You go to the doctor complaining of symptoms. After a quick examination, you are handed a prescription.
Before you leave, how much do you know about the prescription?
Will there be side effects? How does that medication work to make you feel better?
Most patients hurry out of their doctor’s office trusting that the medications they received will work. Unfortunately, when patients and doctors equally rush, errors are more likely to happen.
Today, the average physician spends 13 to 24 minutes with each patient. In that timeframe, they examine, talk, and prescribe. Under 30 minutes is not enough time to adequately inform a patient about what their diagnosis is let alone ensure they are getting the best treatment.
Medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States. One of the most common mistakes stems from medications. In fact, one study at Massachusetts General Hospital found that 45 percent of surgeries from 2013 to 2014 encountered a drug error. These errors ranged from medications ordered but never given, incorrect labeling, and inaccurate dosage.
Worse, outpatient care has a higher risk of fatality. If a patient leaves their doctor’s office with a prescription and takes that medicine at home, they are not in a hospital where immediate medical care can be administered in the event of a bad reaction to the medication.
As a patient, you need to advocate for yourself. You cannot rely on your doctor to give you the full attention you deserve in a less than the 30-minute window.
Therefore, if you have a new prescription, now is the time to ask the right questions and be informed before you take it to the pharmacy and have it filled.
What Questions Should Indianapolis Patients Ask before Taking a New Prescription?
To get the most out of your visit and treatment, you need to ask the right questions. Doctors are more than willing to answer, but they need prompting. When a patient does not ask, physicians assume there are no concerns and move on.
Here are just some questions you should ask to protect yourself when taking a new medication:
Why am I taking this medication?
The most crucial question is “why.” Why are you taking the medication? What is it going to treat? If you do not know the diagnosis or your medical condition, then how do you know the prescription is going to help?
Your physician must explain why you need that medication. Furthermore, you want to know how it works. If you have high blood pressure, your physician will prescribe that medication to treat it. However, they may not divulge how it lowers your blood pressure. Ask your doctor what the drug does specifically to lower your blood pressure and what it will prevent by taking it.
What are the benefits, and do they outweigh the risks?
One of the most critical questions you must ask are benefits versus risks. You never want to take a medication that is riskier than the benefits. Almost all medications have their risks, and some treatments will include medicines that are unavoidably unsafe but necessary to treat an illness (such as radiation and chemotherapy for cancer).
Medications might be effective but you still want to know potential risks of taking them, even if they have studies proving effectiveness and the risks are low. For example, some blood thinning medications put you at high risk for uncontrollable bleeding.
Your physician may need to conduct multiple follow-ups and laboratory studies to see how the medications are working and if there are complications.
What are the known side effects of this medication?
It is rare for a medication to not have a list of side effects. The chances of you experiencing these side effects could be meager, but you still need to know what these effects are, the symptoms, and how long they might last.
Furthermore, ask what to do if you experience the side effects. Some physicians will have their patients continue taking the medication and wait to see if the symptoms subside. More severe side effects may require that you stop taking the drug immediately and seek medical help.
What do I need to avoid while taking this medication?
This is by far one of the most critical questions and one that is not always answered. Some lifestyle changes might be required to improve the effectiveness and also reduce the chances of an adverse reaction. For example, you may need to quit alcohol, smoking, or avoid certain over-the-counter medications and supplements.
Some medications have dietary restrictions too. Therefore, ask about foods you need to avoid while taking your medication.
Can I accept a generic?
Always look for the more cost-effective option. Usually, if there is a brand-name of a drug, you have a generic alternative. However, your doctor must approve the generic in the prescription instructions.
Ask your doctor the name of the generic. That way, you can ensure that you are not given a brand-name and generic at the same time – doubling your dose.
How long does it take to work?
Most medications take a few hours to days before you start to see results. Other drugs, like some antidepressants, will help you feel better gradually so you may not see the full effects for weeks.
Also, if you start to feel better, do you stop the medication? Some medications require that you continue even if symptoms subside. An example would be taking an antibiotic for seven days even though it takes effect in 48 hours.
When do I come back?
You should always set a follow-up appointment with your doctor any time you are prescribed a new medication. Follow-ups tell you how the drug is working, what adjustments you might need, and if you need to change medications.
Do not rely on your physician to call and check-in. Instead, be proactive and call to make a follow-up. If you do not feel the medicine is working or have further questions, never be afraid to contact your physician to discuss it further.
When Things Go Wrong, Where Do You Turn?
Whether it is a medication error, physician error, or defective prescription, you have the right to hold negligent parties responsible for your injuries.
Often medication error injuries have multiple defendants. Therefore, you need an experienced attorney who can review your medical records and determine who may be responsible.