Patients must receive sufficient information about their medicines to be able to take them safely, to make informed choices, and to understand the benefits of adherence. Providing written information alongside verbal communication is best-practice to ensure comprehension and aid recall. However, leaflet provision is not mandatory in New Zealand.
Automated provision of information in a digital format may support informing people about their medicines in practice. Internationally, digital tools have allowed self-reporting of chemotherapy side-effects (Patient Reported Outcomes) to provide medicines information and self-management advice. However, such systems are not yet available in New Zealand and it is not known how they would be received.
To investigate how patients are provided with information about their medicines in New Zealand practice and explore potential solutions to optimise quality and provision.
This study was conducted in four stages:
1. A description of patients’ views on what content should be included in medicine information leaflets and how they should be designed to improve usability and usefulness.
2. Surveys to examine a) pharmacists’ and general practitioners’ (GPs’) medication counselling practices, b) their opinions and use of written information, and c) patients’ opinions and experiences of receiving written medicine information.
3. Feasibility study to determine the viability of producing a medicines information tool (automatic leaflet-tailoring and prompting system) for GPs and pharmacists: a survey of vendors of prescribing and dispensing software in New Zealand.
4. Focus groups and interviews with former oncology/haematology patients to determine their opinions regarding the information provided about their chemotherapy, and their views of the possible use of an online digital tool to report side-effects and receive information.
1. Both summary and comprehensive medicine information leaflets should be readily available. Leaflet content requirements were identified, including names of the medicine, dose, benefits of treatment, and potential harms of therapy. The guidance provided by the New Zealand regulatory agency about how to design written medicine information does not align with patients’ stated needs.
2. Patients may not be receiving all the information they want or need to know about their medicines during verbal communication with GPs and pharmacists.
3. GPs and pharmacists do not routinely provide written medicines information leaflets. Facilitators to encourage provision included having summary and tailored leaflets available, more time with patients, and automatic computer prompts. GPs, pharmacists, and patients believe it is important that leaflets are given with new medicines.
4. At this time, it is not feasible to build an automatic leaflet-tailoring and prompting system within prescribing and dispensing management software used in New Zealand.
5. Oncology/haematology patients consider the way they are given information about their treatment could be improved. Many thought having a digital system available to report side-effects and receive information about management would be beneficial.
We need to improve the way we give people information about their medicines in New Zealand. Providing verbal and written information is not mandatory at present and may sometimes result in suboptimal practice.
Patients and health professionals thought digital technology could be used to help provide medicines information. Furthermore, online digital tools utilising Patient Reported Outcomes might help patients better manage their medicines’ side-effects.||