The use of prescription drugs is widespread. Based on data collected over the span of three years, the CDC estimates that, in the U.S. alone, a little over 48% of the population has been using at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days.
With the widespread use of drugs also comes the possibility of error, which can lead to fatalities, serious injuries, adverse medical events, and reduced quality of life.
One common source of error stems from inadequate documentation. A recent article written by a patient advocate and retired pharmacist provides an example of this. He describes a patient who had been given a prescription for pain medication. In the official instructions for what dosage to take, the physician had forgotten to document additional instructions that the patient had received verbally – namely, to take an extra dose if the pain still wasn’t becoming more manageable.
Eventually, when the medication ran out, the patient had a difficult time refilling the prescription, because there was no official documentation of this extra permitted dose; as such, it appeared as if the medication had run out ahead of schedule for no good reason. The doctor couldn’t be reached in a timely way, and the patient round up going a whole weekend without pain medication.
As pharma companies strive to maintain a customer-centric approach by providing value beyond the pill, one area they should look into is proper documentation for prescriptions. Doctors need to make sure they’re documenting all of the instructions they provide patients with; this documentation needs to be available in written form not only to the pharmacist and patient, but also saved with the patient’s medical records for future reference. Pharma companies can perhaps contribute to more reliable ways for healthcare professionals and patients to keep track of prescriptions, side effects and interactions, and the instructions associated with each prescription.
Improved documentation reduces the chances of various errors, including patients being prescribed the wrong drug or the wrong dosage for a drug they require. Ultimately, better documentation improves people’s health and also saves money in the long run, as patients are less likely to suffer the consequences of a mistake in their prescription documentation.
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