Patients’ understanding of prescription instructions in a semi-urban setting in Cameroon
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OBJECTIVE: This cross-sectional study investigates the factors associated with patient comprehension of frequently used prescription patterns and explores patients' preferences for the various methods. METHODS: We interviewed two hundred and four consenting patients selected consecutively from the waiting rooms of the St. Elizabeth Catholic Hospital-Shisong in the north west region of Cameroon. We recorded socio-demographic data and their understanding and preference for four prescription modalities: pictograms, written out, symbols and Latin abbreviations. We studied the relationship between these variables in a logistic multivariate analysis. RESULTS: Understanding was best with symbols (89.7%) and worst when Latin abbreviations (26.9%) were used. Higher levels of education were associated with better understanding of Latin abbreviations (OR 18.87; 95% CI 2.44-142.86), written out prescriptions (OR 58.82; 95% CI 23.25-333.33), symbols (OR 1.47; 95% CI 4.25-50.00) and pictograms (OR 52.63; 92% CI 1.85-142.86) after controlling for confounding. Participants mostly preferred pictograms (40.7%) and written-out prescriptions (30.9%). CONCLUSION: Latin abbreviations were the most difficult to understand and should no longer be used. Symbols are more easily understood. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Latin abbreviations should be discouraged. Symbols are better, especially for patients with low levels of education. Prescribing using pictograms and plain text may facilitate understanding in this setting.
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