Medication understanding among patients living with multiple chronic conditions: Implications for patient-reported measures of adherence

R. J. Fredericksen, L. Gibbons, S. Brown, T. C. Edwards, Frances Margaret Yang, E. Fitzsimmons, K. Alperovitz-Bichell, M. Godfrey, A. Wang, A. Church, C. Gutierrez, E. Paez, L. Dant, S. Loo, M. Walcott, M. J. Mugavero, K. Mayer, W. C. Mathews, D. L. Patrick, P. K. CraneH. M. Crane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Low health literacy is associated with poor medication adherence and poor health outcomes. Limited understanding of prescribed medications may decrease validity of patient-reported adherence measures. Objectives: To assess knowledge of names and purposes of prescribed medications among patients with multiple chronic conditions. Methods: Individual interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of patients from six U.S. primary care clinics. Participants (n = 57) were English and/or Spanish-speaking patients prescribed 3+ medications for chronic conditions, for which non-adherence may lead to disability or death. In individual interviews, patients were asked to name their medications, explain the purpose of each, and to explain how they distinguish them from one another. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and coded; coded content was quantified by 1) whether or not the patient could name medications; 2) method of categorizing medications; 3) whether or not the purpose of the medication was understood. Descriptive statistics were compiled using Fisher's exact test to determine the relationship between patient knowledge and medication characteristics. Results: Thirty percent of patients could not name at least one of their medications; 19% did not know their purpose; 30% held misconceptions about the purpose of one or more medications. There was no significant difference in ability to name medications or state their medication's purpose between patients using medi-sets, pre-packaged rolls, or blister packs, and patients who stored pills in their original containers (p = 0.56 and p = 0.73, respectively), or across demographic groups (p = 0.085 to 0.767). Conclusions: Many patients demonstrated difficulty identifying the name and purpose of prescribed medications; this did not differ by demographic group or medication storage type. Patients may benefit from routine review of medications with their provider in order to improve health literacy, outcomes, and patient-reported adherence measurement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)540-544
Number of pages5
JournalResearch in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Health literacy
  • Medication adherence
  • Medication literacy
  • Multiple chronic conditions
  • Patient-reported outcomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacy
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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