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The Gerontologist 45:545-552 (2005)
© 2005 The Gerontological Society of America

Improving Medication Knowledge Among Older Adults With Heart Failure: A Patient-Centered Approach to Instruction Design

Daniel G. Morrow, PhD1,, Michael Weiner, MD, MPH2,5, James Young, PharmD3, Douglas Steinley, MS4, Melissa Deer, MS5 and Michael D. Murray, PharmD, MPH6

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Daniel G. Morrow, Institute of Aviation, Aviation Human Factors Division, Willard Airport–One Airport Road, Q5, MC-394, Savoy, IL 61874. E-mail: dgm{at}

Purpose: We investigated whether patient-centered instructions for chronic heart failure medications increase comprehension and memory for medication information in older adults diagnosed with chronic heart failure. Design and Methods: Patient-centered instructions for familiar and unfamiliar medications were compared with instructions for the same medications from a chain pharmacy (standard pharmacy instructions). Thirty-two adults (age, M = 63.8) read and answered questions about each instruction, recalled medication information (free recall), and then answered questions from memory (cued recall). Results: Patient-centered instructions were better recalled and understood more quickly than the standard instructions. Instructions for the familiar medications also were better recalled. Patient-centered instructions were understood more accurately for the unfamiliar medications, but standard instructions were understood more accurately for the familiar medications. However, the recall measures showed that the advantage of the standard format for familiar medications was short lived. Implications: The findings suggest that the patient-centered format may improve printed medication instructions available in many pharmacies, which should help older adults to better understand how to take their medications.

Key Words: Medication instructions • Adherence • Memory • Health literacy

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Copyright © 2005 by The Gerontological Society of America.