Medication can be confusing for many people with some struggling to understand the reasons for both why they are taking medication and how the medicine should be taken. In some cases this may affect the affect that the medication has, in other cases the consequences can be life threatening. People may also stop taking medication because they do not understand the side effects or because they may feel better they discontinue the course before it is complete. Therefore, medicine management is not simply a health literacy issue but also a patient safety issue.
Non-compliance with medication may be more of an issue for those who are prescribed medication on a long-term basis or for those who are taking multiple medicines. People therefore need appropriate support and information to ensure they are taking medicines safely and as prescribed. People with long term conditions are likely to have a range of health staff and services involved in their care, and it is possible that more than one of these services are likely to be prescribing medications. It is therefore key that all professionals involved in a person’s care is aware of the various medications the person is on and how this impacts on further treatments being considered. For people to effectively manage their conditions and to reduce the impact on health services people need to be supported to effectively manage their medicines.
Supporting medicine management can result in:
- Improved compliance and outcomes for patients
- Reduced illness and fatal consequences from inappropriate use of medication
- Reduced waste from inappropriate use of medication
- Improved self management.
Practitioners in areas such as general practice and pharmacy are in a key position to offer guidance and support in understanding and managing medicine adherence. Some techniques to support effective medicine management include
- Medication reviews to ensure that patients continue to be on the most appropriate medication and that medications are being used correctly
- Involving people in any decisions about their medication and ensuring that any changes are explained and understood
- The use of aids such as pill cards and pill boxes to improve adherence
- The promotion of the pharmacy role in supporting understanding and medicine use