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CPSI Share                                                    
3/16/2016 6:00 PM

Medications are a fact of life. Another fact is that they can be incredibly confusing. Trying to keep them straight during an appointment with your healthcare provider when you are anxious and vulnerable can be a challenging task. It is also something that even those who work in the system can struggle with.

Meet Emily Musing. Both her parents and in-laws are at a stage in their lives where they require frequent visits with their doctors and are taking medications regularly. Ms. Musing is also the Executive Director of Pharmacy, Clinical Risk and Quality at the University Health Network and sits on the board of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute. Even with her medical background, helping her parents and in-laws manage and keep track of the medications they're on and what they do is no easy feat. To help them, Ms. Musing developed a list of questions they can use to ensure that every visit to the doctor includes a conversation about their medications to help them understand what to do with their medications at home.

Inspired by Ms. Musing's experience of navigating her parents and in-laws through the healthcare system, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada, the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, Patients for Patient Safety Canada, the Canadian Pharmacists Association and the Canadian Society for Hospital Pharmacists have collaborated to develop a set of five questions to help consumers and their caregivers start conversations about medications. These five questions were tested by multiple stakeholders.

The five questions are:

  1. Have any medications been added, stopped or changed, and why?
  2. What medications do I need to keep taking, and why?
  3. How do I take my medications and for how long?
  4. How will I know if my medication is working, and what side effects do I watch for?
  5. Do I need any tests and when do I book my next visit?

Dr. Cara Tannenbaum, Co-Director of the Canadian De-Prescribing Network, who also holds a chair in pharmacy at the University of Montreal, and is a practicing geriatrician, praises the questions and the clarity they will bring patients and their families.

"These five questions are transformative," Dr. Tannenbaum says, noting that patients need to speak up and that they have a right to be heard.

"Having that conversation, and asking, 'is it a good time to look at my medication profile? Is it time to stop medications? Is it time to switch medications or reduce the dose or find out if they're truly being effective?' will add an additional component to the encounter that historically has not been there," Tannenbaum says.

She hopes these five will also prompt a sixth question that the healthcare provider will ask of themselves: to prescribe or to de-prescribe?

To learn more and to download your copy of the five questions, visit