Prescriptions are essential in the medical world where they are more than merely just pieces of paper.
A prescription is a standard procedure when it comes to drug dispensary. As a layman, many would view a prescription document as just a piece of paper with the names and instructions of medications on it. While that is not entirely wrong, there is more to it than just that. Read on to explore what goes behind a prescription.
A prescription is a medico’s legal document, which is a written instruction from the doctor to the pharmacist, to dispense the medicines prescribed by the doctor to the patient that the doctor has treated.
This procedure is part of the dispensing separation process, involving a therapeutic collaboration, between two professionals, doctors, as experts in the field of diagnosis or treatment, and pharmacists, as an expert in the field of drugs, solely to ensure the welfare and safety, and to protect the rights of patients to receive the best treatment.
In this process, the patient will meet with a doctor, for the purpose of obtaining a diagnosis regarding his illness. After being examined by the doctor, a prescription will then be issued by the doctor.
This prescription contains valuable information such as:
Patients will then hand over the prescription slip to the pharmacist at the pharmacy counter. Here, the pharmacist, will initiate the screening process, based on the indications and drugs that have been written by the doctor on the prescription slip. This audit or screening process is vital to avoid any prescribing error in the prescription.
According to the Guidelines on Medication Error Reporting, Ministry of Health Malaysia, (1st Ed., 2009) prescribing error, involves incorrect drug product selection, (based on indications, contraindications, known allergy, existing therapy) dose, dosage form, quantity, route of administration, concentration, and the rate of administration.
If there are doubts about the prescription, the pharmacist will then contact the doctor to get clarity and certainty about the prescription slip. The Pharmacist will then ensure that medicines that have been prescribed is in accordance with the indication or disease that has been diagnosed by the doctor. It must be known that; one common drug may be used to treat a number of different diseases.
For example, paracetamol, is a medicine to treat fever and also serves as a painkiller. Should doctors write more than a drug on the slip, the pharmacist will further assess the interaction between the drugs. Drug interactions may lead to negative effects on the patient.
Next the pharmacist would counsel the patient. Here the pharmacist will explain to the patient about the side effects, if any, of medications prescribed, and the effect of these medicines on daily activities. The pharmacist will also advise patients about interactions between the prescribed drugs and foods, vitamins, or herbs, if they are currently taken by the patient.
If the doctors have prescribed medical devices, such as asthma inhalers, the pharmacist will then provide proper guidance on how to use them properly.
The patients will then keep the prescription slip, as their reference. Therefore, this meticulous process is actually a strategic and therapeutic collaboration between two professionals, namely physicians and pharmacists solely for the welfare and safety of the patients and also to respect the rights of patients to get accurate information about the disease and their medications.
This practice is also in line with the best practices in the “Medicines Use Process” under the Drug Safety and Patient Safety, which is currently being implemented in all government and private hospitals.