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Medication Management: Everything You Need to Know

Written by 
Lacey Ramburger
Reviewed by 
Emanuel Singleton, NP

Article at a glance

  • Medication management involves making sure that medicines prescribed to patients are taken and used in an effective way.

  • Medication management includes multiple aspects and involves the collaboration of patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers.

  • Medication management can help reduce medication administration errors as well as create the best possible treatment plan for a person.

What is Medication Management?

Medication management is the task of ensuring that medications and prescription drugs that are given to patients are taken and used effectively. This includes overseeing medications and making sure they are taken at the appropriate time and at the correct dosage. This can be done by the patient, family members/​caregivers, or even healthcare providers.

Why is Medication Management Important?

Medication management is a necessary plan to make sure when a person is given medication for treatment, that it can be as successful and effective as possible. Taking the wrong dosage or not taking prescription medications consistently can mean the treatment loses effectiveness, and can even cause potential issues for the patient.

Examples of Medication Management Services

There are multiple types of services in health care that help with medication management, including:

  • Medication Therapy Management: the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) states that medication therapy ensures optimum therapeutic outcomes for targeted beneficiaries through improved medication use.” This means that therapeutic practices can be coupled with medication for the best overall treatment for a patient.
  • Pharmacotherapy Consults: these involve a physician optimizing a patient’s medication regime, discussing more effective ways to manage current medications, as well as helping patients who have a more complicated medication regimen, such as multiple medications, or could use more direct help in the planning process.
  • Disease Management Coach: coaches can aid a patient in managing their illnesses, as well as educate and empower them to take an active role in their care.

Tips For the Medication Management Process

When trying to make sure that medication management goes smoothly, there are a few tips to keep in mind.

Know Common Medication Mistakes

Even for those who have taken certain medications for several years, there are still potential medication mistakes that can happen without their knowledge. Examples of this include:

  • Taking too much of a prescription drug (even ones such as Tylenol)
  • Confuse one medicine for another
  • Mixing medicines
  • Taking medications after eating when they should be taken on an empty stomach or vice versa

Small mistakes like this can lead to the ineffectiveness of the medicine, additional side effects or even potentially overdosing. This is why it’s important for all parties (patient, caregiver, and provider) to educate themselves on common medication mistakes to avoid these situations.

Tell Your Providers About Every Medication

If a healthcare provider, clinician, or pharmacist isn’t aware of all the medications a person is taking, it can cause potential issues. Some medicines can’t be taken at the same time due to side effects or because it lowers the efficacy of other prescriptions. This possibility can increase if a patient has several medicines, or has medications filled by multiple clinicians/​multiple pharmacies.

Some ways to avoid issues can include

  • Making sure all clinicians are aware of all the medicines a patient is taking
  • Keeping an up-to-date list of medicines, including dietary supplements (a medicine wallet card can also be useful as it keeps your medication list handy always).
  • If possible, try to have all medications filled at one pharmacy/​location
  • Inform healthcare providers about any allergies

Save Money on Medications

Managing medications can also overlap with budgeting, which means trying to find ways to save money (while still getting the best treatment options) on medications can be another aspect of the medication management process. Some possible options include

  • Ask for generic or lower-cost drug alternatives: prescriptions can be expensive, but your physician or healthcare provider may be able to prescribe a generic version of the drug that comes at a lower cost.
  • Check with your Prescription Drug Plan (PDP): some insurance companies may charge less for certain drugs if you order directly through them rather than having a prescription filled at a different pharmacy. Check with your plan provider to see what options are available to you.
  • Order online: there are online pharmacies and programs that can allow a person to receive their prescriptions through mail/​delivery at a lower cost. However, it’s important to ensure you’re ordering from a trusted website. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has tips regarding ordering medications online.

Make Patient Safety a Priority

There are multiple issues that can arise when trying to manage medications, especially if a person takes several medicines. Some important things a person can do to manage medications safely include:

  • Checking the Beers list”: this medication list was created by the American Geriatrics Society and is a detailed list of medications that are recommended to be avoided for older adults/​seniors. This list can be helpful to have on hand and go over with a healthcare provider when new medications are prescribed.
  • Ensuring expired medications are removed: while some medications have a long shelf life, it’s important to keep an eye on expiration dates for medicines and remove older ones on a regular basis as they may no longer be effective.
  • Following medication instructions directly: some medications have specific instructions, as well as warnings about not mixing them with alcohol or other drugs. It’s important to be fully aware of the medication’s directions to avoid harmful or fatal drug interactions.

Find the Right Medication Management Plan

There are different types of medication management plans that can be tailored to specific conditions/​illnesses, including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Mental health conditions, such as depression
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Alcohol/​substance abuse

These plans can help determine appropriate types of medications and dosages to aid those with specific medical concerns, as well as those who have multiple conditions and must take several medications.
 

Different Areas of Medication Management

Medication management involves different roles and collaborations between patients and their healthcare providers and/​or caregivers.

For Clinicians and Primary Care Providers

Health care providers and physicians have certain roles and actions they can take to help in the medication management process, including:

  • Medication safety surveillance: this process involves clinical researchers testing and studying drugs for potential adverse drug reactions (ADRs).

  • Fully educate patients on medications: patients, especially older ones, may have a difficult time understanding medical terminology or instructions. Caregivers and patients shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and for clarification about medications to ensure they fully understand how to manage medications fully. 

  • Create a medication plan/​list: clinicians and practice staff can help a patient create an accurate medication list to ensure all medicines being taken are accounted for.

For Patients and Families

Patients and caregivers (which could be a registered aid or family member) can also be proactive in their medication management process, including:

  • Keeping a medication list: keeping a copy of a list of medicines a person is taking can be extremely helpful in emergency circumstances, or even during routine appointments.

  • Asking questions/​gaining proper education: don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and ask any questions you may have about medicines or treatments you are prescribed. Also ensure that you are fully educated on the medicines being taken, including side effects and proper dosages.

  • Informing your provider of any changes: it’s important not to stop taking medicines on your own without consulting your healthcare provider first. However, if you have concerns or are experiencing unexpected side effects, contacting your provider is your best course of action to determine whether to remove the medicine from your treatment plan.

What are the general goals for medication management?

Medication management is meant to educate patient's about the prescribed medicines, reduce possible medication errors, and help increase a patient's confidence/desire to follow up on their health issues regularly.

What are the five "pillars" of medication management?

These "pillars" or core tenants of medication management include: the right patient, the right drug, the right dose, the right route, and the right time.

Is medication management only for healthcare providers?

Medication management involves active input and collaboration between patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers.

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