Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Disposal of Expired Medication Samples

Today I was contacted by a medical assistant colleague who is taking my Basics of Pharmacology course at to brush up on her pharmacology knowledge.

In her email she states that her medical office is having a problem with disposing of their expired medication samples. They used to dispose of the out-dated medications by flushing them down the toilet, but now they received a letter from the hospital and the county informing them that flushing is no longer allowed; something about the medications being found in the water supply.

The office found out that only very few pharmaceutical reps are willing to take the expired medications back and the local pharmacies will only take back "controlled" medications. The medical assistant writes, that they feel that they have no other choice, but to limit the amount of samples they accept from the reps to avoid winding up with expired samples. They also try to make sure that the samples the reps leave on their shelves will not expire too soon, i.e. will be good for about one year.

Does anyone have suggestions, especially on disposal? Please add your comments!!!

©2005 Advanced Medical Assistant Custom Web Design, LLC. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Drug Sales Rep Brush-off

Today, while at the optical shop where several ophthalmologists and their assistants are working diligently to serve their customers and patients, I observed one of the employees answering the ringing phone, exchanging a few brief words with the person who had called and then hanging up with an audible "clank" as the receiver hit the phone's cradle. I thought I heard her say: "No thanks, we are all set!" as she hung up. The same instance she was hanging up the phone she gleefully swung herself around toward me and she declared prouldly: "Boy, that felt really good!" I didn't know what she meant and so I politely asked what she meant. "Well," she said "this was one of these drug reps and I just love to tell them off. We only allow those we already know to come in." So, it was having given a drug sales rep the brush-off that had just made her day. LOL.

This scene instantly reminded me of an article I had come across a few years ago while I still was a medical assistant student. The article was titled "Doctors Closing their Door to Drug Salesmen". I seem to remember that the article stated that the number of drug sales reps has grown from nearly 45,000 to almost 88,000 in just two years. This would have been between 1996 and 1998 when I was still in medical assisting school.

I recall that I used this article for an essay on pharmaceutical drugs and drug promotion. I was writing about the pharmaceutical industry and how it had spent more than $16 billion that year to persuade doctors to prescribe their company's drugs. On top of that they had invested nearly $10 billion for free samples of various drugs that were widely advertised to consumers. In my essay, I was trying to highlight any pros and cons.

After my work was turned in, reviewed, and graded, I remember a few words of wisdom provided by my instructor. As she was sharing her experiences out in the field as an RN she mentioned that she had witnessed drug representatives resorting to excessive means in an attempt to ward off competition and win over physicians and their prescription pads. Their goal was to out do generic competition and to maximize sales of drugs protected by patents, which if they were successful, would earn them their hefty commissions.

Upon graduation, I worked in different medical offices, from small private practices to larger group practices and indeed drug reps were calling the office regularly to see when they could come in to promote their products. It usually was us medical assistants working up front at the reception desk who booked them and informed the doctor when they would be coming in, usually during lunch time. Along with their heavy bags full of sample products and brochures, the pharmaceutical reps would also bring a wide variety of promotional gifts, from ink pens and scratch pads with their logo for the medical assistants, to titanium golf clubs and other extravagant gifts for the doctor, especially around Christmas. A delivery boy would already have dropped off the drug company funded lunch for the entire staff and we would set it up in our staff break and lunch room area. Once the lunch was over and the tables cleared, the drug rep would proceed to give a brief presentation, a mini lecture of sorts, to us and the doctor about the product they came to promote.

Personally, I do not like, nor dislike the drug reps and I do not doubt for a single moment that drug reps are professional, educated and nice people with a difficult job. I hope that the doctors they visit during these lunches and lectures are independent thinkers and will not sell out their patients to the drug companies and the products they sometimes "push". Although it may look strange to the patients and be a bit bothersome to the working medical office staff when the drug reps are standing there in their dark business suits on a busy day waiting for the doctor to take a break, or for us medical assistants to finally take them to the back office area where they can leave their samples, I was always thankful for the treats and a well spent hour leaning about new medications on the market.

Regardless, whether I like the drug reps, or not, or whether I agree or disagree with their methods to grasp a foothold in the available territory, it is clear to me that many needy patients will benefit from the medication samples and from time to time, the medical assistants will benefit from the free continued education classes they provide. As far as the free ink pens, scratch pads and lunches, a medical assistant colleague once said to me, that if we don't take them, someone else would. Goes to show that not everybody in a medical office objects to accepting promotional gifts that were funded by the drug industry. She may have had a good point there.

What are your experiences? How do you see it? Please feel free to comment!

©2005 Advanced Medical Assistant Custom Web Design, LLC. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Medical Assistants who Draw Blood

I was wondering if there was a way to find out whether medical assistants across the country are actually performing venipuncture once they graduated from school. It would be interesting to find out how many are drawing blood in-house.

The reason why I ask is because, as far as I know, most medical assistants do not draw venous blood samples. Yes, they do the quick test urines, finger sticks, injections, and throat swabs, but it seems, rarely do medical assistants I know perform the in-office venipuncture blood collections anymore.

It could be that they all work out of offices where there is an inhouse reference lab somewhere on the 1st floor, or a contracted hematology lab nearby, so if there is a need for blood they simply hand the patients the requisition slip and send them downstairs or across the hall to get the sample drawn.

Sometimes there is a phlebotomist who makes his/her daily rounds and takes care of all blood drawing needs. In hospitals, it's the RN or, again, the phlebotomist who obtains the venous blood samples, which leaves medical assistants relieved from this responsibility. To those medical assistant students who were not particularly happy about having to do venipunctures, not having to do them at work may seem like a good thing.

