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Does your doctor know all of your medications?

Last Modified: August 12, 2023

Family Medicine, Diseases & Disorders, Safety & Prevention


This post was written by Rhonda Sharp, MD, MD, FAAFP, PPG – Family Medicine, associate chief medical officer, Parkview Noble Hospital and Parkview LaGrange Hospital.

When you go to the doctor’s office, it's easy to assume your provider has all the information they need about your medical history. But, as a patient, it’s important to make sure your doctor is aware of every aspect of your health, and that includes the medications you take. Before your appointment, it’s helpful to make a list of your medications so your provider can get a full look at how you’re currently managing your health.

Three categories of medication to share

Because all types of medications could make a difference in your treatment plan and/or goals, your list should include:

  1. Prescription medications. With computerized medical records, we often assume our prescription medication list is current and complete. But with so many people seeing multiple physicians, going to walk-in clinics and communicating with their doctor's office virtually, it’s not uncommon for a medication list to be incomplete or inaccurate. There might be a medication that was discontinued but is still on your list, one that has been started that is not listed, or doses and frequencies that are not up to date. By writing down the names of your prescription medications and bringing the list to your appointment, your provider can ensure your medical record is accurate.
  2. Over-the-counter medications. After going through your medications on file, many providers will ask, "Are you taking anything else?" It may seem unnecessary, but now is the time to tell them about any over-the-counter (OTC) medications you are using. Any medication that you take daily, weekly or fairly routinely should be disclosed to your provider. This may include NSAIDS or pain relievers such as ibuprofen or other OTC medications such as those for heartburn, diarrhea or constipation. Even your vitamins and minerals should be disclosed, as they could affect other medications and even some lab results.
  3. Supplements. This group of medications, known as supplements, “herbs” or “natural” remedies, often gets missed. Because these types of medications are not prescribed and are often used to self-treat, most patients don’t mention them to their provider. However, it’s critical to share any supplements you take, whether they are used to treat an ailment, help with energy, boost your immune system or are part of a dietary routine. Supplements have been known to cause skin rashes, palpitations, hyperthyroidism and even liver failure. Giving your provider a list of the supplements you take, as well as the ingredients in each, can help them make more informed decisions about your health and any symptoms you may be experiencing.

Although your provider may not specifically ask about all of these types of medications, it’s important that you come prepared with any information that could affect your health. Letting your provider know about the medications you are taking, prescribed or not, allows them to better care for you at every stage of your health.

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