Medication management tips when going to hospital

Posted: Apr 20 2022

Many of us take medications on a daily basis – in fact, it is estimated that around 9 million Australians pop a prescribed pill every morning1. Plus, about two-thirds of Australians aged 75 years and over are taking five or more medicines, including over-the-counter and complementary medicines2. It’s recommended to regularly review these medications, every 6-12 months, and especially when you are preparing for a hospital stay. So, where do you start, and how can you advocate for your health in the lead up to your surgery and recovery?

Medication management

Talk to your GP

Each year in Australia, around 250,0003 hospital admissions occur as a result of medication-related problems. Around half of them would have been preventable, had their medications been appropriately managed.

To avoid becoming part of these statistics, it is important to regularly review your medication. When you visit your GP for referral to a specialist:

  • Take the opportunity to discuss and record the details of your regular medications. Ensure your GP notes down all your medications (including supplements and non-prescription medication) on your referral note, so this information is accurately passed on to your surgeon or specialist.
  • Make sure you understand why you’re taking a particular medication and what condition or symptoms it is treating, and if there are other medications or foods to avoid (such as antibiotics or alcohol, which can reduce the effectiveness of some medications).
  • Just because you have been taking something in the past, does not automatically mean you should still be taking it in the future. After all, the way our bodies process some medicines changes as we age.

Use your pharmacist

Pharmacists do more than just dispense your medication: they are also experts on how different drugs affect the body, and how they interact with each other. Pharmacists are trained to help patients manage their medications, in consultation with their doctor. A pharmacist’s advice is invaluable for someone on multiple medicines as taking these inappropriately can cause interactions and serious complications.

There are a number of medication services that your local Health Partners participating pharmacist can provide:

  1. Conducting medication reviews, if you are on multiple medications and are going into hospital, it is recommended that you have a review of your medication before and possibly after your procedure to ensure you are still on the correct medication and to understand why you are taking it. This is important as you may receive more medication for a short period or your medication may change as a result of your hospital stay.
  2. Providing Dose Administration Aids if you’re on multiple medications which segment your medicines into the times of day you need to take them. These prefilled packs can dispense your medication in one easy push-out tab for each day/morning or night or can be in sachet form. This can be particularly useful during a period when you are expecting to have a hospital stay.
  3. Offering a script reminder service. You simply leave your script for regular medication with your pharmacy and they SMS to notify you when you next packet is ready. This occurs just prior to when you would finish up your last tablets – helping to ensure you never run out. As with most things these days, there are a number of apps available which can also help you record your medication usage electronically. Most ‘Medicine List’ apps allow you to note down what the medication is for, as well as correct dosages and when and how to use them. You can also set reminders when to take your medication and when you need to fill a new script.
  4. Script home delivery service. If you have just come from hospital and live alone it might be worth checking with your pharmacy to see if they deliver your next medicine to your home. Organising this before you go to hospital will give you time to recover rather than worry about your next prescription refill.

Visiting your specialist

You might feel nervous when visiting your specialist, about the possibility that you need to undergo surgery or treatment. Because of this, it is recommended that you take some time to write down any concerns and questions you may have. As part of this process, make a note to mention the medications you are taking, and share this with your specialist. They should have this detail from your GP, but it’s an opportunity to discuss the medication with them.

Preparing for hospital

As you pack your bag ready for your hospital stay, also include your regular medication. You may need to still take this on the morning of your admission, so either place it with your bag, or add it to your list of things to pack last minute. If you need to fast before your procedure, check with your healthcare provider about whether it’s ok to take your regular medication or not.

While in hospital

During your hospital admission, your healthcare provider will likely run through your regular medications with you. Depending on circumstances, your medications may change while you are in hospital – whether it be moving to a higher or lower dose of the medicine you are already on, or moving onto something different temporarily while you recover. If you are unclear as to why your medication has changed, ask to speak with your specialist or GP to provide clarity and confirmation. Improving communication at transition points, i.e. moving from your GP to hospital, or from ward to ward within a hospital, can help to reduce medication related health problems.

Your recovery

Upon discharge from the hospital, you’ll probably be given a prescription to fill. Ask your healthcare provider at the hospital to write down the instructions for these medications such as pain killers, so you have these details once you are at home. Remember, you may not be feeling your usual self, so having this information to refer to is important. The pharmacist who dispenses this medication can also clarify any questions you have. If you are visiting your regular pharmacist, they may already be aware of your usual needs, and can help you accordingly.

Long term

Once you have recovered from your hospital stay, your medication regime will likely stabilise and you’ll be back to simply filling your regular prescriptions from your pharmacist. If you have medications left over that you no longer need, then take them into your local Health Partners participating Pharmacy so they can be disposed of safely.

When taken correctly medication can be life changing. But, if you are unsure of any part of your medication regime, it pays to talk to an expert and regularly review your options.

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Posted: Apr 20 2022


The information contained here is of a general nature and does not take into account your personal medical situation. The information is not a substitute for independent professional medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or used for therapeutic purposes. Should you require specific medical information, please seek advice from your healthcare practitioner. Health Partners does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information provided. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them.

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