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BMJ Qual Improv Rep. 2012 Oct 24;1(1). pii: u496.w167. doi: 10.1136/bmjquality.u496.w167. eCollection 2012.

Improving illiterate patients understanding and adherence to discharge medications.

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Services Hospital , Lahore, Pakistan.


Adherence to a hospital discharge medication regime is crucial for successful treatment and to avoid increasing rates of drug resistance. A patient's success in adhering to their medication regime is dependent on many social, cultural, economic, illness and therapy-related factors, and these are often more pronounced in the developing world. Anecdotal evidence in Services Hospital, Lahore (Pakistan) suggested that the relatively high levels of illiteracy in the patient population was a major factor in poor adherence. Baseline measurement revealed that 48% of all the hospital's patients were illiterate with just 5%-12% of illiterate patients being able to interpret their handwritten discharge prescription after leaving hospital. Unsurprisingly follow-up clinics reported very poor adherence. This quality improvement project intervened by designing a new discharge prescription proforma which used pictures and symbols rather than words to convey the necessary information. Repeated surveys demonstrated large relative increases in comprehension of the new proformas amongst illiterate patients with between 23%-35% of illiterate patients understanding the new proformas.

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