The importance of Medication Reconciliation

Over-the-counter and prescription medications are used frequently to treat thousands of unique health issues, but many times, patients are not openly communicating with their primary care provider about all the pills they are taking. Patients may assume that their doctor is aware of medications prescribed by specialists or other providers, but that’s not always the case.

Bring your bottles and make a list.

Jane E. Shughart, PA-C, of Meritus Primary Care, recommends patients bring their pill bottles with them to their primary care provider at least once a year.

“We need to see the actual pill bottle, not just a pill dispenser,” says Shughart. “This allows us to know exactly which medications you are taking and discuss dosages.”

Reconciling your medications by bringing the physical bottles is vital for several reasons:

  1. It helps avoid medical errors that could result from an incomplete understanding of past and present medical treatment.
  2. There is less chance that a medication or prescription is forgotten or overlooked.
  3. Your provider can more effectively work with you to consolidate and avoid unnecessary duplications of medications or prescriptions that treat the same symptoms.
  4. Your provider can look for dosing errors and discuss proper administration of your medications.
  5. With a complete inventory of your medications, your provider can help you identify and avoid adverse drug interactions.

When you bring in your bottles, be sure they are all tightly closed and carried in a safe bag so none are lost or misplaced.

An alternative option is to create a list of the over-the-counter and prescription medications you regularly take. You will have to update this list as doses and drugs change. Bring the list to every appointment as a reference when speaking with your primary care provider.

Your pharmacist is a medication ally.

A pharmacist’s work goes far beyond measuring pills into bottles, as he/she can be a helpful resource for patients who have questions or concerns about medications they are prescribed or purchasing.

With a quick phone call or a question asked at pickup, a pharmacist can clarify how much medication you should take based on your prescription; how to administer medication to yourself, a child or an elderly parent; and recommended solutions for your concerns.

“A pharmacist can take a look at the medication you are considering purchasing or have been prescribed and tell you what can be safely taken with it,” says Shughart.

Reconciliation is a joint responsibility.

The responsibility of managing medications is equally shared between a patient and his/her health care provider. While the provider is responsible for writing prescriptions and educating patients, it is ultimately up to the patient to follow the provider’s recommendations.

Consistent reconciliation of your medications will help ensure that you and your primary care provider are on the same page and that your health needs are being addressed in the best possible way.

Meritus Health, at 11116 Medical Campus Road, east of Hagerstown, is the largest health system in the area, providing hospital and outpatient services to the community. Subscribe to Your Health Matters, a monthly e-newsletter with important health information, at