By: Dr. Cooper, The Pharmacist – Dr. Tremain Cooper, LLC
Increasingly, there is a major shift taking place in today’s society involving the way in which people manage their health. There is a growing percentage of “do-it-yourselfers;” meaning people with access to enough information and past experience to make personal health decisions. This “do-it-yourselfer” self-care group can be divided into two general and sometimes overlapping categories: the ‘disease prevention’ do-it-yourself group and the ‘sickness’ do-it-yourself group. There are people looking to prevent disease by themselves and there are people looking to take care of themselves after they’ve become sick. There is tremendous opportunity to strengthen the existing relationship with these empowered patients as they are in the process of preserving and re-inventing their health. The question on everybody’s mind is; “What are the key benefits of tapping into your health independence?” Here are a few of many benefits of self-care as follows: saving time, saving money, gaining access to comprehensive care and the ability to focus on things that really matter in life. The pharmacy is a popular destination for the self-care patient. In the pharmacy patients discover a lot of high quality and highly effective options to treat and manage their minor symptoms and diseases. The pharmacist, well-informed of these options; evaluate and assess patients thoroughly before making recommendations from three (3) major categories for self-medication: (1) nonprescription (OTC) medications, (2) nutritional dietary supplements, and (3) natural and homeopathic remedies. With these options, pharmacists discuss strategies and offer recommendations to the do-it-yourselfer patient to ensure you find what you are looking for and also remain safe at the same time. As pharmacists, we become a vital resource in these patient’s lives.
I’ve noticed in my practice and the literature confirms that people are taking health into their own hands. When I’m in the pharmacy or in social settings people approach me looking for solutions to treat medical conditions all the time. I get asked about arthritis, toothaches, blood pressure, pain, nutrition, cough and cold, insomnia, etc., conditions that are managed with nonprescription medications but also conditions that clue us in to the need for further evaluation. Also minor conditions present an opportunity to use certain prescription medications in new, more efficient ways.
From the patient’s perspective OTC medication is a great option. The literature estimates, 96% of consumers believe nonprescription medications make it easy to care for minor medical ailments. I’ve helped all kinds of people in the pharmacy from successful businesspeople to homeless people. The pharmacy is convenient the same way for all kinds of people from all different backgrounds. Imagine the impact the expansion of pharmacy services will have for these people. The pharmacy represents a place all people can go for high quality healthcare without a significant disruption in their flow of life.
From the perspective of the caregiver the pharmacy helps to maintain peace of mind. The caregiver responsibility is difficult because it’s possible for changes in health to outpace the patient’s current medication regime, most times unbeknownst to the caregiver and patient. It’s in a conversation with a pharmacist, when we discover something more serious is beginning to happen and further action is warranted. Having some of those action items accessible and available now, makes a lot of sense to caregivers.
From a societal perspective its obvious self-care options make sense, everything that is safe to be available should be made available in America. Experts estimate the availability of nonprescription products provides $102 billion in annual savings relative to alternatives and increased access to medications. The literature states that every dollar spent on nonprescription medications saves $6-$7 for the health care system. It’s the pharmacist helping people make self-care and self-medication decisions. With that we can make more comprehensive services and medications available to the searching patient at the point-of-care.
There are several reasons why people choose to care for themselves and self-medicate. There are probably too many to name. Some of the more common reasons patients give are:
• I cannot find a primary care doctor.
• It’s no fun getting old because too many things go wrong.
• It costs too much going back and forth to the doctor.
• I don’t have any insurance or my insurance won’t cover everything.
• It’s easier to run down to the drugstore.
So here are five (5) ways we can improve the way we take care of you:
1. Give me as much information about your symptoms as you can think of.
i. This is important because everything matters. It’s better to make recommendations from all the information. It’s our goal to hit the target.
2. Communicate which option(s) you are most comfortable with for treating yourself.
i. This is important because we want to make sure we are on the same page. It’s called self-care for a reason. We want to make sure we provide you with what you came in here for.
3. Tell me what has worked and what has not worked for you.
i. This is the streamlining process. This is where precision and accuracy are at play. Patients want the right medication, for the right purpose, in the right dose, at the right time.
4. Knowledge of any current medical conditions is important.
i. There are so many drugs that can make a medical condition worse. There are some products with multiple medications in them. We want you to get better not worse.
5. Knowledge of your current prescription medication list is important.
i. By the same token, there are so many medications that interact with each other and can cause unnecessary medical conditions. We need to avoid those drug interactions.
It seems like the healthcare consumer thinks to themselves, “Well, since the pharmacy has all the medication and supplements and nutrition I need to take care of myself, I might as well ask the pharmacist for help getting healthy.” Imagine all the positive ramifications and interactions that could be made available for this kind of ‘do-it-yourself’ patient. While self-care services may not be the end all, it sure is a significant step in a positive direction.