Health Care

February 17, 2006

Patients are Idiots
   by jhyde

There are two things to keep in mind when working with the public in the pharmaceutical field. Number one: Patients are mostly ignorant; and Number two: They are frequently drug abusers.

The ignorant patient does not know what they are taking, does not know how often they take something, would not be able to recollect any of their medications while in a clinic, ER, or doctor's office setting. They believe what their doctors say to them, and don't research or don't have access to research about anything their doctor says. They frequently use terms like "diabetes medication", "cholesterol medication", "kidney medication", and believe that if they attach the word "my" to that term, the person in the medical field knows exactly which medication they are referring to. They will often confuse two medications (eg. zoladex, xopenex) because they're not sure what they're called. They also believe that everyone on their health care team has a record of their every bowel movement. These people are largely motivated by fear. If the person they are talking to does not exude an aura of confidence they become afraid. Afraid their medications are incorrect, afraid the doctors aren't prescribing right, afraid they're going to die because of the medications, afraid they're going to die because they don't have their medications, afraid they aren't taking their medications correctly.. the list goes on.

Patient: "Could you please fill all of my medications?"

Tech: "Which ones?"

Patient: "I don't know, the ones I'm taking."

Tech: "Alright, you still taking lisinopril?"

Patient: "What's that?"

Tech: "Your blood pressure medication."

Patient: "You mean you don't have a record of it?"

Tech: "Of course I have a record of it, I have a lot of things in your record, I'm trying to narrow it down to the ones you use."

Patient: "So am I taking that lisin-whatever?"

Tech: *sighs*

Scenario A - The Ignorant: Sometimes a supervisor needs to deal with a scared patient, because they exude more confidence than the previous employee. Often that is enough. On rare occasions that is not enough, and they feel they must switch pharmacies to receive better service. Often they confuse technicians, because they try to sound informed about medications, but truly have no idea what they are talking about. Once in awhile the pharmacy must verify something with the doctor, and the patient's story and the doctor's story don't match at all. It's frustrating, but not so frustrating as the drug abuser.

One of the signs of a drug abuser is that they call in frequently requesting medications, or checking on things... it all sounds very legitimate, however they do it so often that everyone working in the pharmacy knows exactly who they are. Sometimes they'll change it up by claiming that they "lost their medication", "flushed it down the toilet", or "it got stolen". These are all forms of manipulation. They never have any money, because if they did they could pay for their prescription and get it filled immediately, but if they have satisfied their limits, the pharmacy is unable to fill their script. Hence Scenario B commences. There are ways to rectify these situations, however different insurance companies have different policies and no pharmacy staff member is obligated to perform any of these extra duties to someone yelling, threatening or being untoward to any of the staff.

Patient: "I need to have my hydros filled, today."

Tech: "The doctor wrote the script for two days from today, you're going to have to wait."

Patient: "But you don't understand, I need to have it filled."

Tech: "The script the doctor wrote is a legally binding contract, I cannot fill this for you."

Patient: "Well can I get just one or two to get me by?"

Tech: "Absolutely not."

Scenario B - The Drug Abuser: The patient's heart beat rises. Sometimes they shake. Just at the very thought of not getting their "meds" they physically freak out. Fuelled by fear, paranoia and distress they lash out. They don't really care that lashing out isn't going to help them attain their goals. They have lost the ability to reason completely. If the person could calm themselves down at this point, the situation is usually redeemable. I have seen many people storm out of pharmacies, demand manager intervention (the manager in this case cannot help either), take their script back to fill at a different pharmacy (yeah, like THAT'S gonna happen buck-o) and/or verbally abuse the person helping them.

Basically what it comes down to, is patients are idiots. No matter how well versed a patient can be in something else, once they cross the line from ordinary human to "Patient" they automatically lose 100 IQ points. PFFFT!!

Published: February 19, 2006
Editor: stacy

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