Your Doctor’s Advise – Misunderstanding can lead to BAD Decisions

Good communication with your doctor
Let us help you avoid misunderstanding with your doctor.

Have you ever experienced misunderstanding with someone?  Did that lead you to make a bad decision?  If you had understood the original message, would you have made a different decision?

I have had two client examples this week.

Misunderstanding what the doctor said

In one instance, the doctor had said something about the pain medicine and the stomach acid medicine should not be taken together.  This person has had a long history of Barrett’s Esophagus – a severe inflammation of the esophagus cause by extreme gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  To break that down, this person’s stomach acid was going back up the esophagus – the tube from the mouth to the stomach.  Normally there is a sphincter that closes to keep the acid safely in the stomach.  In many of us, that sphincter can become loose or have a condition that keeps it from completely closing.  When that happens, the acid can go back up the esophagus. Indigestion, burping, pain and/or burning in the mid chest area can result.  The acid inflames the esophagus lining.  When that inflammation becomes severe, the inflammation can lead to Barrett’s Esophagus.  So the stomach acid medicine was VERY important!

This person’s other issue was low back pain due to a herniated (bulging) disk and sciatic pain. Sciatic pain results in pain and burning from the lower back and spreading through the buttocks and the leg. It is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve, common with lower back issues.

When this person heard the doctor say the stomach acid medicine and the pain medicine shouldn’t be taken together, the person decided to STOP the stomach acid medicine.  The sciatic pain was the ‘bigger issue’, so if both couldn’t be taken, the pain medicine took priority.  The doctor was not told.

The client heard ’these medicines shouldn’t be taken together’.  The more complete answer is, the pain medicine will make the stomach acid and esophagus irritation even worse.  There are safer pain medicine options that won’t make the Barrett’s Esophagus worse.  The person should DEFINITELY be on both a stomach acid medicine and a pain medicine. The pain medicine should just be changed to a safer option.

This was explained, and this person is now on a safer medication regimen for both conditions.

Another Misunderstanding Example

Another recent example was a man with severe vascular issues and lung cancer.

The lung and cancer doctors had together told him and his family there is no more they could do. They recommended hospice care. Hospice care was accepted.

The vascular issues caused very little blood flow to the feet.  As a result, one foot and lower leg had been amputated a few months ago. The second leg and foot are now very infected.  The foot infection is causing severe pain.  Hospice is treating the pain with morphine.  The morphine makes the patient’s stomach upset and dulls his thinking.

His wife understands that the hospice doctor is now his doctor rather than his specialists and primary doctor from before.  The hospice nurses visits regularly, but the doctor has not.  His wife is very upset that the doctor is doing nothing to heal the infection.  She also feels he is very overmedicated since his memory and decision making are slowed due to the morphine.

When we discussed goals – quality vs quantity of life – they each indicated the specialists who recommended hospice had asked that.  They chose quality.  However, they didn’t understand that this would mean a rather rapid decline with the untreated lung cancer and foot infection.  They thought he would be able to back to the things he loves like working on projects around the house and cooking.   They see a decline in quality of life rather than the expected increase.

Now they want to go back to the specialists and change their minds.  It has been six months of no curative treatment.  There is most likely no way to alter the pending outcome.

Essential Clear Communication

Healthcare visits can feel fast and pressured.  Any time there is bad news involved, it is hard to fully hear and process all that is being communicated.  These and other communication issues lead to misunderstanding of healthcare information. This is NOT an uncommon problem.

Another contributing factor is difficulty reaching the doctor after getting home to request clarification.  Most doctors are given schedules that make it difficult to squeeze in phone calls.  So, it is always best to receive, process, and fully understand the information while you have the doctor’s full attention during an appointment.

At Meds MASH and Retirement Wellness Strategies, we are your advocate.  You have guidance to prepare for medical visits by assuring you have your questions ready and the information your doctor needs organized and clear.  We also attend the visit with you by video when you want that.

After the visit, we can provide a wealth of information to further explain any new conditions or medications.  We can even contact your doctor(s) on your behalf to obtain any needed clarification.

Call today at 410-472-5078 and ask for Michelle Fritsch, Pharm.D.  Or e-mail at michelle@medsmash.com.   Check out more at www.medsmash.comor www.retirewellness.com.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

Miscommunication and misunderstanding can lead to so many preventable problems.  I often ask this question of students in the health professions. ‘Tell me about a time miscommunication led to a bad outcome.’  Usually the answers involve people going to different restaurants or friends having an argument.  One time, while teaching active duty military healthcare providers, the example was of an international hunt for a notorious terrorist.  The terrorist had been found and surrounded, but a delay in the order to detain him resulted in his escape.  What an example!

The Bible has much instruction about good communication.

This Psalmist knows exactly how much trouble our words can cause:

Psalm 141:3 ESV

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!

Our communication is instructed to build people up and turn them to Christ.

