The intersection of uninsured Americans and the high cost of medications is a dangerous one. One aspect that may go under-recognized amid the politicized headlines is exactly how some patients choose to cope with shortfalls or gaps in coverage. And it may affect more patients than you realize; according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around one-third of uninsured American say they did not take their medication as prescribed in an effort to lower their costs within the past year. Why does this matter in the urgent care setting? When patients present, especially for the first time, they may tell you they have hypertension (or diabetes, or congestive heart failure…). And they may tell you they “take” a medication for their condition. They’re less likely, however, to do a deep dive into how well they follow the prescriber’s instructions on dosing—especially if they’re embarrassed about their economic situation. This leaves you with the choice of just taking things at face value or making a point of really having a conversation about how being uninsured affects their daily lives. Ask specifically when they take their medication, and if there are times they “forget” to take it. This will not help remedy their situation, but it will tell you if there are things you need to be vigilant for with that patient. It could also provide an opportunity to counsel the patient on how the drug is supposed to work, and how not taking it correctly could wind up costing far more if there’s a resultant catastrophic event. Yes, this takes extra time. However, the benefit for your urgent care operation is that the patient will walk away feeling like they’ve just had a thorough healthcare visit with a provider who cares. And that may increase the odds that they’ll return, and tell others to visit when they need immediate care, as well.
Remember, Taking Medication and Taking as Prescribed Are Two Different Things