“What is your prescription?”
This is the question I often ask patients just before they exit my consulting room and it is surprising the answers I get in reply.
Most would wryly say “I don’t know; shebi you wrote it here” (while they take a cursory look down at their prescription sheet in hand) and this gets me worried. Others would mention a wrong drug and not a few others simply don’t care! Only a couple of them would ask again to be reminded, if they had forgotten.
And don’t even automatically assume that it’s a problem of literacy because even many of my very educated patients often do not care about the names of their meds.
You know, an absolute fact we can NOT get away from right now is the truth that the clinical management of any ailment primarily starts from at least the patient & doctor and ultimately branches out to involve the remaining multichannel, multidisciplinary, and even multifactorial system. The typical drill is that a doctor would prescribe, a pharmacist dispenses and sometimes, a nurse may have to administer the purchased drug (Yes, the system is not-so-friendly, but let’s just skip that talk for now.)
In most everyday scenarios however, the patient gets to self-administer the meds at home (e.g. oral drugs to be swallowed or even self-injections e.g. insulin), thus becoming one of the healthcare providers of some sort!
My point is: the individual patient’s role in the management of diseases is a very important position.
This is applicable in both acute and chronic illnesses. And its impact is way more significant in chronic illnesses like Diabetes, hypertension, Sickle cell, HIV, etc. Every day I see such people who take drugs over a long time but still (surprisingly) do not know the precise names, and nor the doses of their meds. And I say this with a modest exclusion of the elderly people who interesting often know their medication dosage well enough, even though they understandable don’t know the drug names; often differentiating them by their colours and sizes.
So why is this behaviour so common?
Hmmm. First, my finger pointing partly goes to the healthcare providers, who may not have enlightened the patients adequately for all the possible reasons like: insufficient time (crazy patient load), bored with other patients’ non-compliance, or even just less interested.
Of course you already know who the next set of blame falls on too: the patients. It is not enough to take a peek at the prescription sheet in attempt to decipher what is written (Acknowledged: It is common knowledge that doctors often do not have the best of handwritings). BUT it is every patient’s RIGHT TO KNOW what treatment they are being offered and even what other options there might be.
One peculiarity of medical doctors is that they are often very inclined to answer patients’ questions (Guess it’s something about med school training or maybe it’s just the way we’re wired! :))
Anyway, I personally think many Nigerian patients don’t ask enough questions.
Having said that, it is also noted that several healthcare providers, especially in private hospitals, tend to intentionally write in codes & spectacularly bad handwritings -only decipherable by their in-house nurses or pharmacists; all in a bid to enforce more purchases…. Such practice is un-praiseworthy and I sure hope it is being tackled gradually.
Bottom line is that medicines are chemical substances which in many occasions determine whether someone would stay alive or die (either from treatment, side effects or non-compliance). Hence it is absolutely necessary for one to know the name(s) of whatever meds he/she entrusts their life with. You are ultimately responsible for your own health.
Let me know if you think otherwise OR more interestingly, share you own hospital experience below! Use the comment box.