Best Of Best Poster Oral Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting 2017

Improving medication labelling – patients driving their information (#287)

Janelle Penno 1 , Benjamin Lee 1 , Carol Rice 1 , Allan Shum 1 , Kate Witney 1 , Senthil Lingaratnam 1
  1. Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, VICTORIA, Australia


To evaluate patient understanding and preferences of pharmacy label instructions to optimise medication compliance in oncology patients.


A prospective survey of patients attending the hospital was undertaken over 3 weeks. Blank medication boxes were labelled with different versions of the same instructions and patients were asked to indicate which they preferred in terms of ease of understanding. Medication instructions surveyed included current standard instructions used for medications and variations of these enhanced for patient understanding with health literacy principles. Patients were required to ‘teach back’ the instructions to confirm their understanding. Patient demographics were also collected.


A total of 560 people were surveyed of which the majority were aged between 55-74years (57%), female (59%) and spoke English at home (89%).

Survey respondents preferred simple language such as ‘under the skin’ and ‘gargle’ compared to ‘subcutaneous’ and ‘as a mouthwash’ respectively (91.7% vs 8.3% and 75% vs 25%), and to avoid unnecessary jargon such as ‘as part of a cycle’ for oral chemotherapy. Specific details were preferred such as ‘every 6 hours’ instead of ‘four times a day’ (61% vs 39%) and actual date dose due instead of ’72 hours after chemotherapy’ (63.3% vs 36.7%). Despite considerable evidence for the use of numbers in figures over words, patients showed a clear preference for number one to be written in words rather than as the numeral (71.7% vs 17.7%). Where ancillary labels were compared to instructions on the label 63% of participants did not notice them. Respondents provided rationale for their choices.


Medication labelling must be clear, concise and easy to interpret by patients to avoid incorrect administration of medication. The results of this survey will be used to improve patient understanding of medications dispensed from our hospital.