Ask the Expert: 9 Tips for Managing Your Medication After Leaving the Hospital

Ask the Expert - Managing Your Medications after Hospital Visit

When you’re in the hospital, your health care team has processes in place to make sure you receive the right medication at the right time to treat your symptoms. But when you go home, it can be hard to manage medications on your own. Alan Lodder, Pharmacy Director at Intermountain Alta View Hospital, shares some tips for safely taking medication after leaving the hospital.

1. Consult with your pharmacist before leaving the hospital

During your hospital stay, your pharmacist will work closely with your physician and other members of your care team to make sure you receive the proper dose of medication for your condition. Before discharge, your pharmacist will go over the medications prescribed, including potential side effects and dosing frequency. He or she will advise you on continuing current medications, starting new medications, and any medications that should be discontinued. During this consultation time, make sure you ask any questions you have about medication dose, frequency or side effects.

2. Take medication as prescribed – don’t self-medicate

In the hospital, you don’t have to worry about when or how to take your medication because it’s administered to you by your care provider. But when you get home, it’s important to take medication exactly as prescribed. Don’t skip doses, increase dose frequency or stop taking medication without talking to your health care provider. It can be tempting to reduce or stop taking medication when you start to feel better. Conversely, it can be tempting to increase dose frequency if you’re in pain, but make sure to discuss any changes with your provider. Medication can’t work unless taken properly.

3. Keep things straight

Keeping a list of all medications you are taking and when to take them can be a huge help – especially if you’re feeling drowsy or in extreme pain. Some medications can even cause memory impairment, so it’s good to keep a running list of when you last took your medication and how much you took. This is especially important if you are prescribed multiple medications.

4. Enlist a family member/friend

When in doubt, enlist a family member or friend to help administer your medications. This will increase the chances that you’ll take the right dose at the right time.

5. Get into a routine

As you’re recovering from your hospital stay, it’s important to make sure you are in a proper routine with taking your medications. Where necessary, set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take your medication at the right time or use a pill minder case to make sure you don’t forget a dose.

6. Be aware of side effects and drug interactions

One drug can impact how another drug works, so it’s important to review all medications – prescription and non-prescription -- with your provider or pharmacist. Avoid taking over the counter drugs without talking to your provider as it may have an interaction with your prescription.

7. Fill your prescription before the last one runs out

This will help to ensure you don’t get off schedule with your medication and where applicable, it helps with pain management.

8. Store medication properly

Just as your medication takes care of you, it’s important to take care of your medication. Always keep medication in the original packaging and know how to store it properly. Some medications require refrigeration, while others simply need to be in a cool/dry place. And if you’re like most people, you probably store medication in a bathroom medicine cabinet, but avoid it when you can as it lets in extra moisture that may impact the efficiency of the drug.

9. Call the pharmacist

If you’re worried about your medications after discharge, experience odd side effects, or if something just doesn’t seem right, call your pharmacist. They can make adjustments to your medication as necessary and keep you on the right track for health and healing.