.
5. Challenges that you may face related to your medications. This may include side effects, adverse reactions, or issues with your schedule that may make it difficult to take your medication as directed. If left unresolved, adverse medication reactions can lead to emergency department visits and even hospitalizations. Adverse drug events can also contribute to poor medication adherence, meaning that you may not take your meds correctly.
Many factors contribute to the success of your treatment, but one of the most important things you can do is take your medicine exactly as prescribed. This includes taking the right amount of your medication at the right time each day, with certain foods or beverages as directed. If you are experiencing side effects, your pharmacist can help determine what the next step should be. Is the side effect likely to resolve on its own? Should you do anything or take another medication to help with the side effect? Should you contact your doctor to discuss your experience? Your pharmacist can also recommend strategies to help you take your medications as directed. These can include simplifying your medication regimen or setting up reminder alarms on your phone.
It’s important to provide information to your pharmacists, but you should also get as much information from them as you can. Know that you can always ask your pharmacist any questions about your medications and diseases or conditions. Be Medwise from the NCPIE recommends a checklist of 10 questions for patients to ask their pharmacists about their medications. These questions include information about directions for use, side effects, and storage.
Some of this information is included on the prescription label, so it may be helpful for you to read the label with your pharmacist. Repeat the instructions back to your pharmacist, so you ensure you’re on the same page. The pharmacy contact information will also be on the label, so you can call the pharmacy if you have additional questions.
By keeping your pharmacists updated and informed, they can do their best to help you understand your medications, diseases, and conditions, and help you stay as healthy as possible.