Communication relating to family members' involvement and understandings about patients' medication management in hospital

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Background: Many patients with complex health-care needs are prescribed several medications on a daily basis. With admission to hospital, patients are often placed in a vulnerable position. Family members can therefore play an important role in supporting patients in decision making about managing medications and negotiating communication exchange with health professionals. Objectives: From the perspective of family members, to explore family members' involvement with health professionals and patients about how patients' medications are managed in hospital. Design: Using an ethnographic design, interviews were conducted with family members of patients admitted to hospital who had at least five medications prescribed in hospital. A purposive sampling approach was used for recruitment. A thematic framework process was used for analysis. Setting: Interviews took place in four surgical and four medical wards in each of two Australian hospitals. Results: Forty interviews were conducted with family members in relation to their respective relative's medications. Family members tended to participate in passive, rather than active or shared decision-making activities. Those who demonstrated active or shared decision making were extensively involved in managing medications and in addressing problems relating to continuity of care. Communication with health professionals was generally insufficient, despite family members' keenness to speak with them. Conclusions: Improved communication is needed between family members, health professionals and patients in hospitals. Greater attention should be played by health professionals in initiating communication proactively. Family members possessed valuable, unique information about patients' medications that can be utilized to facilitate patient safety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)850-866
Number of pages17
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • Family members
  • Medication management
  • Qualitative interviews

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