Daily Dose: Know When to Bring Your Meds to the Hospital

Daily-DoseFrom the Fall 2012 Franciscan Focus

Medicare patients need to know they should bring their medications, only in the original containers, upon seeking hospital treatment.

Once assessed, the patient, or a family member, need to ascertain from the medical staff whether the patient will be an inpatient, or an outpatient observation patient, in order to determine whether they are to use their medication in the hospital.

Medicare observation patients may use their own medications, or pay hospital charges for them, since Medicare does not cover self-administered medications.

Self-pay patients also may use their medications at most hospitals. An exception is controlled substances, which patients may not bring or use in the hospital. Among examples are hydrocodoneacetaminophen (Norco, Vicodin) and alprazolam (Xanax). In the case of inpatients, Medicare covers the cost of the hospital supplying medications, so they are not allowed to use those they bring. An exception is medications the hospital pharmacy cannot supply.

It is important for patients to ask their status. They could realize significant cost-savings as a result,” said Rose Clemons, director of case management at Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point.

Self-administered medications generally include those taken by mouth, or applied to the skin; or to such items as eye drops, said Michael Olson, the hospital’s director of pharmacy.

Observation patients who forget to bring their medications may have them retrieved from home, again in the original containers, while inpatients who brought them in must have them taken home,” he added.

Observation stays include:

  • Outpatient care, although rendered in a hospital.
  • Those intended for short-term monitoring – less than 48 hours, usually 24 hours. In only exceptional cases do outpatient observation services span more than 48 hours.
  • According to Medicare, observation status commonly is assigned to patients who present to the emergency department and who then require a significant period of treatment or monitoring before a decision is made concerning their admission or discharge.


The sooner they ask their status, the better. Patients need to be proactive when it comes to their health care,” Clemons said.