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Consumer research: Safer prescribing and dispensing of medicines

6 Jul 2023

Te Tāhū Hauora Health Quality & Safety Commission (Te Tāhū Hauora) is working alongside other agencies to support safer prescribing and dispensing of medicines. As part of this work, Te Tāhū Hauora commissioned Premium Research to undertake a project to identify what information consumers need about their medicine, with the aim of helping health professionals provide this information.

The full report on this project and a summary of the report, which both include quotes from consumers, are available below. A brief overview of these reports is presented here.

About the research

The research focused on times when consumers are first prescribed a medicine for regular use or have a change in that medicine, and when consumers may need to stop a regularly prescribed medicine during pregnancy.

Research participants

Respondents were recruited through the consumer health forum Aotearoa, Te kāhui mahi ngātahi (the Te Tāhū Hauora consumer advisory group) and Kōtuinga kiritaki (the Te Tāhū Hauora consumer network). In total, 159 people said they were interested in taking part. Of these, 60 people representing a diverse group of consumers were selected for interviewing. Participants varied in age, gender, ethnicity and location.

Premium Research interviewed 56 consumers and 2 support people in one-on-one interviews over Zoom or the phone. interviews lasted approximately 45 minutes each. We thank these participants for their time and effort and for sharing their lived experiences.

Participant experiences

Participants had experienced:

  • a change in the brand of a medicine that required monitoring
  • a change in the brand of a medicine with a different device to deliver the medicine
  • a change in the type of medicine but to treat the same condition
  • a supply issue with a medicine
  • starting a medicine
  • starting a medicine that required monitoring
  • taking regularly prescribed medicines, where they would consider becoming pregnant in the future
  • being pregnant in the past and either stopped or did not stop taking their regular medicine.
Participant advice to medical professionals, and implications and opportunities for the sector

Participants were asked what advice they would give to medical professionals about how to inform consumers when prescribing and/or dispensing medicine. Responses were grouped in the following themes, with specific implications and opportunities for the sector to consider.

Information and informed choice

Consumers want:

  • informed choice
  • to understand the rationale for recommending the medicine and its purpose and the pros and cons of taking the medicine
  • to understand the medicine’s possible side effects and interactions with other drugs
  • usage instructions (dosage, timing and dietary considerations) and the treatment timeframe
  • information to be more thorough when it’s about long-term medications
  • proactive and comprehensive communication about any changes in medicine (eg, supply issues, brand change)
  • not to feel pressured into accepting a change when collecting their prescription
  • proactive information about the implications of taking the medicine for both the consumer and baby during pregnancy, starting from the point of prescription and throughout their lifecycle.

Mental health consumers may prefer limited information to avoid increased anxiety.

Tailored information

  • Consumers want the format, presentation and accessibility of medicine information to be tailored to their needs.
  • Consumers prefer brief written information in simple language along with verbal explanations.
  • Consumers want easier access to health professionals, timely appointments and sufficient time during consultations to make informed decisions about their medicine.
  • Some consumers consider patient support groups are viable and credible sources of information about medicine changes.

Engaging, listening, understanding and checking in

  • Consumers want to contribute to decisions about their medication.
  • Consumers actively search for more information about medicines online. Consumers suggested that this could be guided by providing links to trustworthy websites (though these links in isolation are not sufficient information).

Relationships, respect and time

  • Consumers want medical professionals to build relationships with them and give them time to engage.
  • Consumers want to be respected, heard, understood and empowered.

Cultural awareness and sensitivity

  • Some consumers want medical professionals to demonstrate cultural competency, including a kaupapa Māori approach and being mindful of their language choice.

Improved communication between medical professionals

  • Consumers want a coordinated approach to providing medicine information across different health care professionals.
  • Consumers want consistent and comprehensive information.

Pharmacist involvement

  • Some consumers expect pharmacists to provide detailed information about medicines, including usage instructions and possible side effects.
  • Strong relationships with pharmacists enhance the consumer experience of receiving information.