The conversation is important, Doherty says, because he can try less expensive prescriptions if cost is the issue, or experiment with different kinds of drugs if side effects are the problem. It’s worth the potentially uncomfortable encounter with the patient, he says, since the medication might make the difference between life and death.
The screening could also help a patient avoid other unnecessary tests or additional prescriptions, says Dr. Tom Johnston. He runs the hypertension clinic at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, and is board president of the local chapter of the American Heart Association.
Other than calling the pharmacy to make sure people are refilling their prescription, he says he generally takes their word for it.
“I think there are a lot of times where you’re questioning in your mind whether someone has taken their medicine or not,” he says. “I think it would be good for the patient, too, for the doctor to know that they’re not taking their medicine so that we may not go down the wrong pathway.”
Johnston, who is not affiliated with Aegis, says his only concern about using a drug test would be running the risk of setting up an adversarial relationship with a patient. But there’s a way around that too, he says, by making them understand how vital it is to take the drug properly.
Sarah Avery, of Nashville, says she’s fully aware of the consequences.
“My daddy died because he didn’t take his medicine,” she says.