Medication Reconciliation – Why it’s important to you

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Medication reconciliation can keep you safe.

Have you heard the term ‘medication reconciliation’? Probably not, it’s an insider’s term within medicine. But it’s an important concept, and I want you to know about it. I want you to ask about it any time you find yourself going into the hospital, going to the emergency department (ED), coming out of the hospital, going into rehab, switching doctors, having any major changes in either your health or who is monitoring your medications.

The term medication reconciliation (abbreviated ‘med rec’) means taking your whole medication list and understanding, how you are taking it and when you are taking. It is about making sure that information goes with you any time you are making a transition. So ideally, at the moment you enter a hospital someone figures out exactly what you take, how you take it, and when you take it. It is awesome if you come with this information. You could carry that information with you and have it ready to share with your health team. It is a huge safety factor in your care. If they know exactly what you take, how you take it, when you take it, they will make much more informed decisions in your care. This is true in the emergency department, the hospital, moving to rehab, moving to assisted living. I applaud the pharmacists who do this well in hospitals, clinics, and other settings around the country.

If you come in with it ready, you have saved them a lot of time and effort. And, you’ve helped assure your own safety. This important information will help guide the next phase when they will make any modification depending on why you are in the health system and what your needs are at that time.

If you’re in the ED or the hospital for a particular reason, there may very well be a need for a new medication to treat the reason you’re there. It is important that any of those changes are communicated all throughout your stay within and beyond the health system.

Formulary

A little caveat that’s important is another important term to understand – formulary. There can be a number of different medicines that do the same thing. We call them medication classes, and each class could have several medications that do the same thing in the same way. Rather than carry every medication on the market, a hospital will carry a few in each category.   It is possible that the one you typically take is not on their formulary. They will switch you while you are in the hospital to one that is on their formulary. The name, color, and size might not look familiar to you. Be sure to ask questions when you don’t recognize your medicine. This is not harmful; it will not put you in danger. Medicines within the same class work the same way as the one your doctor had you on at home. But, it is a source of confusion when you go home or move to another part of the health system. It’s one of the reasons this medication reconciliation process is so important.

It is critical that you know that another medication, similar to the one you take at home, is being used in the hospital. You want, when you go home, to be switched back to the medicine you came in on, the one that was prescribed by your own primary care provider.

Many, many patients have run into difficulty when they go home on the medication the hospital gave them and they continue to take the one they have at home. This is called duplication of therapy. You are getting twice the amount you need – you have the one you have at home and the on the hospital gave you that do the exact same thing. So, using blood pressure as an example, if you are taking the medicine you have at home plus the one in the same class that you got in the hospital, you could lower your blood pressure too much. You want to avoid duplication of therapy; be sure for that class of medicine you are on just one.

Be sure to ask at the hospital if you can go back on the one you were familiar with at home that does the same thing as the one you got while in the hospital.

It is important that several people know exactly the medicines you take when you go back home or get to your next destination. You are one of them, of course. It is also important that anyone involved in your care such as your spouse, child, or caregiver involved in your care; your primary care doctor; any specialists; and your pharmacist know exactly how your medications have changed while you were in the hospital.

It is important that any intermediate step before you go home, such as rehabilitation, knows your entire current medication regimen. But, it is most important that you understand exactly what to take when you get home.

Medication changes while you’re in the hospital

What if problems related to your medication led to you going to the hospital? That is very often the case. Then, the medicines that led to your admission will be stopped or changed. If the problem that took you to the hospital was something new, then it’s likely that new medicines were added to your regimen. Again, it is important that you know what changes were made, why they were made, and exactly what you should do when you get back home. Ideally, ask your questions while you’re in the hospital, but if you get home and have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out for answers.

Medication reconciliation is something we often do at Meds MASH. People get home and realize they don’t really understand what they are to do. They have a list from the hospital, a list from rehab, and their home list. They wonder if anyone has looked at all of the medicines – the old ones, the new ones, and some from other doctors.   At Meds MASH we look at all of the medicines and make sure they are all safe together. We catch those duplications and clear them up with your doctors. One of the things we will do, with your permission, is get information from all of your doctors and from the hospital and pull it all together. Then, after the thorough analysis, any changes will come from your primary care doctor who is the gatekeeper and the one person responsible for all of your medicines.

