Self-medicating and safe medicine
“Self-care” refers to the decisions and actions we take as individuals, as family members, and as a community to manage our health, prevent disease and promote wellness.
Build a self-care and healthcare routine to optimize your health, maximize medicine safety and minimize medicine risk
For some, self-care means regular exercise. Or meditating and finding ways to relieve stress. Or eating more vegetables. Or achieving a greater work-life balance. Or going to physical therapy. There are many dimensions to self-care, and certainly, our self-care priorities change with life’s ages and stages.
What are your self-care priorities today?
Is taking medicine safely and appropriately a priority? If not, it should be.
Taking your medicines for as long as prescribed, at the right time and dose, and according to precise instructions, can help you feel better, stay well and improve your health outcomes. Responsible, informed medicine use assures the maximum beneficial impact of the medicines you take, and minimizes risks like side effects and drug interactions.
Whatever your age and whatever life stage you may be in, having the resources to make informed decisions about self-care and about the medicines you take is important to your health. Nearly half of American adults take a prescription medicine, and more than 20 percent of Americans take at least three medicines each day. However, according to recent NCPIE research, more than six of every 10 people are not aware of the risks associated with the medicines they take.
This may come as no surprise. How many times have you walked out the doctor’s office and said to yourself, “I forgot to ask that question?” or thought “what did the doctor or nurse say again about this medicine?” Research shows that there is often a communication gap between patients and their healthcare providers when it comes to talking about medications.
Remember, you are a key player on your own healthcare team. Good communication is a key component of good health management. Be proactive in asking questions, seeking clarity and getting the information you want and need.
Your role, rights & responsibilities on your healthcare and self-care team
When you begin taking a new medicine—whether it is prescription medication or an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine—who is in charge of using that medicine correctly? You are!
And if you have any unexpected side effects while using your medicine, who is in charge of describing the symptoms and alerting a member of your healthcare team immediately, if necessary? You are!
You are a key player on your own healthcare team when it comes to taking medicines. Know your roles and responsibilities:
- The right to information. As a patient, you have a right to easy-to-understand information about your prescription medicines.
- The right to ask questions. Many people hate to bother their healthcare professional with “dumb” questions. But if you don’t really understand how or why to take your medicines, chances are you’ll make a mistake. Your healthcare professional wants you to get and stay well. Ask your questions. Answering questions is an important part of their job.
- The right to take part in treatment decisions. Before you decide to take a medicine, you should know its benefits, potential risks and side effects, including what could happen if you don’t take it. You should tell the doctor or nurse how you prefer to take medicine—for instance, in tablet or liquids, or taking one large tablet or multiple small ones. Many times, there are options that can be adjusted to your preferences. Speak up and work together with your healthcare providers so that they know your preferences and concerns.
- Communicate with your healthcare professionals. They need information from you to give you the quality care you want. Tell the pharmacist, doctor, nurse, dentist, or physician assistant if the medicine you are taking has side effects, if you aren’t feeling better or if you are feeling worse.
- Do your part to help your treatment succeed. Take your medications as directed, reading and follow the full label instructions to ensure appropriate and safe use. Skipping doses or not following instructions can limit the benefits that your medicines can provide.
When choosing a doctor, pharmacy, or hospital, find out:
- What communication and education services are available?
- Will they look at and discuss with you the medicines you currently take if you bring them in?
- Do they take the time to discuss your concerns with you?
- Do they provide written drug information you can take home?
- Do they provide services for non-English speaking patients or for visually impaired patients, if needed?
- Do they offer a phone line or online portal to contact the health providers and ask questions?
Special services provided by healthcare providers, pharmacists and health plans might make a difference to you. Know what services are available and take advantage of them. Your health will benefit! Services to inquire about include:
- Home delivery of medicines
- Telephone counseling and/or a nursing line or pharmacist line for health questions
- Group classes about health management
- Home care programs
Learn more about responsible medicine use to inform your own self-care
- Maximize the benefits of your medicines with good medicine adherence
- Prevent medication errors
- Reduce medicine side effects
- Avoid drug interactions
- Ask questions: It’s good for your health