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Form Frustration: Drug Allergies


I rarely see a pre-encounter form that does not inquire about allergic reactions to medications, but I cannot recall ever seeing one that inquires about non-allergic adverse effects. Maybe most patients think of any kind of adverse effect as an allergy, and maybe most providers will ask before they prescribe a new drug, but why take a chance?

History of actual atopic (allergic) reaction almost always constitutes an absolute contraindication to use of the offending pharmaceutical, but other kinds of adverse effects can kill.

With increasing data collection demands on providers the tendency to rely on information collected with forms has also increased. Those who create forms could easily expand "allergy" to "allergy or other adverse reaction" to minimize the risk of failure to consider critical information.

Patients should make sure to tell there providers about any kind of adverse effect, not just allergies, regardless of what the form demands.

Prescribers -- and pharmacists -- should ask every patient directly about past negative experience of every kind with all prescriptions.

Digital medical records have the capacity to retain this information permanently, to present it automatically as a red flag prior to prescribing any relevant medication. This constitutes yet another argument for a single, universally accessible patient record.