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Health professionals encouraged to self reflect during Be Medicinewise Week

The Managing Director and founder of Webstercare, Australia’s leading medication management systems provider, has urged health professionals to apply some self-reflection to Be Medicinewise Week, starting Monday 19 August.

Every year Be Medicinewise Week aims to promote improved consumer understanding of their medicines and this year its theme is ‘Get to know the language of medicines’.

“There is good reason for encouraging greater public understanding of the medicines they take,” said Gerard Stevens AM.

“Far too many people don’t receive optimal benefit from their prescribed medicines. For some, it might simply mean that they didn’t receive any clinical benefit. For others it might lead to hospitalisation or even worse, death.

“The quality of communication is key to the quality of understanding. Simply passing on information doesn’t cut it because it assumes comprehension,” said Mr Stevens.

“Yet there are many barriers to understanding. We all know about the White Coat Effect which talks to comprehension difficulties following a diagnosis.”

Mr Stevens pointed to other barriers, including:

• use of technical or medical jargon which can be misinterpreted
• reliance on print communication, disregarding different preferences and learning styles
• a focus on what we want the patient to know rather than what they should do.
• limited awareness of cultural differences such as language and word meanings can lead to poor understanding.

“But we also need to reflect on our performance in communicating between each other. Poor communication between health professionals also contributes to significantly negative outcomes.”

Mr Stevens pointed to evidence recently given to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety by Professor Johanna Westbrook, Director of the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research and Macquarie University, who emphasised the need for better systems and greater coordination between GPs, nurses and pharmacists to improve medication safety for residents of aged care facilities.

Prof Westbrook’s research found that residents had on average nearly 10 discrepancies between the GP’s medication records and those kept by the facility.

“I hope all health professionals participate in Be Medicinewise Week and contribute to improved understanding and literacy of consumers in the medication they take. Helping them to understand the language of medicines will go a long way to reducing unnecessary medication misadventure.

“But it’s also a good time to reflect on our own performance – whether the technology and systems we rely on are fit for purpose, patient-centred, and what other measures we can take now to optimise communication with other members of the healthcare team,” said Mr Stevens.

For more information about Be Medicineswise Week and to download resources, go to nps.org.au/bemedicinewise.

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