Patient information leaflets
and the provision of
Chapter 5 looked at a number of different forms of communication between health professionals and consumers. It was noted that one purpose of such communication is the exchange of information. In recent years an increasingly common way of exchanging information, in one direction at least, has been through the provision of patient information materials. These materials can take a number of different forms including videos, multimedia technology and the internet. Chapter 7 looks at the use of 'new' technology in communicating health information, while this chapter focuses on the provision of written information, particularly patient information leaflets. It begins by looking at some of the effects of providing written information and then assesses the availability and quality of existing patient information leaflets. As Coulter et al. (1998) pointed out, patient information leaflets can serve a number of purposes. These include promoting better health and preventing disease, encouraging self-care and reducing inappropriate service use, ensuring the appropriateness of treatment decisions and improving the effectiveness of clinical care. The latter half of this chapter will focus on the provision and effectiveness of information about medicines. After considering the extent of regulations governing the availability of medicine information leaflets in various countries, it looks particularly at guidelines that have been issued by the EC for describing information about the occurrence of medication side-effects. It describes a number of empirical studies that have been carried out to assess the effectiveness and likely impact of the EC's recommendations. Finally, it considers some general issues that arise from these studies in relation to the effective communication of risk information.