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Prescription Instructions Confuse Even Educated Patients

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 2, 2011

According to an Institute of Medicine report from 2008, "Standardizing Medication Labels; Confusing Patients Less," there is a great need for setting uniform prescribing and dispensing practices by both [pharmacists and physicians. The IOM report said that because 90% of medications are taken four or fewer times a day, such a medication schedule that calls for morning, noon, evening and bedtime would go a long way to resolving the confusion.

The researchers cautioned that even more standardized simplified bottle labeling would need to be supplemented with spoken communication by the prescriber and pharmacist to make sure patients understand how their medications should be taken.

"Educational and health system strategies are needed to target provider communication skills and screening methods for identifying those at risk for complicating regimens and poor adherence," they wrote.

The participants who volunteered for this study ware between the ages of 55 and 75 and sought care at an internal medicine ambulatory care clinic or at one of three federally qualified health centers in Chicago. They were enrolled between August 2008 and December, 2009. The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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1 comments on "Prescription Instructions Confuse Even Educated Patients"


R. Patterson (3/2/2011 at 4:00 PM)
This article seems to imply that this is a patient problem not a physician problem. Try learning how to communicate. Seems to go along with physicians that make diagnosis only based on clinical test, not talking with patient. Also, why not try to reduce the number of medications? Do you really need 20 medications?