Communication about oral medications: A Habermasian analysis on a review of the literature

Gary Mitchell, Samuel Porter, Elizabeth Manias

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Communication about medicines is a complex issue that influences a number of factors including patient satisfaction, patient knowledge, patient experience, and patient adherence to medicines as well as the patient’s overall medical condition (Cox et al, 2004).

Aim and objectives:
The aim of this review was to explore the literature pertaining to communication about oral medications between patients and health professionals (including nurses, physicians and pharmacists). The results of this review were analysed using a ‘theoretical thematic analysis’ (Braun and Clark 2006). The theoretical analysis was guided by the Theory of Communicative Action (Habermas 1984; 1987).

A literature search was undertaken in September 2013 using Medline, Embase, CINAHL Plus and PsycINFO. Following retrieval of 678 studies, 64 were selected for analysis and 28 were eventually included in this review.

Analysis and Results:
This review illustrated that the ideal practice of shared decision-making was not consistent in practice. Shared decision-making about medications only occurred when two-way communication included the lifeworld of the patient. The majority of patients who expressed satisfaction with communication practices of their nurses, physicians or pharmacists cited ideas consistent with the Habermasian Validity Claims, for example practitioner honesty, ease of understanding and sincerity. On the contrary, patients who reported dissatisfaction and non-adherence often attributed this to practitioner reluctance to digress from medicine, or as Habermas termed the colonization of the lifeworld by the system. Another important theme that emerged pertained to health professional information-giving practices being guided by technocratic consciousness which subsequently were not readily understood by most patients.

Communication about medications should incorporate concordance, vis-à-vis shared dialogue and decision-making between patient and practitioner about medications. The theory of communicative action offers a philosophical approach to communication practices amongst people in a much broader context. Importantly the ideals of concordance are synonymous with communicative action.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2014
EventSchool of Nursing and Midwifery 1st Annual Post-Graduate Research Conferenc - Queens University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Jan 2014 → …


ConferenceSchool of Nursing and Midwifery 1st Annual Post-Graduate Research Conferenc
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Period29/01/2014 → …


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