Three doctors recently wrote an important article about the need for accurate medication reconciliation. And they note that this process must be thorough to be meaningful. Several partial versions have been tried, and if it isn’t complete, it’s not helpful. It’s not going to keep people safe if it is not done right.

If a thorough medication reconciliation can keep you safe and healthy, please contact us at Meds MASH at 410-472-5078 or www.medsmash.com/contact.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

This Biblical application might feel a little less associated with the health part. With medication reconciliation we are talking about making sure all of the information related to medication use is clearly communicated. If it is not done completely it isn’t effective. What about our compassion and how we reach out to others? How complete and effective are we?

Something has been weighing very heavy on my mind in the last week. It is the decisions we make about where our compassion lies. Who we can forgive and who we can’t. How do we spend our money and give our support and where we do we not? The thought that has been raised in my mind is – when we know someone is in need, and we do not know their sins, it seems to me it is easier to reach out and provide support for those needs. The example that got me thinking this is the refugee crisis. When you know there are millions of people who have been displaced, a lot of people have compassion for that and for their circumstances. What can we do to help those people and their dire circumstances?

The other things that made me think of this were more local. What are the needs of people who are making choices that are leading them to being in dire circumstances? It might be behavioral and lifestyle choices; it might be financial management choices; it could be self-care choices that lead them to circumstances where their life is not as secure as it might be. Their difficult circumstances are a ramification of lifestyle and self-satisfaction choices they have made.

I am connected to a place right now that serves the LGBTQ community and the HIV population. Some Christians find it easy to be very judgmental of this population and not share their compassion in this direction. Rather, they choose to share their compassion in other circumstances where the reasons and the choices are less known. Is this what Christ calls us to do? Are we called to show compassion or walk away?

Consider the story of the woman caught in adultery in Luke Chapter 8.

Luke 8:1-11 MSG

 Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

“No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”

Her choices were well known, and she was being very degraded. She was called before the council having been caught in the act.   The council members were ready to stone her. Jesus said those without sin could cast the first stone. We are so quick to categorize sins, but it doesn’t seem Jesus categorizes sins. What are we called to do as Christians? I am struggling with this and I’m challenging others to struggle with this, too. This is not a blog with answers. It is a blog with challenging questions. I would love to hear what people think.

Luke 6:37 ESV

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

It has become clear to me as a practitioner that sex as defined in the Bible, as designed by God does not lead to trauma, whether emotional or physical, and it does not lead to disease transmission or to promiscuity.

But in society, especially in the current waive of rules avoidance and focus on self, sex is being used in a lot of other ways. When used outside the way described by God, it does lead to a lot of issues. We create our own problems when we are outside this definition.

Another example heavy on my mind is substance abuse. The numbers of people caught in addiction and dying of overdose are astounding. This is a tragedy of great proportion! Yet the local rescue mission is struggling to stay funded. People who have been caught up in abuse and addiction who are now reaching out for help to leave that lifestyle are encountering limited spots available for rehabilitation. Yet Christians are looking for meaningful outreach and missions opportunities.

I am in full support of refugee aid, international response to crisis, local response to crisis, support of children in underserved areas, teens on mission trips, college students on mission trips, medical missions, and so much more. In addition to all of this wonderful outreach, I encourage us to search our hearts and God’s leading for our attitudes about reaching those in circumstances in our own community that are harming them.

I propose when we limit our compassion or draw a line for how we will consider using our resources, it is similar to an incomplete medication review.  Completeness and effectiveness are limited.

James 4:12 ESV

There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

What is your response?

Blessings,

Michelle

 

 

 

 

Narcotic Addiction – the epidemic and new strategies

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Prolonged use at higher than necessary doses can lead to opioid (narcotic) addiction

Narcotic addiction is now at epidemic proportions. Drug abuse has been with us for all of recorded time. The specifics of the drug(s) most commonly abused change over time. Sometimes the most abused drugs fall out of favor for a while and then reemerge. Common examples from the past few decades include LSD, cocaine, crack cocaine, and inhalants.

