Quick – list all the prescription medicines you take. Now list the dose for each medicine. Don’t be surprised if you can’t. In a recent press release, Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine found that most patients have difficulty remembering their medications and doses correctly.
Physicians rely on patients to obtain accurate information to help them with their health concerns. When a patient doesn’t accurately remember their medicines or doses, their health is at risk. Physicians can unwittingly prescribe medicines that will negate the effect of other medicines or cause an adverse reaction.
Just because a medication isn’t listed on a doctor’s chart doesn’t mean that a patient isn’t taking it. People refill and continue taking medications even after being told to stop. Some people even begin taking medicines that no one has told them to start taking.
Having the correct information about medications and doses that a patient takes is even more important when the patient is taking multiple medications, is elderly, or suffers from a recurrent health problem.
Speaking about the results of their study, lead author Steven Persell, M.D., said, “It was worse than we expected. It means doctors can’t ask patients to tell them the medications they are taking for their chronic conditions like hypertension. It’s very hard to get at the truth of what medications the patient is actually taking.”
To avoid confusion, Persell recommends that patients bring all of the medications that they take with them to doctor visits. With this information, physicians can easily get correct information.
The study revealed that nearly half of patients who took drugs for high-blood pressure in three different community centers couldn’t accurately name any of the drugs they were taking, or their doses.
The same study concluded that 65 percent of people with low health literacy couldn’t remember the names or doses of their medications or doses. Low health literacy means difficulty understanding prescription or medicine bottles, appointments, informed consent documents, or health education materials.
While this study focused on low-income patients with an average age of 55, the information gives cause for concern when doctors are treating patients of any age.
Steven Persell, M.D., is an assistant professor of medicine, and of the Institute for Healthcare Studies at the Feinberg School, and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.