Purpose This study aimed to explore peoples’ needs and expectations of written medicines information (WMI), and to determine the barriers and facilitators experienced or perceived in the context of WMI provision and use.
Methods We conducted eight focus groups with 62 participants over 6 weeks in late 2008 in New South Wales, Australia. Using a semi-structured topic schedule and examples of WMI from Australia and other English-speaking countries as a guide, we explored themes relevant to WMI, including participant experiences, attitudes, beliefs and expectations.
Findings Our findings suggest less than half had previously received WMI, with many unaware of its availability. Many, but not all, wanted WMI to supplement the spoken information they received but not to replace it, and it was predominantly used to facilitate informed choice, ascertain medicine suitability and review instructions. The current leaflets were considered technical and long, and a summary leaflet in addition to comprehensive information was favoured. Accurate side-effect information was the most important element that participants desired. The most common barriers to effective WMI use were time constraints and patient confidence, with participants citing empowerment, time and health-care professional (HCP)–patient relationships as important facilitators.
Conclusion The findings provide insight and understanding of peoples needs and expectations, and clarify issues associated with use and non-use of WMI. Challenges include addressing the barriers, especially of time and HCP attitudes to drive changes to workplace practices, and learning from the facilitating factors to encourage awareness and accessibility to WMI as a tool to empower patients.