The TakeCHARGE Campaign (5 Steps to Safer Health Care) has laid out five steps individuals can and should take towards safer health care. The campaign aims to teach and motivate the whole community to do one of these steps each month between April and August 2020. April’s task was to “Understand and Complete Your Advance Directives”.
For May, the assignment is “Keep a Record of Your Medical History and Current Medications”. All five steps are important even in normal times, and doubly so during the Covid-10 pandemic.
To find out why medication and health history records are important, we spoke to Beverly R. James, RN, BSN, retired public health nurse and former owner of a home care agency, who is also on the Board of Pulse CPSEA, the patient safety nonprofit behind the TakeCHARGE campaign.
“When I was a public health nurse,” she says, “one of the first things we had to do was get a history from the patient. I would find that people had major gaps. They were unaware of how important it is to have not only their own medical history, but that of their family. They did not know enough about their family health histories.”
These gaps in knowledge, she says, were common across every socioeconomic and educational level. And when spouses or adult children were present, there were often heated debates about what had actually happened, resulting in unreliable information. The process was so difficult, she recalls, that “in the old days” nurses would be allowed three visits to get the full picture.
Things get even more complicated when someone is hospitalized. “Very often,” says James, “patients would go into hospital, and maybe their primary care physician isn’t affiliated with that particular hospital, so medication records are absent. The patient is often stressed and can’t remember medications accurately. So very often they would get the same medication twice, leading to some untoward outcome, or they would bring their medications from home, but not show them to the clinicians in the hospital.”
Patients returning home, she says, would often bring hospital-provided medications home in addition to what they were already taking. Or family members would share their own medications for what they thought were similar medical conditions.
“I had one patient on dialysis,” James continues. “Planning to visit him at home, I asked him to lay out every medication he was taking, including over-the-counter products. I literally cried when I got there: it took up the entire dining room table. ‘Where did you get these, and these?’ I asked. He replied, ‘Oh, those I got from the hospital. These were prescribed by a different doctor. And those are what I was taking before I went into the hospital.’
These are dangerous, potentially life-threating situations. The answer? It’s simple: be prepared ahead of time, with a personal and family medical history, an accurate description of new symptoms, and an up-to-date list of all medications, both prescriptions and non-prescription.
To know more, please visit the TakeCHARGE website, and from there, follow the links to TakeCHARGE’s social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
To support the campaign or become a partner, call 516-579-4711 or email: theTakeCHARGECampaign@gmail.com.