Are you setting some personal goals or resolutions you want to accomplish in 2020? Consider putting some health-related suggestions from the pharmacist on your list. Making just a few small changes can help you stay on track with your healthcare and ensure you will have a happy and healthy 2020.

Clean out the medicine cabinet

If you have old, expired medications sitting in your cabinet, it’s time to throw them out. Most medications, especially over-the-counter medications, will have a visible expiration date. If you don’t see one, a good rule of thumb for prescription medications is that they will last 1 year from the date they are filled. If you are unsure, check with a pharmacist since label requirements vary by state.

Why is it important to throw away expired medicine? Here are 3 reasons:

  • The chemicals of the medication break down over time
  • Medications become less effective
  • Some medications can be harmful if taken past the expiration date

Twice a year, the Drug Enforcement Agency has a national prescription drug take back day. Each spring and fall, they designate collection sites where you can drop off your medication. There are also permanent drop off locations available year-round. If you don’t have an authorized collection site nearby, the Environmental Protection Agency has guidelines for how to properly dispose of medication. They recommend the following steps:

  1. Mix medications with an “undesirable substance” like cat litter or coffee grounds.
  2. Place the mix in a disposable container with a lid.
  3. Make sure to remove any personal information from your prescription containers before disposing of them.

This can prevent accidental poisoning, misuse, and pollution of water sources. Remember, you should not flush your prescription or over-the-counter medication down the toilet or drain unless specifically stated by the drug manufacturer.

Take your medication as prescribed

If you want your medication to work correctly, you must take it as directed. Taking too much, too little, or at the wrong times can result in under or overdosing.

An example of medications that must be taken correctly are antibiotics. Many people stop taking antibiotics when they start feeling better, but it’s necessary to finish the course of treatment. Infections can come back if not treated for long enough.

If you feel that your medication regimen is not working for you, talk to your pharmacist or healthcare provider to find a solution.

Put your new insurance cards in your wallet

At the start of the new year, most people are mailed their new insurance cards. You should remove your old cards and replace them with new ones — even if they look the same.

Small changes made on the insurer’s end could end up affecting your care if you don’t have the updated information. At the least, it could save you time at the pharmacy by having all the updated and correct information.

Commit to knowing what your medications are for

It’s always good to understand everything you are putting into your body. If you take several medications, knowing each of them and what they treat can be difficult. Surprisingly, many people take medications their doctors prescribe but don’t know why.

Make 2020 the year you research all your prescribed medications and ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist any questions you have about them.

Request refills before you run out

This year, make sure to monitor the amount of medication you have on hand and not wait until the last second to request a refill. Going without medication for a few days can be dangerous for certain conditions like heart problems or diabetes.

In 2020, make it a habit to call the pharmacy for your refills at least 5 days ahead of time. This will help you avoid any issues with your prescription like:

  • Your medication is out of stock
  • Your insurance company needs a new prior authorization
  • Your medication has been recalled
  • Your medication is no longer made
  • Your medication is no longer covered by your insurance plan

Some pharmacies do offer automatic refills so you don’t have to remember to do it. You can talk to your pharmacy to see if they have a service that will help you with automatic refills.

Communicate with all of your doctors

If you see many different doctors, you may be under the impression that they are all updated on your medical history. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case. Healthcare providers rely on electronic medical records to provide information about your medical visits. But, not all providers have access to the same databases. This is especially true for small, independent offices that do not have as many resources.

The following examples are usually healthcare providers that won’t have access to the same EMR as your other providers:

  • Eye doctors
  • Mental health doctors
  • Foot doctors
  • Dentists
  • Pharmacists

Any of your healthcare providers can fax your medical history to another office if it is requested. So, in 2020, make it a habit to keep all your healthcare providers informed about your medical conditions and medications you are placed on from different healthcare providers. There will also be a higher likelihood of all your doctors having the same information if you seek treatment from the same hospital network.

Make a list of all your medications

It seems simple, but make a list of all your medications, including over-the-counter medications. Certain drug interactions can be dangerous, so it’s important to carefully understand all your medication.

Most people think oral medications are the only ones they need to inform their healthcare provider about. When making your list, be sure to include the following:

  • Topical patches
  • Eye drops
  • Ear drops
  • Nasal sprays
  • Vitamins
  • Dietary supplements
  • Inhalers
  • Injections
  • Infusions
  • Implantable devices
  • Any medications that are mailed to you
  • Any medications you only use as needed

If you would like help putting together this type of list, you can always ask your healthcare provider or pharmacy to print you a list.