Provision of pharmaceutical care to patients with limited English proficiency

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Abstract

Purpose

A study was conducted to evaluate the current practices of pharmacists in ambulatory care clinics in communicating with and providing pharmaceutical care to patients who have limited English proficiency.

Methods

Semistructured surveys were used to gather data from 16 pharmacists and 8 physicians from 15 ambulatory care clinics in metropolitan Toronto. The survey examined pharmacists' knowledge about the linguistic services, policies, and guidelines in their ambulatory care practice settings; the strategies that pharmacists and physicians use to communicate with patients with limited English proficiency; the challenges pharmacists face when providing pharmaceutical care to those patients; the drug-related problems observed by pharmacists and physicians; and how pharmacists and physicians can collaborate to resolve medication issues for those patients.

Results

Many pharmacists (69%) were unaware of existing institutional policies for communicating with patients with limited English proficiency. Language interpretation services in clinics were nonstandardized and did not always reflect practitioners' preferences. All aspects of pharmaceutical care were reported to be difficult to accomplish in patients with limited English proficiency. Pharmacists and physicians identified similar drug-related problems, with nonadherence being the most commonly observed drug-related problem. Strategies suggested by pharmacists and physicians to improve communication with patients involved proactively identifying language needs of patients before appointments, having translated medication information available and using trained language interpreters.

Conclusion

Pharmacists at 15 ambulatory care clinics reported difficulty communicating with and providing pharmaceutical care to patients with limited English proficiency. Strategies suggested by pharmacists and physicians to enhance communication with those patients may help improve the quality of pharmaceutical care delivered.

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