Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Low literacy and written drug information: information-seeking, leaflet evaluation and preferences, and roles for images

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Mara M. van Beusekom, Petronella Grootens-Wiegers, Mark J. W. Bos, Henk-Jan Guchelaar, Jos M. van den Broek

School/Research organisations


Background Low-literate patients are at risk to misinterpret written drug information. For the (co-) design of targeted patient information, it is key to involve this group in determining their communication barriers and information needs. Objective To gain insight into how people with low literacy use and evaluate written drug information, and to identify ways in which they feel the patient leaflet can be improved, and in particular how images could be used. Setting Food banks and an education institution for Dutch language training in the Netherlands. Method Semi-structured focus groups and individual interviews were held with low-literate participants (n = 45). The thematic framework approach was used for analysis to identify themes in the data. Main outcome measure Low-literate people’s experience with patient information leaflets, ideas for improvements, and perceptions on possible uses for visuals. Results Patient information leaflets were considered discouraging to use, and information difficult to find and understand. Many rely on alternative information sources. The leaflet should be shorter, and improved in terms of organisation, legibility and readability. Participants thought images could increase the leaflet’s appeal, help ask questions, provide an overview, help understand textual information, aid recall, reassure, and even lead to increased confidence, empowerment and feeling of safety. Conclusion Already at the stages of paying attention to the leaflet and maintaining interest in the message, low-literate patients experience barriers in the communication process through written drug information. Short, structured, visual/textual explanations can lower the motivational threshold to use the leaflet, improve understanding, and empower the low-literate target group.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1372-1379
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Clinical Pharmacy
Issue number6
Early online date21 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016

    Research areas

  • Drug information, Literacy, Legibility, Netherlands, Patient information leaflet, Pictograms, Readability, Visuals

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. rEACH, research committee of EACH: Updates on activities

    Pieterse, A., Schouten, B., Amann, J., van Beusekom, M. M., Hillen, M. & van Weel-Baumgarten, E., 23 Jul 2019, 9 ed. 2 p. (Patient Education and Counseling)

    Research output: Book/ReportOther report

  2. Communication skills training for the radiotherapy team to manage cancer patients’ emotional concerns: a systematic review

    van Beusekom, M. M., Cameron, J., Bedi, C., Banks, E. & Humphris, G. M., 20 Apr 2019, In : BMJ Open. 9, 11 p., e025420.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  3. Express rather than impress: Benefits of the rEACH summer school for early-career researchers in the field of health communication

    Amann, J., Jongerius, C., Palis, H., Rossi, M. G., Altendorf, M., van Beusekom, M. M., de Looper, M., Medendorp, N., Ofstad, E., Houwen, J. & Duprez, V., Feb 2019, 2 p. (Patient Education and Counseling)

    Research output: Book/ReportOther report

  4. The extent and effects of patient involvement in pictogram design for written drug information: a short systematic review

    van Beusekom, M. M., Kerkhoven, A. H., Bos, M. J. W., Guchelaar, H-J. & van den Broek, J. M., Jun 2018, In : Drug Discovery Today. 23, 6, p. 1312-1318 7 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

ID: 259562655