by Rose Rohloff
A middle aged male was recently experiencing severe abdominal pain, subsequently prescribed three (3) medications in two (2) weeks from three (3) different sources (an Emergency Room, a primary care doctor, a Gastroenterologist). There was no diagnosis, no care coordination within an established plan of care, no thorough instruction in the medications, with the last prescription based on a guessed misdiagnosis which worsened his pain. One prescription was a steroid with the patient being instructed to take as he needed it; the second was an offering by the office secretary blindly asking if he wanted an Epipen when he called to actually speak with the physician for worsening abdominal pain, swelling and to discuss his lab work.
The common standard operating procedure (SOP) in medicine has become symptom and write a prescription, another symptom and write another prescription, etc. This SOP has lent to the opioid crisis, antibiotic resistance, as well as many other drugs being dispensed routinely with side effects causing secondary prescriptions for the side effects of the existing medications being taken.
Several variables cause the use of this SOP beginning with the lack to get a full, detailed history - taking time to speak with patients - to establish a diagnosis and then plan of care, determining if simple steps are first needed such as icing and therapy for pain before opioids, or to remove foods and medications isolating side effects or allergies. Last week, I attended the HIMSS conference, the largest healthcare conference in the country, with attendees from around the world. One executive stated, "I just returned from Finland where they have an effective health system, because people live healthy, and the doctors appropriately tell their patients NO when seeking a simple, quick fix of a drug that is not needed."
Reasons for the mainstream SOP?
I think there are always multiple reasons for issues within healthcare. The symptom=prescription issue can be: Doctors are processing patients through with 'factory-care', Physicians receiving kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies; The lack of proper clinical training; Protocols blindly being followed without individual evaluation (e.g. Vanderbilt University study on Plavix standard for all Cardiac Cath Patients); as well as the alliance of public policy and pharma, direct consumer marketing without proper education.
A healthcare executive summarized the situation well last week when stating to me, "I ultimately make the decision for my own care, with the advice of the physician. It is the doctor's role to diagnosis, and then we discuss all options, along with a plan of care, coordinated with speaking with all other involved physicians." It is important for consumers to understand the need to champion their own care working with physicians, determining what options should be used before medications (diet and some of the old fashioned home remedies still hold true), addressing underlying issues versus only symptoms, and removing or changing medications to eliminate side effects when there are alternatives. Questions to have answered:
An example of direct consumer marketing lacking in education: In 2016, there was broad publication when the company Mylan raised the prices of the Epipen after State Law was passed to stock it in every school. Many individuals and groups were upset because there is not a generic offering. With proper information, the public would be educated that Epipen is the patented delivery system, not the drug epinephrine. The generic already existed in the form of a $15-$18 sterile needle. It is also necessary to establish where and when is it appropriate to stock epinephrine, not specifically the Epipen.
Why are you prescribing this medication, what is it specifically doing in my system?
What are non-medication alternatives, what are other medication alternatives?
How long should I take this, what is the outcome? How does it interact with my other medications?
What should be monitored for an outcome, side effects?
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