Communication with patients about possible side effects of medicines

Patients’ overall experience with communication about medicines, specifically possible side effects.

What do you see?

  • Are there any trends over time at the emergency department(s) where you work or would be most likely to visit?

Whether you’re a patient, provider, or health system administrator, thinking about why these differences might exist can start conversations and lead to solutions for improved quality of healthcare.

Understanding “communication with patients about possible side effects of medicines”

Surveying patients about their experiences in the emergency department provides a voice for patients about the quality of their care. A key part of their experience can be determined by communication about their medicine, specifically, possible side effects of their medicines.

The HQCA asked emergency department patients, who were given medicine, two questions about their experience.

The questions were:

  • Before giving you any new medicine, did the doctors or nurses describe possible side effects to you in a way you could understand?

  • Before giving you pain medicine, did the doctors and nurses describe possible side effects in a way you could understand? 

For each question, the respondents could choose “yes, definitely”, “yes, somewhat”, or “no”. The responses “yes, definitely” or “yes, somewhat” are included in the chart above.

Many patients receiving emergency care are provided with medicine. When used correctly, medicine can help patients feel better or even save their lives. However, there are safety risks if patients don’t know about side effects. To take a more active role in their medication safety, it is important for patients to understand the possible side effects of the medicine they are taking.

If there is effective communication about medicine, patients’ overall rating of their emergency department experience may improve. 

Understanding the HQCA’s  emergency department patient experience survey

Every two weeks, the HQCA conducts a telephone survey with a random sample of patients from each of the 16 emergency departments reported on this website. The patient input collected in the surveys is then analyzed by the HQCA and the results of the question above, and six others, are uploaded to this website every quarter (three months). See our methodology page to learn more about the survey methodology.
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Results from April to July 2016 are not reported for the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre due to the forest fire that affected Fort McMurray and forced the closure of the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.

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