However, not practicing this valuable skill after having been taught so diligently by the clinical lab instructor means that unfortunately, sooner or later the ability to smoothly and properly obtain a venous blood sample will get lost. Yes, here goes the old adage: if you don't use it you will loose it.

So, working medical assistants, take on the challenge and put your heart in what you love. Grasp every chance you can to practice ALL your skills. Practice makes perfect, especially in phlebotomy and venipuncture.

Oh, and don't forget to add a comment, especially about whether or not you have blood drawing responsibilities at your workplace!

©2005 Advanced Medical Assistant Custom Web Design, LLC. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Do Medical Assistants HAVE to Know the Drugs?

Here is a question I received from a visitor through the Advanced Medical Assistant of America web site contact form. The visitor asks:

"Do medical assistants HAVE to know the various forms of drugs, their uses, strengths, interactions, and how they are prescribed? Isn't that the doctor's job?"

I am more than happy to address this important question and try to explain a few related issues, not only because I have been asked the same question a number of times before , but also, because this question will help many others.

There is a reason why part of the vocational training of a medical assistant is pharmacology. Not only is training in pharmacology an important part of the medical assisting curriculum, it is an essential skill required for employment in a doctor's office or medical clinic as a medical assistant.

Safe and effective drug therapy requires more of a medical assistant than simply handing over a prescription, or administering a therapeutic drug as ordered by the physician. Medical assistants working in a medical office, clinic, or hospital are expected to have a basic knowledge of the most common medications. They must be familiar with basic forms and types of medications, prescription drugs (regulated drugs), and Over-The-Counter (OTC) medications, their brand and generic names, and their recommended dosages, and dosage forms. In addition, medical assistants must be able to read and understand medical terms, numerals, and abbreviations that appear on a prescription bottle label as well as on a written prescription or medication order issued by the physician.

Medical assistants need to be attentive to ensure that the physician is aware of all medications, both, prescription and OTC, that the patient is taking, and know the proper way of recording these medications in the patient's chart.

Also, medical assistants are expected to know the purpose and effects of drugs, and the conditions under which drugs may or may not be used (i.e. pregnancy, breast-feeding, allergies, risk), drug interactions, toxicity because they must be able to explain these facts and summarize possible interactions and reactions to these drugs to patients.

Furthermore: The medical assistant (just like any other nursing staff) is ethically and legally responsible for ensuring that the patient receives the correct medication ordered by the physician!!! Because controlled drugs are subject to many laws, a medical assistant is legally responsible for adhering to all related regulations. Therefore all medical assistants must be familiar with and follow federal, state, and legal guidelines, maintain awareness of federal and state health care legislation and regulations, and maintain and dispose of regulated substances in compliance with the national and state regulatory agencies and government (OSHA) guidelines.

The most efficient way to prepare for these responsibilities is to read the package inserts and drug labels that accompany all medications, whether they are drugs from drug company representatives (drug-reps), or drugs ordered by the practice. Another excellent source of information is the Physician's Desk Reference, or PDR, which most medical offices receive free of charge every year and be aware of office policies and procedures.

Anybody who wants to learn more about what the medical assistant should know about drugs and medication orders, can go to and read through the many tutorial like web pages--Free of course.

Don't forget to comment on this post. I am sure you have had certain experiences with medications, knowledge of their uses, and their safe handling in a medical office. Please share!!!

©2005 Advanced Medical Assistant Custom Web Design, LLC. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A Web Site Community for Medical Assistants!

Hello Medical Assisting professionals and colleagues!

My name is Danni R., I am the founder of Advanced Medical Assistant Custom Web Design, LLC, and the creator and maintainer of a number of top ranking web sites dedicated to the medical assisting, medical coding and billing, and phlebotomy profession.

Not only are my web sites well known and highly respected on the Internet, but two of them are a featured professional resource in the Higher Ed McGraw-Hill Medical Assisting Administrative and Clinical Competencies - 2nd Edition book. I am proud to be able to reach out to thousands and thousands of medical assistant students and professionals to inspire and mobilize them to strive to be the best they can be and to help each other to find and utilize resources for their personal development and professional advancement. To reach out even further, and make my services more interesting and interactive for everybody, I decided to create this Medical Assistant Net Blog Log.

If you are interested in viewing the rest of my work, here are my featured web sites:

1. Advanced Medical Assistant of America
Raises awareness of the medical assistant profession and certification programs and offers online learning resources and an active medical assistant forum:

2. Medical Assistant Net
Career direction and advice for medical assistant students and graduates, online learning resources, and networking opportunities to assist professional growth:

3. Medical Billing and Coding Net
Reference website for medical billing and coding specialists and students offering career and certification advice, learning resources, and networking opportunities between medical billers and coders:

4. Medical Coding and BillingCareer advice, practice management suggestions, online learning resources, and networking opportunities to improve services medical coders and billers provide to healthcare professionals and providers:

5. Medical Assistant PharmacologyReview important areas in the study of pharmacology as it applies to situations typically encountered in a medical office or clinic:

6. MA Exam Help WebsiteEducation resources, test preparation, study notes, and reference material for medical assistants who are preparing for examinations:

7. Medical Assisting CareersExplains related allied health careers that the experienced medical assistant, with additional training and education, may cross train or transition into:

8. Phlebotomy Pages
Informational website for those interested in the art of phlebotomy or phlebotomy as a new career:

Created by Danni R.
©2005 Advanced Medical Assistant Custom Web Design, LLC. All rights reserved.