• Beth McCauley

The Medication Language

Have you ever tried learning a new language? Every summer for a few weeks when I was growing up, my family hosted Japanese exchange students. Each time a student stayed with us, I knew I would have the opportunity to learn more of the Japanese language. To this day, I still know how to count to 10 and say “thank you very much” in Japanese! Learning a new language is challenging; it takes practice; repetition and it comes easier if you live in the culture and are around the language on a daily basis.

When you look at medication management in health care, it can be very relatable to learning a new language. Medications are their own language and I would go as far to say that most people just want someone to translate for them. There are the generic medication names and then there are the Brand names. Many medications sound the same, but they are in fact, very, very different. A perfect example is hydroxyzine, which is used to treat anxiety, and hydralazine, which is used to treat high blood pressure. Hydrocodone is a medication for pain, whereas hydrocortisone is a steroid to treat inflammation. Many of my clients do not know the names of their medications, but rather refer to them as “that little white one”, or the “pink triangle pill”. They’re imprinted with numbers, some are scored, and some are not. Medications can be easily confused and have potentially life threatening side effects if these medications are taken or used incorrectly.

What we see on a daily basis is that clients are coming out of the hospital having been started on upwards of six or more medications in addition to the ones they are already on. Or, they are seeing their primary provider or specialists who stop medications and start new ones. And, perhaps that information is not getting back to their other providers who are also adjusting medications or treating acute issues. We see clients who are on 20+ medications and some who are on “only five”, but it can be so overwhelming to them and their families who are the ones trying to help sort through it all.

Think of TruCare Connect as the translator. Unfortunately, I cannot help you learn Japanese, but I can help translate the “medication language” into something that is more easily understood. It could be as simple as setting a client up with a pill box to keep their many medications organized, or going through medications one by one to help a client understand what they are for and how to take them as prescribed. We want to help get everyone involved in your care on the same page and help translate and make it easier for our clients and their families.

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