social networks, information seeking, medication information, qualitative analysis, social pharmacy


This study provided a view of the social context of medication information seeking from a patient's perspective.This was an exploratory qualitative study with 40 adults to determine how patients communicate within social networks to seek medication information. Semi-structured interviews were used to determine the structure (who), the content provided (what), and the function of social sources of information (how/why). Data underwent ethnographic content analysis using theory and prior research driven themes. Coding matrices were created to identify emerging patterns for who supplied what information and how the information was used. Participants described seeking medication information from health professional or lay social network sources. Health professional sources' strongest role was to provide factual information. In contrast, lay sources provided factual information and affective information such as personal experiences and beliefs or attitudes. Information sought from social sources displayed similar functioning roles in terms of how the information was used by the participants seeking the information. The study concluded that medication information is sought from social sources both inside and outside of healthcare. Emerging patterns found that lay sources may provide patients more than affective information about medications. Further, patients may be receiving factually based information other than from health professionals. By coming to a more complete understanding of the social nature of the information environment, health professionals can better understand information needs from a patient's perspective.