Health literacy, medication errors, and health outcomes: Is there a relationship?

April Warner, Nir Menachemi, Robert G. Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: To definitively examine the relationship between health literacy and medication errors by reviewing the existing literature. Summary: Over the past decade, our understanding of health literacy and its impact on society has greatly evolved, with research showing that patients with inadequate literacy levels are often subjected to inferior health outcomes. While several theoretical reasons exist to explain this suboptimal situation, one possible explanation is that patients with lower literacy levels do not have the skills necessary to effectively navigate the medication use process thus potentially leading to an increase in medication errors. Although the main focus of this article is to search for a direct association between literacy and medication errors, we also sought to identify an indirect relationship by evaluating previous studies, which explore the effects of literacy on health outcomes. Conclusion: While we identified numerous studies that suggest that low literacy adversely affected patient outcomes, no study was found that directly linked low-health literacy to medication errors. The authors conclude that additional studies are needed to clarify this relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)542-551
Number of pages10
JournalHospital Pharmacy
Volume41
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Health literacy
  • Health outcomes
  • Medication errors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacy
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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