, Gloucester, MA

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March 11, 2013

Fishtown Local: Coordination and our health care

Has this happened to you or anyone you care about?

It’s rapidly on its way to becoming the “new normal” in medical matters all across the country: Your elderly mother or uncle or cousin has to go into the hospital for a condition or accident, hip replacement, shoulder surgery, you name it. They treat her, rest and rehab her and send her on her way with a regimen of drugs to take. And she does.

But then, after a while, she begins feeling dizzy, disoriented or completely out of energy. She lies her head down at the table at breakfast and says she’ll be all right in a minute. Perhaps she gets the chills, while covered in blankets and sweaters, sitting in a chair. Maybe she even throws up while going through her day.

Suddenly her new hip seems less important than her energy, weight and endurance. Then you discover, she’s seeing the hospital surgeon’s office for her hip, another doctor for an infection that occurred while in the hospital and still another doctor, a dermatologist, for a rash that has broken out all over her torso since the operation.

She’s taking four powerful and high dose antibiotics from one doctor, while the next doctor had prescribed two different courses of antibiotics — three pills each — for the infection, at the same time the dermatologist has her taking still other drugs for the rash, as well as strong topical ointments in case it’s Lupus. And she already was taking a blood pressure and a heart drug and a steroid.

The upshot is that she is taking 10-12 pills a day, all different colors. And guess what — each doctor didn’t know what the others had prescribed!

When confronted (gently), in person, each of the doctors was flabbergasted when I showed them the list. They just didn’t know about the other docs. We had filled out their forms dutifully before going in to the appointments where you “List All Medications That You Are Taking” and circled all the duplicates and added asterix and exclamation points but by the time we sat down with the doc, no one had read the list on the charts to see for themselves. Was that for the office staff to discover at some future time in some back office?

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