Most of us have taken medicines (prescription and non-prescription) at some point in our lives and, when used appropriately, medicines can play an important role in supporting a person’s health and wellbeing.
Whether you are taking medicines occasionally or every day, it helps to be informed about why you need them, how they should be taken, and what their benefits and possible side effects may be.
Be medicinewise, be involved
Being informed supports better health decisions that allow you to safely and wisely manage your health, as well as decide on any tests and medicines you may need to use.
This is what being medicinewise is all about. Being medicinewise can also put you in a position to help those around you to understand and manage their health and wellbeing.
Important steps towards being medicinewise include:
- asking questions to gather the information most appropriate for your situation.
- asking the right people to ensure the information is reliable.
- following the right advice to make better treatment choices.
Ask medicinewise questions
Whether you have taken a medicine before or not, it affects your health so take your time to ask the questions you need answered to make an informed decision.
Make a list and take it with you when you speak to health professionals. You might like to include the following questions:
- What is the medicine for?
- What is the active ingredient?
- How do I take or use this medicine correctly?
- What are the possible side effects and what can I do about them?
- What should or shouldn’t I do while taking this medicine? (e.g. operate machinery, drive)
Sometimes your health professional may recommend medical tests. These questions will help you make informed decisions about tests:
- Do I really need this test or procedure?
- What are the risks?
- Are there simpler or safer options?
- What happens if I don’t do anything?
- What are the costs?
Don’t rely on ‘Dr Google’ or ‘Dr Facebook’
If you or your loved ones become ill, are prescribed medicine or are referred for medical tests, it is natural to want to know more about the condition or treatment.
The health professionals who care for you are reliable sources of health information and can help you understand more about your condition and the treatment options available. However, speaking with a health professional is not always possible, so knowing where else you can turn to find trusted information is important.
With smartphones and other internet-ready devices everywhere, it can be tempting to go online and find a multitude of ‘expert’ blogs and websites discussing all types of conditions and treatments. While it is always a good idea to educate yourself on health-related information, not all the health information you can access through the internet will be accurate or reliable.
Sometimes the information is clinically correct but written in medical jargon, making it difficult to follow. Knowing how and where to find understandable, accurate and reliable information is important – it equips you and your loved ones with the tools to make decisions that are best for your health.
NPS MedicineWise and Better Health Channel are good places to start because they are independent, evidence-based websites, free from commercial advertising or corporate sponsorship and designed to supply you with reliable information on health conditions and medicines. Work with your health professionals
Follow the advice of your health professionals to manage any medicines or tests that are needed. This means making sure you can communicate clearly, confidently and effectively with each other. If there are barriers such as language, culture or disabilities that make following advice difficult, consider having a support person with you at health appointments who can help with communication. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need when it comes to your health.
If you are unsure about any health condition or medicine, you can call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 and talk to a pharmacist Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm AEST.
Tips for taking charge of your health
- Taking charge of your health can sometimes be confusing and daunting – but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the time you have with health professionals.
- Try to arrive at the practice on time or before your appointment – this ensures both you and the health professional have enough time to discuss your condition or any symptoms you may be experiencing.
- Ask your health professional if you need to fast before a blood test if you are due for one – this ensures that you get accurate results from the test.
- Ask for a longer appointment if you need one – this ensures you have enough time to discuss more than one health issue.
- Keep a symptom diary – this ensures that you can tell your health professional when or how often the symptom happened, how bad it was and what else you were doing at the time.
- Ask questions even if you think they might be silly – this ensures you have all the necessary information you need to make decisions.