Patient medication literacy and safety in an Emergency Department

Wayne Varndell1,2, Kylie Lovato1, Alison Jeffers1, Nadya Marquez-Hunt1, Rebecca Carroll1

1Prince Of Wales Hospital, Randwick, Australia, 2University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Australia

Background: Medications play a primary role in the management of most illness and injuries. Over two-thirds of patients discharged from the emergency department (ED) are provided with medication.1  Conversely medicines also account for an increasing number of ED presentations, revisits and preventable hospital admissions due to adverse drug events, which have been linked to low levels of patient medication literacy.2, 3  Medication literacy refers to the degree to which individuals are able to obtain, process, comprehend and act upon information to safely interpret and administer medication.4 Yet to date, it has not been examined within Australia, or within the ED setting.  The purpose of this study is to measure medication literacy levels of patients being discharged from ED, and explore their practices in the use and storage of prescribed medication.

Method: A prospective, descriptive study based upon a convenience sample (n=100) of adult (>16 years) patients. Patient medication use and storage practices will be evaluated by questionnaire, medication literacy will be assessed using the MedLitRx.4

Results: We will report the results of the above study; highlighting trends and emerging issues that may be useful in practice, education and future research to improve patient safety in the use and management of prescribed medication.

Conclusions:  Patients presenting to ED are frequently discharged with medication, and are often reliant upon emergency nurses for information about the use of medication prescribed or package labelling.  Low levels of medication literacy are associated with poor patient outcomes and negative impact upon ED resources, which are potentially avoidable.


Kylie Lovato is Nurse Educator at Prince of Wales Hospital ED, and is an active clinician, educator and researcher in emergency healthcare and nursing.