Below are the two HCAHPS questions that relate to communicating about medications on the survey.
- Before receiving any new medications, how often did hospital staff tell you what the medicine was for?
- Before receiving any new medications, how often did hospital staff describe side effects in a way you could understand?
The key to medication education is repetition. Most individuals need to hear the same information several times for good comprehension and recall. Therefore, it is important to not only educate patients and their families on what medications they are taking, but why they are taking them. For each medication, at every administration, there are four subjects that should be covered: the medication’s name, the dosage, the purpose of the medication, and the possible side effects.
When telling the patient the name of the medication, use the name as ordered to avoid any confusion later.
Tell the patient the dosage amount that they might hear their providers use or read on their bottle at home.
When describing the purpose, use a brief, clear explanation of why their doctor is ordering the medication and how it will help.
Finally, for the possible side effects, make sure you keep the terminology on their level. Begin by describing the more common side effects, and then the more serious side effects. Let them know that these side effects can be managed to put them at ease, and most importantly, make sure they know to contact you or their nurse if they need the side effects addressed.
Using these four points of conversation with each medication administration educates the patient on what their medications are for and on the possible side effects that can occur. It is also important to take advantage of the practices already being performed, such as frequent rounding and bedside shift reports. During these times, staff can take the opportunity to involve the patient, and their family, in their education on medications.
Frequent instances of education will ensure that the patient, and their family, are educated on their medications. From the administration process of giving the medication name, dosage, purpose, and side effects; to the teach-back method; to rounding and shift reports; to post-discharge phone calls, each tactic is about far more than just improving scores on a survey, or even achieving an “always culture”. These methods are about improving patients’ health and keeping them safe. Nothing is more important than that.