15 Apr 2013 | Partners in Care
Providing education, skills and resources about health literacy for health professionals can result in improved health outcomes for patients, writes Dr Janice Wilson, Chief Executive for the Health Quality & Safety Commission.
The Health Quality & Safety Commission (the Commission) recently initiated a health literacy demonstration project within two community pharmacies. The project aims to build on the health literacy knowledge and skills of key pharmacy staff to improve communication with patients.
Research indicates that providing education, skills and resources about health literacy for health professionals can result in improved health outcomes for patients. This project responds to a report prepared for the Commission in 2011 that made the following observations:
The report recommended that the Commission initiate a demonstration project in community pharmacy based on health literacy improvement.
Two community pharmacies have embraced the challenges of the Health Literacy Medication Safety project and volunteered to be involved.
Hillpark Care Chemist is a community pharmacy in South Auckland that has a diverse multi-cultural population. Pharmacist owner Kathy Maxwell employs five pharmacists and an intern.
Vivian Pharmacy in New Plymouth offers medicine and advice to a large number of rest homes, mental health services and individuals in their homes. Pharmacist owner Catherine Keenan employs seven other pharmacists and six technicians.
“Health literacy is such an interesting area and I feel that the tools from the project will add to our communication skills as pharmacists,” says Catherine. “The teams at the Commission and Workbase are great to work with and our busy pharmacy is an ideal place to put these tools into practice. Good communication is the key to making sure our patients use their medicine in a safe and appropriate way.”
The first phase of the project involved developing a training programme and tools based on internationally recognised approaches. The Commission contracted Workbase to develop and pre-test these with a group of pharmacists and pharmacy representatives. After user-testing, Workbase refined the programme and tools to ensure they were fit for purpose and useful within the context of a busy community pharmacy.
In late January, Kathy Maxwell and Catherine Keenan attended a train-the-trainer day facilitated by Workbase in Auckland. Kathy and Catherine will receive on-going support and assistance from Workbase and the Commission’s medication specialists as they teach their staff to apply the tools over the three month demonstration period.
The project is being evaluated, and the results will inform recommendations for applying the approach more widely across the health and disability sector and within continuing education programmes.
Pharmacists who choose to raise their own awareness, and teach their staff about health literacy, have much to gain personally and professionally. They are the key change-agents for improved communication, better understanding and medicine safety within their communities.
 Health literacy and medication safety: environmental scan of tools, resources, systems, repositories, processes and personnel. Wellington: New Zealand Guidelines Group; 2011.