Determining Patient Health Literacy during a Medicine Consultation Study

Pharmacy Research UK (PRUK) is delighted to announce the publication of research funded by the charity.  Research into “Determining Patient Health Literacy during a Medicine Consultation Study” has been conducted by Paul Duell at the University of East Anglia.

Health literacy is a person’s ability to obtain, understand and apply health information and it has been shown that patients that have limited health literacy have poorer health and are more likely to die early.  There is currently no agreed simple and accurate way of measuring health literacy and this means that patients with low health literacy may not be getting the information they need to manage their health.

Previous research has shown that there are seven patient behaviours that could predict their level of health literacy. This project aimed to test pharmacists’ ability to assess each of these behaviours during a medicine consultation and see if any are an accurate way of measuring health literacy.  The pharmacists were also interviewed to get their perspectives on measuring health literacy in this way.

The research showed that six out of the seven behaviours were associated with health literacy level; and the recall of written information was the most accurate predictor of health literacy.  However, the pharmacists involved with the study generally felt that a patient’s recall of verbal information was the easiest to assess as part of a consultation.

Moreover, the pharmacists displayed a varied ability to predict a patient’s health literacy based on the consultations and further research is now needed to standardise the way in which pharmacists predict health literacy using the six identified health behaviours.

Paul Duell said, “It is important for pharmacists to be able to assess a patient’s health literacy so that they can provide them with appropriate information and support.  This research shows that pharmacists differ in their ability to assess health literacy and therefore the need for a standardised approach to assessing patients.”

Rachel Joynes, PRUK Executive Director, said, “Assessing a patient’s health literacy is an important part of a pharmacist’s role and we are delighted to have funded research to help progress this area.”

See the final report

For more information please contact PRUK at practice.research@rpharms.com

Notes to Editors

  1. PRUK is the principle funder of pharmacy research in the UK. Founded as a result of a merger in 2012 of two previous research funding charities, PRUK has a broad programme of research in place. PRUK funds both research projects and individual bursaries to improve skills across the pharmacy sector. Registered charity number 1148335.
  2. See the full research project.


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