Helping to understand medication in any language

A young Riccarton pharmacist is helping his local Cantonese and Mandarin speaking community understand their medications and take them properly.

Aston Yiu from Remedy Pharmacy in Riccarton sees a diverse range of people from different ethnicities and age groups come through the door.

Originally from Hong Kong, he moved to New Zealand when he was five years old with his family. Aston is using his ability to speak both Cantonese and Mandarin to help his local community understand their medicines and take them as prescribed.

“When some patients come into the pharmacy and English is not their first language, you can see the relief on their face when you start speaking to them in their language,’ says Aston.

Recently, the Canterbury Community Pharmacy Group (CCPG) referred an older Chinese man who speaks Cantonese to Aston for a Medicines Use Review (MUR).

A MUR is an extended session between a pharmacist and patient, often in their home. It involves discussion of the patient’s health conditions, their medicines and what matters to them. The goal of the review is that the patient gains a better understanding of their medicines and that together a plan is made that enables the patient to self-manage their medicines.

“Being able to do this review in the person’s own language, rather than use a translator helps to build a good relationship with the patient.”

Aston went to the patient’s home, which gave him the opportunity to learn more about his living environment.

“He brought out two big bags of medication, which were in a real mess and some medicines had been put back into the wrong packaging. In some cases he was taking the wrong amount or wasn’t even taking them as he didn’t know what many of them were for.”

“The medication labels were all in English, which he couldn’t understand, so there was a definite language barrier.”

Aston organised for his medication to be repacked into sachets, which is a free service Remedy Pharmacy offers for eligible patients. The medications are organised into sachets according to the date and time they should be taken.

The sachet labels were translated into Cantonese for the patient and when the roll is near the end there is a reminder for him to go to the doctor or pharmacist.

“The patient had never had his medication reviewed and fully explained like this before in his own language. He was thankful and appreciative for the MUR and Aston’s help. He didn’t know about the level of service that community pharmacies in New Zealand can offer,” says Aston.

The patient has now been put onto the Pharmacy Long Term Conditions Service, which is designed for people with long-term health problems who need ongoing support with their medicines.

“The patient seems to be doing better and walked in to pick up his last prescription, which was great to see.”

“It’s also helpful to have a close relationship with Doctors on Riccarton who are next door to the pharmacy and have a large number of Chinese patients. We are all on the same page when it comes to improving patient outcomes, so solving problems is easy.”

“This is a rewarding part of the job for me. This is why we are here as community pharmacists - to educate and help patients take control of their medications.”

Aston encourages other pharmacists who speak different languages to let CCPG know, so non-English speaking patients can be referred to them.

Above photos:
1-2. Pharmacist Aston Yiu at Remedy Pharmacy. 
3. Boxed medications with labels translated into Cantonese. 
4. Sachets with labels translated into Cantonese.

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