Defining and identifying concepts of medication literacy: an international perspective


Multiple concepts to define health literacy in the context of medication use exist, such as medication literacy, pharmacotherapy literacy, pharmacy health literacy; however, no studies have looked at consensus among experts internationally.


A Delphi process was used to achieve consensus on the statements about medication literacy. Experts for the Delphi were selected from a review of the literature and suggestions from an international survey conducted with members of the International Pharmaceutical Federation on medication literacy. The preliminary Delphi questionnaire was built using the statements about medication literacy found in the scientific literature. Responses and comments were analyzed using a pre-established method and communicated to the experts after each round of Delphi. Statements with an agreement of at least 80% were accepted and used to develop a definition of medication literacy.


The Delphi process started with 21 experts and included 4 rounds. Overall, 30 statements regarding medication literacy were accepted and divided into 4 clusters representing: (1) type of information necessary for optimal and safe use of medication, (2) skills and abilities, (3) format of information, and (4) outcomes. These statements were used to propose 2 different definitions of medication literacy. One of the definitions was preferred by 75% of the expert panel, which provided further comments for improvements. Of the 11 experts who answered the final questionnaire, nine strongly agreed with the refined definition.


Medication literacy is the degree to which individuals can obtain, comprehend, communicate, calculate and process patient-specific information about their medications to make informed medication and health decisions in order to safely and effectively use their medications, regardless of the mode by which the content is delivered (e.g. written, oral and visual). Future studies should focus on how this definition can be operationalized to support the role that pharmacists and other healthcare providers.

Lead Researchers

Link to Publication


  1. Private: Régis Vaillancourt

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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