Interview #8: Empowering patients and caregivers to participate in medication conversations

Hello, deprescribers! It has been some time since our last interview. Today we have a new one where we discuss a project called “Talking About Medications”. This is a workshop delivered by pharmacists that seeks to empower patients and their caregivers to participate in medications conversations with their healthcare providers. You can find more information about the workshops here. In today’s interview, pharmacists from Bruyère Continuing Care in Ottawa, Canada (Jasprit Dhaliwal, Angel Deng, Ida Famiyeh) and Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, Canada (Sameera Toenjes) share their experiences facilitating the workshops. They also share some tips for those interested in delivering their own workshops. Enjoy!

Q: This workshop series is such a great initiative to get patients and carers more involved in medication decisions. What impact do you feel the workshops have had?

Jasprit: At the start of the workshops, I found that many individuals did not have the confidence to ask the physician questions about their medication. Overall, they seemed more willing to ask the pharmacist, partly due to pharmacists being so accessible. However, by the end of the workshops, participants shared that they felt better equipped to bring forward medication questions, specifically, to their physician. It was very rewarding to see participants gain knowledge and become more confident about their involvement and input into the decision-making process. The “Talking About Medications” workshops really help individuals feel empowered and offer tools and skills to allow them to take the lead in their care.

Q: What advice would you give to other pharmacists or healthcare providers hoping to conduct similar work?

Jasprit: My advice is simple: Just do it! It is okay to start small, recruit other healthcare providers to help if able, and you can modify the workshops to meet the needs of those attending. If you need any assistance, do not hesitate to reach out to the research group. A few practical tips when facilitating the workshops include: keeping the number of participants between 3 and 8 to optimize information sharing and learning amongst participants; sending reminders about the workshop date, time and location the day before and/or the day of each workshop to ensure attendance; and providing electronic versions of the Resources Lists for easier access to the links.

Q: Were there any stories or experiences that stood out from some of the participants, that you could share?

Angel: I found many participants didn’t know what to expect when they first started the workshops. However, throughout the sessions they realized they were not alone in their medication management journey and the health care professionals involved in their care are eager to work with them. During one of the sessions, after watching the Shared Decision Making Conversation example, one of the participants reported out loud “I’m taking that medication! Now I know how to have a conversation with my doctor about it!”. This was exciting to see as she was eager to take the skills she learned from the workshops and to apply them.

Q: What did YOU learn in facilitating the workshop from the participants?

Sameera: I learned so much from the participants! Everyone shared stories and experiences that helped open my eyes to the difficulties patients and caregivers can face when working within the healthcare system. Participants spoke about their difficulties accessing health care providers to discuss their medication concerns. For example, participants described not having enough time with prescribers to discuss medication needs during medical appointments. Participants also mentioned not being certain about what different medications are being used for, what side effects to look for, or even where to look to learn more to find information themselves. I love how participants were able to bond over shared experiences about medication management and provide help and support to each other on how to navigate and overcome these difficulties. They were able to teach each other how to the medication management system worked within their individual long term care homes. Their openness to sharing their personal experiences and helping others was inspiring!

Q: What was something unexpected or surprising that came out of the workshop?

Sameera: So many things came out of the workshop that was surprising and interesting! The stories that were shared really highlighted to me the need for more support for caregivers in terms of medication management. It was surprising that many caregivers didn’t know that they could request a family meeting to discuss the care of their loved ones in long term care. Some were also unaware that they could request an updated medication history for their loved one. More resources seem to be needed to help individuals get a medication history and bring up medication questions in the long term care setting, which is quite unique as there are scheduled opportunities such as care conferences and mandated quarterly medication reviews. I feel there is still a lot of work to do in terms of making transitions in care more seamless and making care more accessible. I was inspired by the participants’ ability to advocate for themselves and the people they care for. I’m happy that through this workshop we can help play a role by helping them advocate for better medication management.

A review of their experiences was published in Canadian Pharmacists Journal, and their workshop materials are available on the Deprescribing website.

Upcoming train-the-trainer sessions will be available for pharmacists and health care providers interested in hosting their own workshop series. To register your interest email

The development of this workshop was supported in part by the Government of Ontario HSRF grant, the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) SPARK grant, and funded in partnership with the Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care at Bruyère.

Photo by Edward Jenner: