We are living in the age of information. The age of Google, Wikipedia, Facebook.
Information that one never knew existed. The age of the Internet.
Has this information age helped us in our collective growth? That’s still out for debate.
We spend countless hours in a day, searching and filling our brains with information, which we know for a fact is useless for our daily life. We know what a celebrity is wearing, what is happening in their daily lives, what happens in your favorite movies, what is going to happen in the movie that is going to release and so on.
What is this information teaching us? Apart from the fact that we procrastinate a lot.
It is obvious that one uses this information search as a pressure release, a guilty pleasure of sort to escape the realities of daily life.
There is nothing wrong with this behavior. This is absolutely normal now.
A puzzling thing that we can observe in the internet savvy population is that when it comes to health, we either collect too many information and become paranoid and succumb to a phobia or we don’t take any interest in them at all.
The most common example is when a person buys a smartphone, he researches the entire product catalog, shortlist the phones based on specifications and budget and then decides to buy the phone at an opportune time. Hours of time is spent on researching data to make a purchase decision, which inevitably becomes obsolete in a couple of years.
The same person on receiving a prescription or when sick does not put in that time and effort to know the precautions for the disease nor for the medicines required to be consumed.
Time spent in collecting information on something that is going to have a lasting effect on one’s body is negligible almost.
A puzzling phenomenon indeed.
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Why should you know about the medicine that is prescribed to you?
Modern medicine is basically a tradeoff. In order to get the results that are desired, certain side effects need to be accepted. Knowing about the disease and the research that has been made in the treatments for the disease can be of great help in treating the disease psychologically along with required medication.
One such example is the drug category Statins. Statins are predominantly used to control blood cholesterol levels and are widely used in the treatment of heart conditions. One known side effect, among others for Statins is a loss of memory. On prolonged use, there are chances that the patients may experience memory loss.
Why is knowing this information important? If the blood cholesterol levels are manageable with alternate practices and changes in lifestyle, the patient can decide to postpone the usage of statins and use it only when conditions worsen. Being an informed patient gives them opportunities to plan their treatment effectively and stay healthy longer.
What is the situation in India?
There are many factors that affect the ease of access in getting Information in India.
Though the MCI and the IMA guidelines insist on standard guidelines for writing a prescription by doctors, unfortunately, more than 75% of the doctors do not write the prescription as per the standards. Many prescriptions end up not easily readable and become entirely dependent on a pharmacist to decode the message.
Alan Turing would have had better luck with Enigma code than a doctor’s prescription. This is still a computational challenge for advanced AI and ML-based OCR readers to decipher a doctor’s prescription without error.
Prescription errors are one of the major medical error categories that affects 5.2 million patients annually in India. In this day and age, does it not seem stupid that we make life threatening errors in providing medical care because of handwriting.
There was a recent incident reported in Pune during May 2018, where a patient who was prescribed a vitamin substitute ended up dead because of wrong administration of a cancer drug due to an error in deciphering the doctor’s handwriting. Apparently the name of the medicine was similar.
Who killed this patient? Doctor? Pharmacist? Or Ignorance of the patient?
Why should something like this even have to occur?
How can a patient safeguard from prescription errors?
There is no enigma. This is not very difficult. The answer to the problem is a simple solution. The patient during the end of the consultation, have to make it a point to ask the doctor what is the name of the medicine that he is prescribing and write down the same in the language that he/she understands. It’s that simple.
The patients are not committing any cardinal sin by asking this question to the doctor. It is their basic right to know the name of the medicine that the doctor is prescribing to the patient.
A patient typically spends INR 500/- per consultation with a doctor. People tend to ask many more questions when they spend less than that amount when it comes to other purchases. Why should the patient in this situation feel shy or threatened to ask questions on their own medications?
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What is the next step?
After knowing the name of the medicine, do a quick search online for the name of the drug. There are many online medical directories available that provide information on the following.
- Generic Salt/Active Ingredient of the medicine: The Active Ingredient in the medicine is very essential and becomes the basis for other related information about the medicine.
- Administration Information: Instructions as prescribed by the doctor on the administration of the medicine and the do’s and don’ts
- What is the Action of the Medicine: It is very essential to know what the effect of the medicine on the body. Some drugs have a drowsy effect and are not supposed to be taken during driving or operating machinery. It is also critical to know why medicine is prescribed. What is the effect of the medicine on the disease condition?
- What class of drug: Some drugs are harmful due to their properties of habit forming. Drugs like sleeping pills and pain medication based on opioids will create an artificial dependency towards that drug. Knowing about this information can potentially save the patients from any misuse or abuse in medicine consumption. These drugs, when taken as per the doctor’s orders, do not tend to cause any long-term effects.
- What are the side effect: It is critical that the major side effects of the medicines are known. A drug that is commonly used-Paracetamol- helps in reducing fever, but when consumed more than the recommended dosage can cause severe liver damages.
- Effect of the Medicine during Pregnancy and for Children: Not all drugs that are suitable for adult patients is used for Pregnant women and Children. Any misuse of the drug can cause serious life threatening damages to the patient.
- Storage and Expiry: It is ideal to know the proper method of storage, like to be kept in a refrigerator or avoiding direct sunlight. Medicines, when stored in improper conditions, tend to lose their virility, rendering them useless in treatment. Medicines are also not supposed to be consumed beyond their expiry date. A certain category of medicines that are used beyond the expiry date can end up being fatal to the patient.
There is no need for the patient to memorize the entire information. All the patient has to do is remember the medicine name, the remaining data is available to them anytime via the Internet.
WHO IS A SMART PATIENT?
A SMART PATIENT will make a note of the medicine when the doctor prescribes it to them.
A SMART PATIENT will ensure to ask questions to the doctor on the treatment plan
A SMART PATIENT will search the drug online and bookmark the related information for reference.
A SMART PATIENT will use SYMPILL mobile app to find where the medicine is available in his neighborhood instantly and buy the medicine instantly without waiting in lines or waiting for it to get it delivered after few days, by ordering online using SYMPILL MOBILE APP.
Ask questions where necessary. It is a Patient’s RIGHT to know the information.
Be a smart patient.