Are We Doing Enough to Engage Patients in Their Own Health?

August 2015, Vol 3, No 8 - Letter from the Editor
Frederique H. Evans, MBS

In a recent conversation with a reader, the challenges of discussing over-the-counter medication use with patients were explored. How do you have that conversation if you don’t know they are in your store at this very moment, picking up a decongestant or a supplement?

The answer to this question most likely lies somewhere between the patient being responsible for his or her health and knowing you are there if they have questions, and healthcare professionals proactively engaging patients.

In this issue, Shirin Madzhidova, PharmD, and colleagues report that many parents and caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder do research on their own and take selection of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) into their own hands. “Several literature reviews indicate that parents of these children did not inform their physician of their CAM use, nor did they feel as though their child’s physician was knowledgeable enough to assist in determining the best CAM treatment,” the authors explained. The article includes important information about these supplements, including side effects and drug interactions, as well as supporting evidence for their use (see "Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Pediatric Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder").

The vast majority of consumers don’t speak with their healthcare provider at the pharmacy, or even mention it to their primary care provider when they’re picking up over-the-counter medications. It may be beneficial to have these conversations with patients who warrant more oversight with over-the-counter medication, such as parents who are picking up prescriptions for their children, older adults, as well as patients taking multiple medications. Let them know that you are available to discuss any questions they may have about over-the-counter medications they are taking now or considering purchasing.

Letting patients know you are available as a resource is an important first step to building a relationship with them. With the flu season heading our way, it will be important to encourage patients to get immunized and address any concerns they may have. To prepare you for these conversations and the upcoming flu season, we are launching an article series on influenza. In the first part of the series, Chelsey D’Ambrosio, PharmDc, provides practical information on what you can do now to prepare for the upcoming flu season, including information on vaccines available, evaluating inventory, as well as how to engage patients and prepare your staff. “Preparedness can determine the impact of the upcoming flu season on our communities,” she emphasizes (see "Preparing for the Flu Season: What You Do Now Matters").

So, are we doing enough to engage patients in their own health? It’s a loaded question; there are too many factors at play to point fingers and hold patients or healthcare professionals accountable for going that extra mile. As we continue to face low immunization rates, propagation of misinformation, and poor medication adherence, we need to maximize our encounters with patients—and patients with their healthcare professionals—to bridge this gap in care.

E-mail us with your thoughts about this important issue and tell us how you and your colleagues engage patients about their own health, or about any barriers preventing you to do so.

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Last modified: August 21, 2015
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