Strategies help patients take meds safely

FORT KENT, Maine — Keeping track of medication regimens seems to take a college degree these days, but simple strategies can make a huge difference in taking medications correctly and safely.

Consistently remembering to take even a simple schedule of medications can be challenging, and with multiple medications that must be taken several times a day, it is a complex process that is fraught with safety risks.

The healthcare team at Northern Maine Medical Center (NMMC) is dedicated to ensuring patients are taking their medications correctly. By incorporating safety practices such as asking patients to bring in all their pill bottles when they see their doctor, they are able to make a difference in reducing risks of taking medications on the wrong schedule or taking medications that were changed or discontinued.

Patients can be particularly vulnerable when they are discharged from the hospital. Many times, medications or dosages change, and patients must sort out the old and the new.  

Employees have implemented nationally recognized best practices to ensure that patients understand their medications. By the end of 2016, patients scored the performance indicator, communication about medication, at the 96th percentile, with reported consistent results when patients were surveyed. One of the key factors to this success is the review of medications by providers at doctor’s visits.

Cheryl Daigle, NMMC director of nursing, said, “To assist patients with medication safety, we recommend that all patients take advantage of a courtesy home visit when they are discharged from the hospital. There is only positive to be gained by a free visit which in part looks at all the medications in the home and compares them with any changes made while the patient was in the hospital.”

Daigle said review of medications cannot occur too often. Understanding medications can make the difference between success and hospital readmission for patients when they transition home from a hospital stay.

Patient feedback has a crucial role in ensuring a safe transition home. One of the most important steps a patient can take to influence their own safety is to bring in all of their medications when they go their outpatient physician visit. By doing so, patients have a positive impact on their safety by simply taking some basic steps.

What these steps do is assist the staff to: note any risk for drug interactions, compare all bottles with the current medication list, update the medication list if new medications were added by other providers and finally, identify any medications that may be duplicates or may have been discontinued.   

Preventing avoidable readmissions has the potential to profoundly improve both the quality of life for patients and the financial well-being of healthcare systems. Strategies implemented by NMMC have had a positive impact for patients on the reduction of readmissions to the hospital, including access to health information through a secure patient portal, the use of teach-back methods for medication instruction,  investment in personnel resources, the courtesy home visit program and the expansion of the Care Management Program.

To learn more about how NMMC can help with medication safety, contact Dustin Butler, director of pharmacy, at (207) 834-1625.

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