Ephesians 4:29 ESV

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Colossians 4:6 ESV

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

I know I have spoken in frustration and said words I regretted.  I know I have neglected to speak up when my support could have been very helpful to someone else.  I know I have said the wrong thing and caused more harm than good, usually out of complete ignorance or insensitivity.

Proverbs 15:2 ESV / 176 helpful votes

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

One of my frequent prayers in the morning is, ‘Lord please fill me up and pour me out today.’  I ask to be poured out with the Lord’s words and attitudes and sensitivities.

Psalm 19:14 ESV

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

I certainly can’t be trusted to do this on my own, but with the Lord’s guidance, excellent communication can make a huge positive difference in the lives we meet!

Blessings,

Michelle

Problem Medications sending people to the ER

emergency
Don’t let problem medications send you to the emergency room

Problem medications are leading to an increasing number of emergency department visits. And more and more of those are ending up being admitted to the hospital. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in November 2016 revealed these findings. The study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control.

For every 1,000 emergency department visits, four are for people over the age of 65 with problem medications. In the last decade the number of people going to the emergency departments with problems with their medicines has gone up at least 10%.

The types of medications most often involved are opioid pain medicines, diabetes medicines that lower the blood sugar, blood thinners (anticoagulants), and antibiotics. There is still a significant use of medicines that have been long-recognized as a poor choice in people over 65. [I am still seeing that in my patients as well. Pain medication, anxiety and mood therapy, and anticholinergic (drying) medication use have been issues in nearly all of my referrals in the past 2 months.]

Why are there more medication-related emergency visits?

Part of the reason for this increase in emergencies could be the growing number of people over 65. But, that can’t be the only explanation.

Speed – Healthcare is moving and being provided at a very fast pace. The time your doctor gets to spend with you is very limited. Often the reason for your visit takes all of the time. This doesn’t allow for a thorough review of all of the rest of your health and your medicines.

Fragmentation – Your doctors, pharmacists, nurses, therapists don’t have enough time to talk to each other. When one doctor doesn’t know what the other one is doing, problem medications can be prescribed.

Incomplete information – Your doctors don’t often know what you REALLY do at home with your medicine. I have identified thousands of instances where medication is taken differently than prescribed. This can be for many reasons. Sometimes medications are stopped without telling the doctor. Sometimes extra doses are taken. Sometimes medications get confused such that each is taken incorrectly. Other times vitamins, herbal supplements, over-the-counter medications, and other substances are taken without the knowledge of the doctor or pharmacist. These are just a few of the examples of how medication can be different than what your doctor thinks it is.

Specialized knowledge – Only a small percentage of people aged 65 plus receives care from a specialist in healthcare for people in this age group. There are not nearly enough geriatricians and board certified geriatric pharmacists to oversee the prescribing for these adults.

Don’t let this statistic apply to you

What can you do to avoid being one of these people in the emergency department because of problem medications?

First, make sure your doctors (all of them) and your pharmacist know absolutely EVERY medication you take AND how you actually take them.

Second, ask your primary care doctor AND your pharmacist to carefully review all of those medications for:

  • Interactions
  • Lowest possible doses
  • Continued need for each medication
  • Safer options available
  • Removal/replacement of any medication known to be problem medications in people over 65
  • Assurance each is working as planned

Third, contact the board certified geriatric pharmacist at Meds MASH for a thorough medication review today. All findings will be shared with your healthcare providers so all can work together to keep your medication regimen safe. You can reach Michelle at www.medsmash.com/contact or by calling 410-472-5078.

Mistakes, oversights, misinformation, incomplete information, misunderstandings occur in all aspects of life. They certainly exist in healthcare. NO healthcare provider wants imperfect care, but it certainly happens. This is why a multi-check system where several people work together in your care is superior to independent practice. Different providers with varying backgrounds and perspectives can catch and fix issues before they ever reach you.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

Is healthcare the only place where mistakes, oversights, misinformation, incomplete information, or misunderstandings happen? Of course not.

Can this happen in the church? Oh, yes! I’ll bet we could all share several stories.

Pastors, Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, professional speakers, authors, and media personalities are all fallible. We are all human. Jesus makes it very clear we are far from perfect. No matter how hard we try, we will never be perfect.

Romans 3:23 (ESV)

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Does this mean you should consider all spiritual teaching as wrong? No!

It does mean you should check what you see, hear, and read and compare it with the absolute truth – the Bible.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Remember playing communication games in elementary school?   Games like telephone showed us how easily we can misconstrue information. Now, remember any class from your school days. Did you capture absolutely every word you teacher said? Did you ever miss important information because you weren’t paying attention – even for a second? Did you ever get an exam question wrong because you misunderstood the information?

I like this version from The Message:

Romans 3:23-24 (MSG)

God Has Set Things Right

But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

These issues continue in healthcare and in spiritual teaching. Just like in healthcare, studying and learning from several spiritual sources will help you identify misinformation and reinforce the truths found in scripture.

John 8:32 ESV

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 16:13 ESV

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

John 17:17 ESV

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

The trust does exist, and you can find it.

John 14:6 ESV

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (emphasis mine)

Blessings,

Michelle