It’s a good time to examine how you encourage your patients to use medicines wisely, writes Karalyn Huxhagen

The seventh annual Be Medicinewise Week is 21–27 August, promoting the safe and wise use of medicines. This year National Prescribing Service (NPS MedicineWise) are reminding Australians that medicine misuse can happen to anyone.

The NPS website has a toolkit that can either be downloaded or ordered by pharmacists. The items in the toolkit assist in reminding the consumers about the important roles that pharmacists can perform in medication management.

Return of Unwanted Medicines—how many times do you remind customers that they can return unwanted or expired medicines to the pharmacy for incineration?

Medscheck—do you remind your customers regularly that if they would like a more in-depth discussion about both their regular and OTC medications that you are happy to discuss this in a confidential environment?

Clinic Intervention—do you ensure that your more in-depth conversations are documented just in case you are not the pharmacist on duty when the customer asks for follow up information?

Home Medicine Review—any health professional can identify and recommend a HMR to be performed. The GP is the person who must sign off on the referral but it can be prompted from any health professional caring for the customer. Do you give your ‘at risk’ patients the Home Medicine Review brochure off the 6CPA web site?

Dosage administration aid—These aids are not just about multiple medications. The ability for some customers to manage a few medications at the right time each day can be hard to do. For example Parkinson’s medication that may need to be dosed 5-7 times per day. Have you offered this service to all of your ‘at risk’ customers?

Staged Supply—I have a personality that is easy to become addicted to things like sugar and coffee. Others have an addiction to nicotine. Sadly for some of our customers, their ability to adhere to a regular regimen of medications is hard for them to manage. They take a little bit more each day when they should not. Consider removing the temptations so that you assist them to manage their medications appropriately.

SMS/Email reminder services—These services are great for those customers that leave getting the next prescription dispensed to the last minute. We all have these customers. I rely on my phone reminders for everything from worming the cat to catching aeroplanes on time. Managing having enough medication to take at the right time is a very handy service for many of our customers.

Medicine list—For many years we gave these out as handy little cards. In the era of the smart phone this is now an app and works beautifully.

Apps in general can help your customers. There are apps for counting carbohydrates, keeping you on track with your fitness, reminders about check-ups with your dentist, cardiologist and endocrinologist and a thousand other areas such as sleep cycles, Pilates, calmness and mindfulness.

Do you recommend these to your customers? You should, plus you should have a pharmacy Facebook page that you use as a tool to spread the word about great initiatives such as NPS MedicineWise week!

Every day I am reminded of the health literacy of even our best patients. This week the pharmacist on duty informed a patient that Chlorsig eye ointment was unavailable from the manufacturer and we could not supply it.

The GP is next door as we are part of a GP superclinic complex. The patient offered to pop next door and have it changed to something else.

The phone rang a short while later from the clinic who were mortified to have been told by the patient that the pharmacy had decided not to stock Chlorsig eye ointment any longer.

The GP was even more angry as he stated that he had told the patient that if the ointment was not available to ask for the eye drops! 

Karalyn Huxhagen is a community pharmacist and was 2010 Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Pharmacist of the Year. She has been named winner of the 2015 PSA Award for Quality Use of Medicines in Pain Management and is group facilitator of the Mackay Pain Support Group.