A Question of Health

As we’ve said before, and will doubtless say again – the more patients become more actively involved in their own health, the better the outcome.

So we were pleased to learn of a new public education initiative from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which encourages patients to have more effective two-way communication with their doctors and other clinicians.

The “Questions are the Answer,” campaign features a website packed with helpful advice and free educational tools for doctors and patients. Among the offerings:

  • A 7-minute video featuring real-life patients and clinicians who give firsthand accounts on the importance of asking questions and sharing information. The video has been designed for use in a patient waiting room area and can be set to run on a continuous loop
  • A brochure, titled “Be More Involved in Your Health Care: Tips for Patients,” that offers helpful suggestions to follow before, during and after a medical visit
  • Notepads to help patients prioritize the top three questions they wish to ask during their medical appointment.

In addition, the site has a series of patient and clinician videos in showing how simple questions can help you take better care of yourself, feel better, and get the right care at the right time. In one of these, Rachelle Toman, M.D., Ph.D., a family physician from Washington D.C., says if you are happy to ask your doctor and grocery store clerk a question, then why not your healthcare provider?

Patients need to come forth with questions, and providers need to be open about asking their patients questions, and asking their patients to ask questions,” she continues.

Put simply, questions allow doctors to take better care of you.

Are you ready to become an active member of your health care team and get your questions answered?

Dangerous Doses

The use of pharmaceutical medications is an essential element of the American health care system. For many people these prescribed drugs help to treat acute illnesses and maintain control of chronic conditions. However, medication use can also result in side effects. These may occur when treatment goes beyond the desired effect such as a hemorrhage triggered by the use of anticoagulants like warfarin or heparin; or problems that occur in addition to the desired therapeutic effect i.e. the nausea, vomiting, fatigue and  hair loss associated with chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer.

In other words, side effects can occur as a result of unintentional overdosing by the patient, medication errors such as incorrect prescribing and dosing and even when drugs are taken as directed.

Even so, SRxA’s Word on Health was shocked to read the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

It seems the rates of medication-related adverse outcomes are increasing. More worrisome, this trend is likely to continue with the aging of the population, the growth in the number of comorbidities, and so called polypharmacy – when patients take multiple drugs, often way more than they need.

According to the report released last week, the number of people treated in U.S. hospitals for illnesses and injuries resulting from taking medicines jumped 52%  between 2004 and 2008.

They now estimate that each year close to 1.9 million Americans suffer either medication side effects or injuries caused by being given the wrong medicine or dosage.

The top 5 categories of medicines that resulted in people being treated and released from emergency departments were:

  • unspecified medicines  
  • pain killers
  • antibiotics
  • tranquilizers and antidepressants
  • corticosteroids and other hormones

For patients admitted to the hospital, the top five categories causing side effects and injuries were: corticosteroids, painkillers, blood-thinners, drugs to treat cancer and immune system disorders and heart and blood pressure medicines.

More than half of hospitalized patients were age 65 or older, while only 3% were under age 18. Children and teenagers accounted for 22% of emergency cases.

The increase in medication side effects coupled with the ensuing massive drain of healthcare finances and manpower suggest to us that pharmaceutical companies need to dedicate more resources to ensure that both doctors and patients are educated about side effects and how to recognize, minimize and manage them.

Is prescription drug spending sky-rocketing out of control?

Are prescription costs raising your blood pressure?

According to the latest news and numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) they may well be.  Figures, just released, show that insurers and consumers spent $52.2 billion on prescription drugs for outpatient treatment of metabolic conditions such as diabeteshypertensionhigh-cholesterolobesity and thyroid disease.

The four remaining top therapeutic classes of outpatient prescription drugs were:

In 2008, purchases of metabolic drugs by adults age 18 and older accounted for 22% of the total $233 billion spent to buy prescription drugs.

To put this number in perspective, $223 billion would buy you either 1,000 brand new 747 jumbo jets; 137 new space shuttles or 495 space shuttle missions!

Hospital readmissions on the rise

Word on Health was shocked to learn that 1 in 10 adult Medicaid patients who were hospitalized in 2007 for a medical condition, other than childbirth, had to be readmitted at least once within 30 days of their initial hospital stay.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also reported that Medicaid patients are 70% more likely to be readmitted compared with their privately insured counterparts.

The number of underlying health problems appears to correlate with the frequency of readmission. For example, 14% of Medicaid patients with 3 or more underlying health problems were readmitted compared with 10% of those who had no other health problems.

These high hospital readmission rates have been drawing increasing attention from policymakers because they have a significant impact on health care costs. Additionally, they may reflect issues with the standards of health care provided in hospitals as well as a lack of discharge planning and outpatient follow-up.

SRxA has developed a number of innovative disease education and patient management programs specifically designed to:

  • improve health
  • increase adherence and compliance to medical advice and medications
  • decrease the health care burden to society.

Contact us today for further information.