Survey finds patients worry about errors
Survey finds patients worry about errors
Opportunity seen for pharmacists
Health care professionals aren’t the only ones who are concerned about the growing complexities of the health care industry. There’s mounting evidence that patients are worried, too. A recent patient survey by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) found that most are very concerned about hospital and health system visits. Their top concerns are being given the wrong medication, being given two or more medications that interact in a negative way, and the cost of treatment.
The survey of 1,008 adults was conducted by telephone using patient records.
Researchers asked survey participants about 10 issues that may cause concern for someone checking into a hospital or dealing with another component of a health system. Using a scale of one to five, with "very concerned" as the highest ranking, the respondents indicated they were very concerned about each of the issues:
• being given the wrong medication (61%);
• being given two or more medications that interact in a negative way (58%);
• cost of treatment (58%);
• complications from the medical procedure (56%);
• having enough information about the medicines they receive (53%);
• getting an infection during the hospital stay (50%);
• negative side effects from medicine (49%);
• receiving too much medicine (49%);
• suffering from pain (49%);
• cost of filling prescriptions once discharged (41%).
Implications of the study
ASHP president Bruce Scott says the survey shows patients understand the complexity of the health care industry and that they are learning more and more about the growing complexity of medications.
"They are hearing more and more about potential adverse effects through the media, and they are becoming more exposed to medications through things like TV advertisements, which we never had before. That combination is starting to make people more aware. What people need to understand is that there is a science behind the use of medications, and that as they choose their therapies, advice from professionals who know that science would be very helpful."
Scott says the survey points to some opportunities for pharmacists. He says patients clearly want trusted sources of information, and pharmacists, especially hospital pharmacists, should endeavor to fill that role.
"A lot of patients don’t even know pharmacists are available in hospitals. They are invisible to patients," he says. "Patients should know that if they have a question, they can seek out a pharmacist. They need to know more about what the pharmacist can do for them. Hospital pharmacists are out there among the patients, but they often don’t know there is a problem. So phar macists need to do a better job getting to the patients, but patients also need to know more about what pharmacists can do for them."
He says pharmacists should work more closely with patients to help them understand their medications, particularly how adverse drug interactions can occur when a practitioner prescribes medication, unaware of what the patient may be receiving from others. He says much of the available consumer literature shows that patients feel they do not have enough information about their medications.
Pharmacists can help
Seventy-six percent of those responding said speaking with a health system pharmacist would help address their concerns. An equal number said it was very important that a health system provide a pharmacist to answer questions about their medication. A majority of the respondents indicated that talking to a pharmacist is their first choice for getting information about their medications, but 57% also said they trusted a physician the most to explain their medications. Only 32% said they’d trust a pharmacist the most.
Scott says there are two things health professionals can learn from the survey: Patients are concerned, and they want health care professionals to address those concerns.
"Patients want a fail-safe medication system, free of errors and able to prevent any adverse events from the medicines they take. They know about side effects, and they expect health care professionals to monitor, catch, and prevent side effects. It takes a team to do this. There is no profession in health care that should be an island. We should all work together as a team, and pharmacists should be part of that team."
• American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Bethesda, MD. Telephone: (301) 657-3000.
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