Barriers and enablers affecting patient engagement in managing medications within specialty hospital settings

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Communication problems contribute enormously to medication errors and adverse events. Encouraging patient engagement can help to facilitate effective medication management.


To examine barriers and enablers affecting how patients engage with managing their medications in specialty hospital settings.


An exploratory qualitative design was used involving in-depth interviews with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, patients and family members.


An Australian public, metropolitan teaching hospital was the study site and five specialty hospital settings were used, including cardiac care, emergency care, intensive care, oncology care and perioperative care.


In all, 21 health professionals, 11 patients and 12 family members participated in the study (n = 44). Barriers and enablers involved intrapersonal, interpersonal and environmental aspects, and differences in perceptions and experiences were found between the various settings. Health professionals had preconceived notions of what was appropriate behaviour in conveying information about medications. Many health professionals stated that they deliberately chose not to provide medication-related knowledge. Different barriers for patient engagement existed in various settings – in emergency care, patients could only stay for 4 h; in intensive care, medication changes regularly happened; in cardiac care, patients were discharged prematurely due to urgent need of beds; in oncology, there was lack of availability of oncology consultants; while in perioperative care, surgeons and anaesthetists were available just before surgery.


Complex barriers and enablers are associated with patient engagement in specialty clinical settings. By developing an understanding of these barriers and enablers, health professionals can help patients to understand and participate in their medication management.

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