Factors influencing the implementation of medicine risk communications by healthcare professionals in clinical practice: A systematic review

Amal Alharbi, Ilhem Berrou, Nikkie Umaru, Abdullah Alhamid, Nada Atef Shebl

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Background: Regulatory medicines risk communications aim to prevent patient harm through the dissemination of safety information to healthcare professionals (HCPs), patients, and the public. Evidence suggests that in addition to implementing the required changes, HCPs also respond to these communications through unintended and unwarranted actions and behaviours such as stopping medicine courses unnecessarily, and blanket actions spilling over to unintended patients' populations. Misunderstanding and mis-implementation of medicines risk communications could jeopardise patients’ safety and clinical outcomes. Therefore, it is important to understand the determinants that affect HCPs responses to medicines risk communications. This systematic review aims to identify the factors that affect the implementation of risk communications by healthcare professionals. Methods: Fifteen databases, including EMBASE, PubMed, Scopus, Web of science, CINAHL PLUS were searched in April–May 2018, and the search was updated again in June 2021 to identify studies reporting on factors influencing HCPs' uptake of medicine risk alerts. We used keywords such as risk communication, safety update, and safety regulation. Studies were excluded if they did not involve pharmacovigilance or patient safety alerts; or if they only focused on measuring HCPs' practice after alerts; or evaluating the effectiveness of risk minimisation measures without reporting on factors affecting HCPs’ actions. Studies relating to occupational hazards, case reports, interventional studies, and studies not involving HCPs were also excluded. The Mixed Method Appraisal Tool (MMAT) was used to assess the quality of the included studies. A Narrative synthesis approach was undertaken using thematic analysis and concept mapping, followed by a critical reflection of the synthesis. Results: Twenty-eight studies met our criteria and were included in the synthesis. We identified four themes summarising the factors influencing HCPs’ implementation of risk communications. These include HCPs: knowledge of medicine alerts; perceptions of alerts; attitudes, and concerns regarding medicine alerts; and the self-reported impact of these alerts. Our concept mapping exercise identified key interactions between different stakeholders, and these interactions determine HCPs' implementation of medicine risk communications. These stakeholders comprise of alert developers, including the sources and senders of safety information, and the receivers of safety information including health care institutions, HCPs, patients and their carers. Conclusions: Healthcare professionals are crucial to translating risk communication messages into clinical practice. However, if they have inadequate information about the content of the alert, and have inaccurate perceptions about the alert, they may not implement the required clinical changes as intended. Communication of medicine risk alerts does not always translate into improved patient care, due to a complex interaction between stakeholders involved in the creation and implementation of these alerts. These complex interactions should be the subject of future research efforts to understand the alert-implementation trajectory and identify the mediators for change and interventions to improve implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-56
Number of pages29
JournalResearch in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Issue number1
Early online date16 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Pharmacovigilance, medicine risk communication, patient safety, medication safety
  • Medicine risk communication
  • Medication safety
  • Patient safety
  • Pharmacovigilance


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