Magazine article Drug Topics

Keys to Caring for Complex Patients

Magazine article Drug Topics

Keys to Caring for Complex Patients

Article excerpt

The issue of providing proper pharmaceutical care to individuals with multiple disease states is one that continues to grow. As the population of the United States continues to age, as diagnostic screening methods improve, and as more individuals have better access to healthcare, pharmacists will encounter an increasing number of patients who require a more comprehensive approach to their treatment management.

In September, I attended the annual International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) Congress. While there, I had the opportunity to attend a session titled "Complex patients and obstacles to quality use of medicines: A patient's perspective." This particular session addressed some of the challenges that arise in connection with these multifaceted individuals. Tara Hehir, a consultant pharmacist from Sydney, Australia, and Parisa Aslana from the University of Sydney led the presentation.

Complex patients

For the purposes of this discussion, a complex patient was defined as someone with any of the following characteristics: multiple medications or disease states, comprehension difficulties, physical or mental disabilities, or psychological issues. Patients with multiple disease states can have highly complicated regimens that may be difficult to manage. These patients often require a more individualized approach, one that is tailored to their needs.

Aside from the challenges of handling the various health issues of complex individuals, we may also face communication barriers in dealing with them. Complex patients are more likely to have issues with vision hearing, or cognition. In addition they may have psychological issues that need to be acknowledged.

Often when their physicians assess them, patients receive only the basic details about their conditions and disease progression. When they are given information it may be too complicated or technical for them to grasp fully.

Perhaps their healthcare providers will suggest only one or two options for treatment, when there may be as many as half a dozen options available. Sometimes the providers who deal with such patients may be overwhelmed and find themselves "too busy" to fully address their patients' concerns.

Communication factors

This is where we as pharmacists have the ability to step in and help fill some of the communication gaps.

Here's the payoff: When we deliver accurate information to our patients in a manner they can use, good things happen. Increased interventions mean increased medication adherence. …

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