Recognizing pharmaceutical illiteracy in community pharmacy: Agreement between a practice-based interview guide and questionnaire based assessment

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Abstract

Background:

Patients with limited pharmaceutical literacy are at increased risk of drug-related problems. Recognizing these patients in daily practice is difficult. The Recognition and Addressing of Limited Pharmaceutical Literacy (RALPH) interview guide was developed as practical set of questions to recognize patients with limited pharmaceutical literacy in daily pharmacy practice.

Objective:

To compare agreement between pharmaceutical literacy measured with the RALPH guide and a validated general health literacy questionnaire. In addition, we provide insight into patients' pharmaceutical literacy using the RALPH interview guide.

Methods:

Structured face-to-face interviews with patients who visited a community pharmacy to fill a prescription for themselves were conducted. The interview included the RALPH guide as well as the Functional Communicative Critical Health Literacy (FCCHL) questionnaire to measure general health literacy. Functional, communicative and critical skills were measured and agreement between two methods was calculated.

Results:

Data were collected from 508 patients. Patients with limited pharmaceutical literacy, indicated by the RALPH questions, also had a lower general health literacy level according to FCCHL scores. Agreement between the RALPH guide and FCCHL questionnaire was moderate (˜60%) for the three health literacy domains. Most patients (>90%) had correct understanding of frequency and timing of medication use, but 25% did not understand warnings or precautions correctly. Finding understandable information (39%), assessing information applicability (50%) and reliability (64%) were mentioned as difficult by patients.

Conclusion:

Patients experienced difficulties with more complex skills, e.g. interpretation of warnings or precautions when using a medicine, finding and analyzing medication information. Whereas the FCCHL questionnaire is useful to assess general health literacy, the RALPH interview guide provides insight in the level of skills needed for good medication use and is more suitable for use in a medication specific context such as community pharmacy. Context specific assessment of skills is important to provide tailored pharmaceutical care.

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