Right now, prescription opioid pain medicines (narcotics) are being abused at an alarming rate.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2 million people abused or were dependent on opioid analgesics in 2014.

Refer back to last week’s blog. Terms are very important here. Dependence is a physiologic response to these medications. Anyone who takes them over time will have some changes in how their body handles pain signals. The body’s normal response takes a backseat to the medication. In order for the body to take over again, the medication needs to be titrated off slowly. If you stop the medication all of a sudden, the body goes through withdrawal. It can’t take back over the pain control that quickly. It needs time to gear up. NOTE, this type of dependence and withdrawal is different than ADDICTION.

Addiction

Genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors all play a role in the creation of an addiction.

Addiction usually occurs when the opioid medication is continued after the pain has gotten better. Sometimes people keep taking the medication for the effects beyond the pain relief. Some people feel a euphoria or high while others are very laid back.   If they keep continuing the medication for this purpose, then addiction can occur. Not only are the body’s receptors letting the medication handle pain it is seeking these other effects. Over time it takes a higher dose more frequently to get the same amount of desired effect. So, doses keep going up and desire to take the medication is very strong.

The FBI and the DEA created a documentary about this addiction. If you would like to know more, I highly encourage you to watch this video. You can find it at this link: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2016/february/raising-awareness-of-opioid-addiction/video/chasing-the-dragon-the-life-of-an-opiate-addict.

In March of this year (2016), the CDC released new guidelines for prescribing of these medications. If you would like to read them, you can find it at this link: http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/prescribing/guideline.html . These guidelines are emphasizing less use.  Use only for moderate to severe pain.  Use at the lowest possible dose for the shortest time possible. There are other, non-addictive options for lesser pain.

When people addicted to prescribed opioid pain medications can’t get more prescriptions, they often turn to heroin. This is another opioid substance that is illegal but sadly, easier to get ‘on the street’. This allows the addicted person to keep getting the effects they are seeking. Note, at this point, addicted people realize this is a miserable, horrifying state. But the demands for more drugs override common sense. Again, I highly recommend watching the video created by the FBI and DEA.

So overcoming this epidemic is being addressed from the prevention side by the new prescribing guidelines. It is also being addressed through new medications and techniques to help people escape the addiction. So, there is hope for the future with this addiction!

If you would like to know more about narcotic addiction, new steps to address it, or similar topics, contact us at www.medsmash.com.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

Temptation has been part of our world since Adam and Eve, the very first people. It did not take mankind long at all to prove how difficult resistance to temptation can be.

I first want to send a loud, clear message that love, compassion, forgiveness, and constant support are key elements of walking away from addiction. Rather than avoid, isolate, and punish those who find themselves addicted, we have a calling to reach out in love and be part of that crucial support network.

Proverbs 17:17 TLB

A true friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.

1 Peter 4:8 NIV

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

I want to write about temptation and the fact that it is a fact of life. God knows all about the temptations in our path. He is also there to help us through. And when we are entangled in a temptation that we did not resist, He is there to bring us back away from it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Peter 5:8 ESV

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

James 1:12-15 ESV

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

1 John 2:16 ESV

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

I pray you are always aware of the temptation around you and the help available to you at all times from God. I also hope you find opportunities to reach out to those who have fallen into temptation and love them back out of that snare. That love might be tough love, but the Bible is full of examples of that too. Check out Luke 6:27-49.

Blessings,

Michelle

Narcotics, opioids, and addiction – important facts

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Learn the facts about safe use, natural physiologic changes when you take opioids, and addiction.

There is a lot of information in the news about narcotics, opioids, overdose, death, and a heroin epidemic. Now there is new legislation to try to stop this downward spiral. Have you found it confusing? If you say yes, you are not alone!

