Notwithstanding the bizarre circumstances under which hospital pharmacies are operating, many aspects of hospital-based health care remain familiar and commonplace for clinicians. Yet these same conditions can be far from comforting for patients. Today, anyone entering the hospital for care—be it for COVID-19, dialysis, a heart attack, or a hip replacement—is likely entering alone and will be treated alone, without the supportive companionship of family or friends. This creates an obvious challenge to effective patient care.
One practice area that is particularly impacted by this lack of support is patient discharge. Trying to clearly and completely understand and process discharge information without the assistance of a caregiver or support person can be a daunting task for coronavirus and non-coronavirus patients alike. Add to this environment the terrifying amount of misinformation that abounds related to COVID-19 and the problem grows exponentially.
Enflamed commentary on a possible course of treatment or misinformed details about safely interacting in society that may seem absurd to a health care practitioner (or any reasonable layperson) can seem plausible to those in the grips of fear and doubt. This is why special care and consideration must be given to patients during this time. Similar attention to detail is likely necessary during medication reconciliation at intake as well.
With this in mind, pharmacy management should review all current patient education materials with an eye toward ensuring the information is not only comprehensive, accurate, and supportive of the patient’s recovery, but also transferrable. It is safer to assume the patient may retain very little of what is discussed at discharge, so consider expanding the written information sent home with patients. This is particularly relevant for any outpatient services, where important discharge information may be transmitted in oral communication only.
In these times of isolation and ambiguity, patient care that extends beyond the walls of the hospital becomes increasingly important. As pharmacists know only too well, a patient’s recovery often depends highly upon their willingness to follow a drug therapy regimen properly and to the end. In much the same way, we seek to support the practice of hospital pharmacy properly, and to the end of this pandemic.
Together we can,
R. Mitchell Halvorsen
P.S. Keep in mind, the comment period for the 2020 update to the draft NIOSH list of hazardous drugs will remain open until June 30th. Submit your comments today!
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