Chronic Disease Outcomes and Enhanced Primary Care in Seniors and Improving Medication Safety in Seniors (65+) Community Forums

Project overview

Two National Health and Medical Research Council funded research projects conducted at the University of Western Australia’s School of Population Health used linked state and Commonwealth health information to identify:

  • Evidence on how best to use the efforts of Australian GPs to obtain better outcomes in patients aged 65+ years who suffer from chronic illness
  • Priorities for tackling the current epidemic in Australians aged 65+ years suffering from side effects of their medications.

The community forums

Consumer and community involvement was an important component of these two large research projects. There was a planned budgeted strategy that included community consultations and the establishment of a community group to provide ongoing input and advice throughout the projects.

In collaboration with the Health Consumers Council of WA, three community forums were held to seek community feedback about the projects. The forums were advertised through the Health Consumers Council’s networks and seniors’ community organisations. One hundred and four people attended from across the metropolitan and outer metropolitan areas.

Senior researchers gave presentations about the research and then attendees discussed the following questions in small groups:

  • What are the most important issues about taking prescribed medicines?
  • What might prompt people to talk to a GP if they thought their medicines were causing side effects?
  • Who did people talk to about their chronic medical conditions?
  • What did people consider to be the most important questions about prescribed medicines and chronic medical conditions the researchers should be looking at?

The feedback from the forums was comprehensive and raised issues that were not previously considered by the researchers. A series of focus groups was held in 2008 to further explore the issues raised.

What was the purpose of the community forum?

The purpose of the forums was three-fold:

  • To raise awareness of the research
  • Give people an opportunity to make share their experiences of living with a chronic illness or long term condition or taking multiple medications
  • To invite attendees to have ongoing involvement in the research through; The Seniors Consumer Panel, focus groups and completing surveys

Benefits

The feedback from the forums highlighted the key role of pharmacists and carers in the management in chronic illness and medication safety As a result the researchers applied for further ethics approval to included pharmacists and carers in the research.

Feedback also identified a number of issues that had not been previously considered such as:

  • Generic medicines
  • Packaging and labelling
  • Role of carers in management of medicine and chronic illness

Focus groups were subsequently held to further explore these issues.

Were there any surprises?

There were unexpected by-products of the consumer involvement activities. These were key safety and quality issues relating to packaging and labelling and non-specific dosing instructions on prescription medicines.

Comments from researchers

"Their experiences could potentially provide some ideas as to why we are observing certain results"
"I now believe that consumer input can make a difference"
"That consumer participation is established and legitimised and added so much value in such a common sense way"