Picture: Different pills 
Doctors should better not rely
on patients concerning their
medication; © SXC

New research from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine has found that nearly 50 percent of patients taking antihypertensive drugs in three community health centres were unable to accurately name a single one of their medications listed in their medical chart. That number climbed to 65 percent for patients with low health literacy.

“It was worse than we expected,” said lead author Stephen Persell, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine, and of the Institute for Healthcare Studies at the Feinberg School, and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The study looked at 119 patients, average age 55, from community health centres.

Researchers asked them to name their antihypertensive drugs and then compared their answers to the drugs listed in their medical charts. While the study focused on low-income patients, Persell said other patients likely have similar trouble recalling the names and dosages of all their medications, particularly those who take a lot of different drugs and the elderly, who may have cognitive limitations. One third of the nation's 1.5 million adverse drug events occur in out-patient settings, resulting in a cost of $1 billion annually. Persell thinks this "knowledge of medication gap" may be one of the causes.

Even examining patients’ medical records won’t necessarily tell a doctor what pills a patient is swallowing. Persell said some patients continue to fill old prescriptions even if a doctor has changed the dosages or the medication. “I’ve seen patients who continued on drugs that I told them to discontinue and stop taking drugs I never told them to stop using," Persell said. The solution is to ask patients to bring all their current medicine bottles to doctor appointments, so the physician can compare them to what has actually been prescribed in the medical charts, Persell noted.

MEDICA.de; Source: Northwestern University