Pictures on pill bottles help patients take their medication

By Stassy Olmos
(Published by WSAV-TV)

BLUFFTON, Sc. (WSAV) – A Bluffton woman is trying to help doctors save lives by placing pictures on pill bottles to help patients understand how to take their medications, and so far, it’s working.

“If they have a heart medicine such as blood pressure, I usually put a little heart on there just to make sure that they know that that is for their blood pressure…some people may skip some medicines, but that’s really one that we don’t want them to skip,” said Janice Holloway, a nurse practitioner in the Lowcountry.

Through her experiences working with patients in their homes, she realized there was a very common problem.

“A lot of times I would come across the problem where the patient didn’t know what the medicine was for or they just didn’t take because they really didn’t understand… the words on the bottle or possibly they can’t see or there may be some language barrier,” she said.

A nurse by day and a doctorate student by night, she came up with the research idea to help patients understand when to take their medications, how to take them, and that they’re important.

For example, a sticker with a little square, on one side- a person with a sun and a plate of food, on the other side- a person with a moon and a plate of food.

“It’s once in the morning with a meal and once in the afternoon with a meal,” she said.

Her research focuses on diabetic and hypertensive patients at the Bluffton Jasper Volunteers in Medicine, where doctors say the need is great.

“When you’re talking about particularly hypertension, which we see a lot here, you know it’s what they call the silent killer because you really don’t have any symptoms,” said Stephen Keil, a doctor with the volunteer clinic, “Long term… it can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney failure.”

Holloway says something as simple as a picture on the bottle can make all the difference.

“It’s up to us as health care providers to make sure that when we give instructions to the patients that we make it in the most simple, understandable form.”

She hopes that the idea will get picked up in pharmacies across the United States.