A couple of years ago representatives from the Irish Pharmaceutical Union, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, members of the HSE, the National Ambulance Service, the Fire Service, and community groups involved with care of the elderly got together, and one of the most ingenious products I have ever seen was launched.
The product is called PIP- Personal Information Pack. It is available in every pharmacy in the country and it costs €2.00. It is a social responsibility project, funded by the above groups, and any outstanding coins in the coffers at the end of the year, are donated to charities such as Age Action Ireland.
PIP is a little blue book, contained within a blue plastic box. On the front of the box, the patients name and medical card number is written. Inside the box with the notebook, a key ring and a sticker is supplied. The key ring and sticker work in the same way as a medi- alert bracelet, but rather than informing ambulance personnel or doctor to a condition, they will go and check the fridge. This is where PIP is advised to be kept. If the Ambulance service or a Doctor arrives to a person’s home, they will see the sticker just inside the front door indicating that PIP is in the fridge. The key ring is another indicator.
In a medical emergency, time is crucial. It can be a high stress situation for a patient, and their family. Emergency personnel are trying to establish vital information on scene- medical history and medications, which will help with a diagnosis and lead to a better, more efficient treatment plan for the patient concerned. The booklet contains all this information. Medical history, medication, contact details for family, their own GP and their Pharmacist.
There is room for a passport photo and my favourite section is the listing for whether or not the patient has a pet. It’s only a small thing but it means a lot to the patient, especially if they live by themselves. This whole initiative is focused on the best care for that person.
The centre of the booklet has a number of blank pages to detail the patient’s medication history. I find it easiest to print off all the labels from the patient’s computer medication record and stick them in. The beauty of this is that if their medicines change (which often happens), to keep the book updated, all I need to do is print up new labels and stick them over the old ones. For new customers coming to me, it is crucial for me to know what medications they are on so I can advise if the medicine I am giving them will have any effect on other medicines. I advise my customers to bring PIP with them each time they need to collect a prescription. In the main, it is designed for the elderly community, but I would advise anyone on medication or with a chronic illness to use PIP.
I have worked with some local Occupational Therapists in the past on a class they call ‘Slips, Trips and Falls’. This class is for local senior citizens who have had an accident at home and is part of their rehabilitation. It is a great opportunity for me to educate them about PIP and even though a lot of the people in the group are not my customers, I encourage them to ask their Pharmacist about PIP. We work really hard in the Pharmacy telling our customers about this product, and hope to keep doing so.
Every week, I speak to staff from hospitals checking medicines for patients who have just been admitted. In an ideal world the patient’s PIP would be in the ambulance with them, saving medical staff precious time in determining what a person’s current medication is. I encourage everyone reading this to ask about PIP next time you are in a pharmacy and buy one for a friend or relative. It will cost you less than the price of a cup of tea, but it could really save someone’s life. We will advise you how to fill it out, how it works and why it has to be kept in the fridge. It will be the best €2 you will have spent this year.