Impact of a Universal Medication Schedule on rationalising and understanding of medication; a randomised controlled trial

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Background: Patients frequently encounter difficulty understanding their prescription drug labels. This problem is more common in patients with limited health literacy (HL). Patients are not always counselled on their medicines by their doctor or pharmacist, therefore this label can be an important source of information. Objective: To assess the impact of a Universal Medication Schedule (UMS) on the knowledge and consolidation of a prescription drug regimen compared to standard pharmacy labelling. Methods: Seventy-six in-patients at a specialised rehabilitation hospital in Dublin, Ireland, were randomised into control (usual care) or intervention (UMS) groups. Adult in-patients, receiving oral medicines, who spoke English fluently were included. Patients with dexterity issues documented, or those unable to provide written informed consent were excluded. The Newest Vital Sign (NVS) and validated HL screening questions measured HL. A five medication regimen was presented to each participant, and they were asked questions to assess their understanding of the medication regimen and were asked to dose out the medications into a 24 h dosette box. Data analysis was conducted using SPSS® (IBM Corp.), V23. Results: The majority of participants (n = 76) were Irish (89.5%), male (63.2%) and the median age of participants was 49 years. 46% of participants had a third level qualification, however 14.4% of participants had not completed any formal school examinations. Those in the UMS group displayed better understanding of the prescription regimen than those in the usual care group, but this was not statistically significant. (Mean score 9.28 vs 8.81, p = 0.135). Subgroup analysis did not find any additional benefit of UMS in those with limited health literacy (Mean score 8.56 vs 9.06, p = 0.514) but rather in those who said that they found instructions on tablets hard to understand (Mean score 10.00 vs 8.43, p = 0.019). Conclusion: A UMS approach may improve patients understanding and use of their medicines.




McManus, E., McCarthy, S., Carson, R., & Sahm, L. J. (2018). Impact of a Universal Medication Schedule on rationalising and understanding of medication; a randomised controlled trial. Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy, 14(9), 831–838.

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