Exploring Canadian pharmacy students’ e-health literacy: a mixed methods study

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Students, Pharmacy, Education, Pharmacy, Therapy, Computer-Assisted, Internet, Health Literacy, Telemedicine, Curriculum, Pharmacists, Surveys and Questionnaires, Qualitative Research, Canada


Background: While much has been described about technology use by digital natives in general, understanding of pharmacy student’s knowledge and understanding of technology is lacking.

Objective: This study explores the current state of pharmacy students’ self-rated digital health literacy in British Columbia, Canada, and seeks to identify future opportunities for technology training in pharmacy education and in practice.  

Methods: A mixed methods design using surveys and semi-structured interviews was conducted. An online, validated survey (eHEALS) was conducted among currently enrolled 2nd to 4th year pharmacy students at the University of British Columbia. An additional interview was offered to consenting participants to further explore the use of technology in daily lives, pharmacy practicums, and implications on future pharmacy curricula. Both quantitative and qualitative thematic analysis was done of all data.

Results: A total of 30 pharmacy students completed the eHEALS survey and 5 completed interviews. Most participants were 2nd year students (50%), were 25 years and younger (80%), and female (87%). Ranking of digital health literacy was lower than expected with participants stating they know what (87%), where (87%) and how to find (77%) health resources on the Internet. Even less students (77%) rated that they have the skills to evaluate the health resources that they find on the Internet and only 53% felt confident in using information from the Internet to make health decisions. Most students mentioned that they had limited technology related training at school and would like more training opportunities throughout their program and connect what they have learned at school to their practice.

Conclusions:  These results expose significant and surprising gaps in student understanding of technology despite modifications seen in the entry-to-practice PharmD curriculum. Regional differences and digital health literacy of practicing pharmacists are areas that require better understanding and hold significant impact as practice evolves.

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