Communicating Risk of Medicines: Review of Study Methods

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Background: Research on risk communication about medicines uses diverse designs. This study aims to review research methods and quality to inform future work.Methods: Papers were retrieved from ten bibliographic databases using a systematic approach with a search formula (adapted for each database) involving 25 search terms as well as truncation variants. Articles included in reviews retrieved were appraised for possible inclusion.Findings: The search retrieved 72 relevant papers of which 11 were reviews and 25 were theoretical. Papers selected for this review reported eight qualitative studies; 12 surveys; 15 experimental or quasi-experimental studies (using a broad definition of quasi-experimental) and one mixed-method study.Where studies were linked to a theoretical framework or previous research this was often small-scale, limiting their usefulness in building a cohesive conceptual understanding on the topic.The surveys provided useful data on a range of issues – such as acceptability of various communication modes - using small to very large cohorts but few questionnaires were validated. There is a need for creation and use of more validated questionnaires to increase robustness and comparability of surveys.The qualitative studies were generally stronger at incorporating emotional and ethical as well as cognitive aspects of risk communication in understanding people’s conceptualisations of risks. They would have benefited from greater attention to methods for enhancing rigour, such as sampling to saturation; dual coding of data; and use of respondent and expert validation.The experimental and quasi-experimental studies often lacked detail on the risk communication intervention studied. More valid and meaningful data collection is required. The effectiveness studies would have been stronger if they had demonstrated greater understanding of the human context of illness and treatment. They generally fell short of the rigour required for inclusion in a Cochrane review.Discussion and Conclusions: For understanding the various aspects of risk communication about medicines diverse research methods are required, but need to be applied more effectively. Future research on risk communication about medicines would benefit from greater attention to application of well-established approaches to ensure rigour, and from clearer linkage to a theoretical framework so as to build a cohesive knowledge base.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
PublisherInternational Association for Communication in Healthcare
Number of pages1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 6 Jun 2016
EventInternational Conference on Communication in Healthcare - Heidelberg, Germany
Duration: 6 Jun 2016 → …


ConferenceInternational Conference on Communication in Healthcare
Period6/06/16 → …


  • Risk
  • Communication
  • Medicines
  • Research Methods
  • Review


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