A visit to a doctor’s practice can be daunting for the average patient. Patients might encounter multiple doctors and hear medical jargon that can be confusing. They may also leave with multiple prescriptions for unknown drugs.

Patients who are able to understand why they take the medicine they do have a better chance of saving money and improving their health. Patients can rely on pharmacists to help them achieve their goals.

The U.S. healthcare system spends over $177 billion annually to treat patients who have been affected by the improper use of medication. Patients would be better able to understand their prescriptions and avoid most of these problems.

Mark Brueckl, assistant pharmacy director at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, (AMCP), a group that advocates sound medication management principles as well as strategies to improve health care, has the following tips:

* Review your entire medication history with your doctor and pharmacist. Make a list of all medications you use, including prescriptions and over-the-counter remedies. Notify your doctor if you have ever had any problems with medication.

* Ask lots of questions. Make sure you fully understand your prescription before filling it. Talk to your pharmacist to learn how to use the drug correctly and what to do if it is not taken as prescribed.

* Be prepared. Bring a family member with you to the doctor and the pharmacy counter to help you navigate the process of getting a new medicine. To speak to a qualified clinical pharmacist, call your 800 number.

* Consider the alternatives. Ask your pharmacist or doctor to determine if there are any alternatives, such as generics at a lower cost.

* Learn more about your medications. You can find information online at medical websites such as WebMD or the manufacturers of the medicine. Many pharmacy benefit managers and health plans offer online resources that provide cost and clinical information about your medications.

* Find out if you’re eligible for a medication therapy management (MTM) program offered by your health plan. MTM allows pharmacists and physicians to review the patient’s medication therapy and work with other providers to improve therapeutic outcomes.

For more information, please visit www.amcp.org.