Pharmacy students learn health literacy skills in free medicine clinics

25 Feb 2016 | Partners in Care

The Health Quality & Safety Commission’s three-step model for better health literacy is being used to improve health literacy in Dunedin.

The model is an important tool used at free health clinics established by a group of clinical staff from the University of Otago’s school of pharmacy, which are having a positive impact on students and the Dunedin community by teaching health literacy skills.

The pharmacy clinics are an important opportunity for students to see the impact of low health literacy in a teaching environment, while giving Dunedin residents the opportunity to understand their health and any medicines they are taking.

Commission medication safety specialist, Beth Loe, says it’s important health professionals understand the effect low health literacy can have on patients. This can include higher rates of hospitalisation, poorer outcomes and reduced ability to manage long-term conditions and communicate with health professionals.

“It’s important students get hands-on experience in a community setting to see how low health literacy can affect patients and learn to communicate information in a way the patient understands,” says Mrs Loe.

“Having the skills to communicate so patients understand their medicines and why they’re taking them is crucial. These clinics are an innovative way for students to gain hands-on experience. It’s a wonderful learning opportunity.”

Patients are encouraged to bring all of their medicines and supplements to the clinic where they can discuss any concerns, check which medicines are being taken and why, identify possible medication errors and make sure medicines are being taken as prescribed.

The clinics were run in 2014 and 2015 with funding from Ako Aotearoa and the University is looking at ways to continue them in 2016.

Three-step model for better health literacyThe Commission’s three-step model for better health literacy was developed during a pilot project in pharmacies. The model teaches health professionals the skills required to improve patients’ health literacy in three simple steps: find out what people know, build health literacy skills and knowledge, check you were clear (and if not, go back to step 2).

Three steps to better health literacy – a guide for health professionals contains the three-step model and is available on the Commission website.

A full report on the results of the University of Otago study Medicines clinic: A novel learning opportunity for understanding health literacy reports clinic outcomes over one year. It is available to download from the Ako Aotearoa website.

Last updated 25/02/2016