First, narcotics = opioids

The correct medical term for these pain medicines is ‘opioid’. This refers to the way they work. These pain medications interact with the mu-receptors and other opioid receptors throughout the brain (and the gastrointestinal tract). As they trigger the mu-receptors, they block pain sensations. They can also cause euphoria, dysphoria, or sedation. So, they can make you feel really good, really laid back, or really sleepy.

There are several medicines that fall in this category of opioids. Here are a few (and some brand names):

  • Morphine (MS Contin, Avinza)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Codeine – combined with acetaminophen (Tylenol #3)
  • Hydrocodone – combined with acetaminophen (Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Roxicodone)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Fentanyl (Sublimaze, Duragesic)
  • Methadone (Dolophine)

These medications have been used for decades to treat moderate to severe pain. Pain relief is important in many instances not only for your quality of life but also to get you moving again after a painful event. For instance, it is critical that you get moving again soon after a knee replacement, back surgery, or other similar surgery. As you get moving again you increase your chance of really getting back to full function. You also decrease the risk of a blood clot from lack of use. But, those surgeries are painful. The opioid medication helps relieve that pain allowing you to start your rehabilitation.

When used short term for pain, addiction is not likely

Addiction is usually associated with long term use and/or use for the feeling you get from the medication beyond the pain relief. It is also associated with using more than you are prescribed. To safely use opioid pain medication, use the lowest dose that allows you to move through your pain. Also, use it for the shortest time possible. As the pain level decreases, you can move from an opioid  to a nonopioid pain medicine. Work with your prescriber to determine when you are ready for this change and which option will work best for your pain.

Key terms

The body contains a wonderfully complex system of signals and receivers to transmit and control pain sensations. The body and these communication pathways in the brain and the central nervous system are well organized. When the pain signals are too distressing and an opioid pain medicine is added, the normal body signals and receivers adapt to the effect of the opioid pain medicine. There are natural, physiologic changes that occur in your body as these medicines are used over time. I want you to understand these changes. When they occur, they do not mean you are addicted!

Physical dependence – As the body lets the medicine treat the pain, the body’s normal pain process relaxes.

Tolerance – When you take an opioid pain medicine over time, those nerve transmitters (signals) in your body adapt. Over time doses have less effect and last a shorter period of time. So, over time, the dose needed for the same pain relief goes up.

Withdrawal – When the opioids are suddenly taken away, the body can’t take over the pain control immediately. If this sudden stopping of the medicine happens, you will feel body aches, irritability, fast heart rate, weak. and have difficulty sleeping. You might also yawn, shiver, and have an upset stomach.

These are the body’s normal reaction to having the opioid pain medicine take care of the pain. When your pain level drops to mild to moderate pain, your prescriber will start to slowly decrease your dose of opioid pain medicine. This will allow your body’s normal process to take back over in controlling your pain.

Next week we will cover more about addiction and steps being taken to stop the current epidemic of opioid pain medicine abuse. Addiction involves continued use over time, inability to control drug use, compulsive drug use, continued use even when you know the drug is hurting you, and craving of the drug.

These opioid medications can play a very healthy role in controlling your pain when dosed appropriately and used for the shortest time possible.

If you would like to know more about opioid pain medicines and how they affect you, please contact us at www.medsmash.com.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

Addiction is so very complex. It is one of many examples of how something good for you can become something bad for you.

It is not possible to look at someone and say, ‘He is an addict.’ Or ‘She is likely to be an addict.’ It is not true that ‘bad people’ become addicts while ‘good people’ avoid that outcome. Parts of the addiction process seem to be within our control while others take us by surprise. We will go in to more detail next week.

So, this is a key area when we can share our compassion and the love of Christ.

It is also a reason to reflect on our self-control. This is one of the fruits of the spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

We are all tempted by various things. One of Christ’s messages to us is to let Him be our strength and shield.  This was shared by Paul as he was explaining why and how we should stay away from idols and temptations that lead off the path to Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Psalm 28:7 ESV

The Lord is my strength and my shield;

    in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;

my heart exults,

    and with my song I give thanks to him.

Peter sums up our role to work on our own self control and in the process share love and compassion with our fellow humans.

2 Peter 1:5-7 ESV

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

Blessings,

Michelle