Healthcare has made massive progress in recent years. Whereas before there was limited treatments we could offer for somebody who has had a heart attack, diagnosed with diabetes, suffering with back pain or depression, there is a lot we can do now. Big advances in our understanding of these conditions mean that we have much more effective means of treating people and so many more people are surviving and living longer than ever before.
If taking medications has benefits then not taking the medications….
But this has come at a cost. Increasingly patients are being diagnosed with conditions sooner and we are increasingly identifying patients at risk of serious diseases which require them to take medication to prevent a relapse or problems arising. With each new condition, patients are being asked to start multiple medications. Some medications have to be taken multiple times daily but others are only taken as required or perhaps once a week instead. Some medications are only needed when the condition flares up. Is it any wonder then that some patients find it confusing, not sure what they are taking or why, forget to take their medication or run out of medication without even realising it.
If patients do not take their medication as prescribed then they may leave themselves at potential risk of harm. Not taking their diabetes medication increases the risks of developing long term complications; not taking anti-depressants may mean their mood worsens, they become more irritable or work or family relationships suffer; not taking their blood pressure tablets may mean their blood pressure rises even for those few hours when they should take it and hence increase the risks of a heart attack, stroke or event death; not getting their nicotine patches in time may mean that they start smoking again and then all the good that was hoped for is undone. Worse still if your doctor or nurse is not aware that you are having problems then they may add even more medications for you to take thinking the medication you should be taking are not working! Even the most organised patients and families succumb with all the pressures of life and all the other things we have to do. Remembering to take our medications is getting harder and harder and when we forget it makes us feel even worse.
The Pill Dispenser can be programmed in to release the correct medication at different times throughout the day. The device itself will sound an alarm and flash so that the user is aware that their medication is due. A delay can be set so that if the medication isn’t removed within a set amount of time, it will automatically trigger an alarm through to our control centre. This is all part of the Tameside Community Response Service. Learn more here about what else is available.
What can patients do to ensure they get their repeat medications on time?
- Come to the surgery and put your request in on paper (can be time consuming and not always convenient)
- Book an appointment with a doctor to get your medication (easy to do but is that useful use of your or the doctor’s time?)
- There are telecare solutions available at low cost which can remind patients when it is time to take your tablets eg the Pill Dispenser.
- Order prescriptions online (easy to do, family or carers can do this via Proxy Access for you if you give them permission and available 24 hours a day 7 days a week from anywhere in the world)
- Nominate your preferred pharmacist so that once prescriptions are accepted at the surgery, they can be electronically sent to the preferred pharmacy. You then only have to go to your preferred pharmacist to collect your prescription or ask them to deliver it for you if they provide the service.
- You should always order your prescriptions yourself and then have the prescription automatically delivered to your preferred pharmacy – this ensures you only get the items you need and prevents waste and frees the pharmacist to deal with customers they need to deal with.
So how can patients learn about their medications and what they are for?
Remember your doctor or nurse is your first port of call. They have prescribed medication for you and should have explained why they have started it and what to expect. They can also help you to take your medication too.
Final thoughts and thanks to all the patients and staff at Haughton Thornley Medical Centres
This is a small survey from 2013 we conducted amongst patients who have signed up to access their full GP electronic health records. It is not representative of the whole population or even amongst the wider group. But it provides useful evidence to show what patients think about the service they are receiving and provides insight for others to know what they think and how it helps or hinders them.
Clearly not everybody is happy with the service and there are problems with other aspects of the service that we still need to deal with. At the time, only 5% of the population had ordered prescriptions online. Anecdotally our reception staff had informed us that less than 3% of requests were coming through online with the majority still coming via paper or from the chemists. No patients commented about the information buttons next to their prescriptions as something they valued. These links do not seem to be providing useful information which we have tried to mitigate by providing our own links on www.htmc.co.uk and also highlighted in this report. However it does seem that patients do like being able to order prescriptions online and this is a greatly valued service. We feel if patients did order prescriptions online then it would be safer, more effective and a better overall experience for patients – markers of a quality service. We hope to see take-up of this service increase with a variety of initiatives that we will undertake in the practice to see what happens.
We would like to thank all the patients at Haughton Thornley Medical Centres who continue to inform us about their experiences, what helps them and what hinders them as we continue to strive to deliver excellent services despite the many challenges we face. Working towards a Partnership of Trust is critical to improving the delivery of care with shared responsibilities and behaviours. We believe the face to face and telephone consultations we offer in the practice complement the online services including ordering prescriptions, viewing medical records and booking appointments online. This enables a wider group of patients to benefit from the services in a more efficient and effective manner in the face of increasingly limited resources, an ageing population with greater needs but with patients who are willing to engage with us and do more for themselves supported by your practice.
The Patient Participation Group is actively using this information to continue to help improve services and offer a patient voice to drive up the quality of care. You can email them on [email protected].