Functional health literacy and understanding of medications at discharge

Mayo Clin Proc. 2008 May;83(5):554-8. doi: 10.4065/83.5.554.


The objective of this study was to evaluate patient knowledge of newly prescribed medication after hospital discharge. We reviewed the charts of 172 patients who were discharged from February 1, 2006, through April 25, 2006, from the internal medicine residency service at a community-based teaching hospital with prescriptions for 1 or more new medications. Between 4 and 18 days after discharge, patients were contacted by telephone and asked about the name, number, dosages, schedule, purpose, and adverse effects of the new medication(s) and whether they could name their medical contact person. We recorded the number of correct answers, patient age, and years of education. Of the survey respondents, 86% were aware that they had been prescribed new medications, but fewer could identify the name (64%) or number (74%) of new medications or their dosages (56%), schedule (68%), or purpose (64%). Only 11% could recall being told of any adverse effects, and only 22% could name at least 1 adverse effect. Older patients tended to answer fewer questions correctly (P=.02). We observed no association between the number of correctly answered questions and years of education (P=.57), time between discharge and survey (P=.17), or number of new medications (P=.65). Overall, we found that patients had limited knowledge about their medications after discharge from an internal medicine residency service, with age but not years of education significantly associated with level of knowledge.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Communication
  • Drug Therapy*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Refusal / statistics & numerical data*