5 Top Things Pharmacists Want You to Know

MedStar Washington Hospital Center pharmacists play a vital role in the healthcare team and are involved in monitoring safe and effective use of medications. They counsel patients and  provide vital drug information to health professionals. Pharmacists are educated and trained to work in direct patient care environments, including hospitals, clinics, and a variety of other healthcare settings.  Celebrated in October, Pharmacy Week acknowledges the contributions that pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy support staff make to enhance patient care.

To help everyone use medications wisely, here are 5 Top Things Pharmacists Say You Need to Know:

1. Here’s how to dispose of old medications.  

As a rule, don’t flush your leftover medications  down the toilet. Find a local drug “take back” program (visit DEA.gov or call 1-800-882-9539 for locations). If  no medicine take-back programs are available, you can also follow these simple FDA-approved steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash.

  1. Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds;
  2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag;
  3. Throw the container in your household trash;
  4. Scratch out all personal information on the prescription label of your empty pill bottle or empty medicine packaging to make it unreadable, then dispose of the container. 

2. Why choosing to take expired meds, even OTC, is a bad idea.

Just throw them away. Expired medicines may be less effective. An infection – sinus, ear, skin or other – may not respond to old antibiotics. Worse, the expired antibiotic can allow the infection to progress, which could land you in the hospital. Further, old medications are an accident waiting to happen when they are discovered by children or taken by someone for whom they were not prescribed.

3.  You can’t split every pill.  

Splitting a tablet, especially if it is not scored, could result in a different dose than what was intended. In addition, it is completely unsafe to split capsules or time-released drugs. Always check with your pharmacist prior to splitting medicines.

4. Get medications filled by a single pharmacy or pharmacy network, if possible.

Pharmacists understand how drugs interact with each other. If the person who fills your latest prescription can see a record of all the medications you are taking, that healthcare professional can flag safety concerns BEFORE you take any new drugs. Countless times, pharmacists catch errors when they call a doctor or nurse to verify that a drug or dosage has been prescribed correctly. Also, the pharmacy counter is your place to ask any and all questions on exactly HOW to take a medication safely (With food? At bedtime? Can you drive while taking it? How to avoid constipation as a side effect? All very important things to know.) 

5.  Drink the whole glass of water after swallowing a pill.

Drinking more than a few sips of liquid after you take medicine helps ensure that the tablet, capsule or pill does not harm the lining of your esophagus by not going down all the way. In the stomach, the liquid helps the medication be digested, absorbed and moved through your system efficiently. Also, because some medication have a drying effect on the body, getting in a full glass of something that hydrates you is a smart move from the beginning.                        

Have any questions?

For more information on safe, effective drug use? Visit FDA.gov.

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Getting Care Where I’m Most Comfortable—Medical House Call Program

The below entry by Arnold Goldberger, Washington, D.C., was originally published on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services blog.

One day in October, my wife Avriel fell and suffered a stroke. Fortunately, a nurse practitioner from MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Medical House Call Program quickly arrived at our home. Nurse Genet Taye evaluated Avriel’s condition and consulted with our doctor by phone. They determined that she didn’t need to go to the emergency room that evening, but could remain comfortable at home until the next morning.

Dr. George Taler, a co-founder of the Medical House Call program, helped me advocate for my wife throughout her hospitalization. He always had time to talk with my daughter and me. He never seemed to be in a rush.

As Medicare patients, my wife and I were able to join the Hospital Center’s Medical House Call program. This program is one of 14 sites of the Independence at Home Demonstration under the Affordable Care Act’s Innovation Center housed in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The demonstration, which is the same model of care as the Medical House Call program, is designed to bring quality health care to frail seniors on Medicare in the comfort of their homes and avoid the more costly care in emergency rooms and hospitals. I am not enrolled in the Independence at Home Demonstration because I have not been hospitalized in the last year, which is a good thing, but that’s a criterion for the demonstration. Still the quality and type of primary care I am receiving at home is the same as for those Medical House Call patients who are enrolled and being studied in the demonstration.

We both got first class care through Medical House Call. But sadly after 65 years of marriage, Avriel passed away last year.

I’m still a patient in the program. I’m 89 and when I have a health problem or question, I don’t like being unable to reach a doctor. I don’t like going to the emergency room unless it’s absolutely necessary. And I’d prefer a doctor who knows geriatric medicine.

MedStar Washington Hospital Center has two House Call teams that include physicians, nurse practitioners and social workers. Drs. Taler and Eric De Jonge, who lead their teams, are geriatricians. I know I can reach the team on a 24/7 basis and get quality care.

Genet comes regularly once a month to check out my vitals, and to make sure I have the correct medications and in the right order. You’d think she doesn’t trust me! And I get a copy of her notes.

Dr. De Jonge, who’s also a co-founder of Medical House Call, comes at least once every three months. And I always insist they stay for lunch.

When my wife sprained her ankle, the nurse was there within the hour; Dr. De Jonge said she needed X-rays, so a technician came to our home within 20 minutes with a mobile, digital X-ray machine.

When my eyes started to tear up and turn red recently, Genet was with another patient but she arrived at my door in half an hour. She evaluated my condition and gave me a prescription for an ointment.

They kept my wife and me out of the ER numerous times. And if I have to go to the hospital, all of my records are there. No fuss, no muss. The teams have mobile, wireless access to my electronic health records, and that means the doctors can view accurate information and the teams are well-briefed on my situation. 

You can find out more about the Independence at Home Demonstration here. You can even learn how they’re reducing Medicare costs as well as meeting quality measures, like reducing hospital readmissions, admission rates for patients with serious chronic illnesses, and ER visits.

For me, the Medical House Call program is on my speed dial.

Have any questions?

We are here to help! Click here for more information about the program. Or call us at 202-877-3627.

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