The days of a passive approach to personal health care is a thing of the past. This is not news, but how this translates into consumer behavior and empowerment given today’s unprecedented access to health information and technology is an exciting phenomenon to watch unfold.

I spent the last decade at my former job working towards continued or expanded access to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, but it wasn’t until I had two small children (and I suppose you could argue a third “less small” family member if you were to count my husband) that I became increasingly motivated to find additional avenues towards efficient and cost-effective treatments for minor ailments.

For those of us who are lucky enough to only darken the doorstep of a doctor’s office on an annual or quasi-annual basis, we — perhaps unwittingly — are becoming a part of today’s self-care revolution. We are going online to confirm the correct dose of acetaminophen to give a toddler who has grown significantly since the last wellness visit. We are tracking our health on our smartphones in a wearables-crazed society and often competing with loved ones for best performance. We are receiving reminders to pop in to the corner drug store clinic to get a quick flu shot (or office break room, #evergrateful). We are downloading the latest 7-minute workout app for when we have precious little time to do much else. One might argue, we are better off for it.

According to an industry-backed survey, 93 percent of adults would rather treat themselves with an OTC remedy than seek professional care. That, coupled with the reality that OTCs play a critical role in the delivery of cost-effective health care in this country — with estimates that on average, every dollar spent by consumers saves $6-7 for the U.S. health care system – illustrates the important role of OTCs.

These stats are not only critical perspective as we look for better ways to deliver cost-effective health care and further incentivize better pathways to switch medications from prescription to OTC, but they are a welcome development for those who are looking to feel better. So, the next time you open your medicine cabinet to reach for one of many possible OTC medications, be grateful that these once prescription medicines arrived there without a visit to the doctor. I know I am.

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Elizabeth Funderburk

Elizabeth Funderburk, senior director in APCO Worldwide’s Washington, D.C., office, provides strategic counsel to health care clients in issues management, stakeholder outreach, alliance development and media relations. Read More