Teaching my patients to ask questions helps address their worries about medications.
Medication side effects are among the most common patient concerns, and they surface in many ways. Take my patient from last month who was anxious about a new psoriasis treatment her dermatologist was considering. She’d scoured the internet for all she could find on the drug. I had another patient who came in for follow up, and I discovered that she never started taking what was prescribed last visit because she was scared off by the pharmacy information sheet.
Beyond using clear communication and teach-back to ensure understanding, we can empower patients with tools to self-advocate. I teach my patients to ask the following three questions so that they can feel prepared to manage the topic of medication side effects with any prescriber:
1. What are the most common side effects of this drug?
2. Are there any serious or life-threatening side effects, and how likely are they to affect me?
3. If I think I may be experiencing a side effect, what’s the fastest way to reach a member of your team for help?
Further, I like to remind patients that side effects are symptoms which may occur, but usually do not. Drug information can be daunting to interpret, and collaborative partnership with a clinician is key.
This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.