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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Billions could be saved in healthcare with better use of prescription drugs

By Kenneth Gray

It is no secret that there a myriad of costs associated with healthcare in the United States of America. What is surprising, however, is a recently popular opinion that billions of dollars could be saved each year simply by reforming the way that prescription drugs are used and prescribed.

One way in which this vast amount of waste could be drastically reduced is minimizing the number of antibiotics that are prescribed for infections that are viral rather than bacterial. Not only does incorrectly prescribing antibiotics lead to costs in the short term, as patients and insurance companies spend money on unnecessary drugs; incorrectly prescribed antibiotics can cause a future resistance to antibiotics, which can create serious complications when a patient has a more severe infection down the road.

Over expenditure

Improper use of prescriptions contributes to more expensive medical costs
Improper prescriptions and use of them adds to costs
Another cause of over expenditure is at the hands of patients who do not take the drugs they are prescribed. Patients may be wary to take medications that come with side effects, or not in the position to take responsibility to take all of their own drugs. Failing to take proper medications can lead treatable conditions to become much more severe, and often results in a patient needing a much more complicated and expensive procedure.

Many conditions are also allowed to become much more dangerous and expensive because patients avoid seeking medical attention. This is particularly common among the many people who are uninsured or un-derinsured. When people do not have the means to afford medical treatment, they allow their conditions to worsen. If, however, they were to see a doctor before a condition became too bad, they may be able to take medication that would stop the condition from progressing.

Financial waste

Much of the financial waste affiliated with prescription medication is also related to patients taking medications that interfere with or lesson the effectiveness of one another. This is particularly a problem with elderly patients, who were more likely to be taking several medications at once, and may thus accidentally take the wrong dosage of the wrong medication.

Confusing medications is a dangerous mistake that often results in hospital time, and can be avoided in part by making sure that people who are older or very sick have an active caregiver who can make sure that medications are taken as the doctor prescribed them.

Wrongfully dispensed drugs

Other reasons for major overspending on prescription drugs include wrongfully dispensed drugs, and patients receiving brand name drugs rather than their generic counterparts. Luckily, as many medical professionals switch to primarily digital records and prescriptions, less medications are wrongfully dispensed as a result of illegible handwriting.

Most pharmacies are now also dispensing generic drugs the majority of the time, which has helped decreased the amount of extra spending associated with receiving brand name drugs.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that the bulk of the gigantic amount of money lost in connection with prescription drugs is the result of mistakes made by patients, doctors, and pharmacists. Closer attention to detail and a continued effort to encourage people to visit the doctor as soon as they experience symptoms can be the difference that saves several billions.

About the author: Kenneth Gray is the founder of A-Fordable Billing Solution, a medical billing company designed to help individuals and health care providers. To learn more check out his work check out his free medical billing guide.

* Image license: Timeshifter; CC BY-S.A. 3.0