JOURNAL ARTICLE

Nature and frequency of exchanges on medications during primary care encounters

Claude Richard, Marie-Thérèse Lussier
Patient Education and Counseling 2006, 64 (1): 207-16
16781108

OBJECTIVE: To describe the exchanges, related to discussion of all medications during primary care medical consultations.

METHODS: Descriptive study of audio recordings of 422 medical encounters. Coding was done with MEDICODE, a validated instrument developed to analyse verbal exchanges on medications. The unit of analysis is the medication.

RESULTS: An average of 3.9 medications (S.D.=2.8; range 1-21) are discussed per interview and 4.2 themes are broached for each drug (S.D.=2.6; range 1-17). "Active Discussed", "Represcribed" and "Newly Prescribed" drugs account for 43.1, 16.3 and 10.6%, respectively of all medications discussed. Themes most often discussed are Name, Instructions, Observed Main Effect, Class, Reasons for Taking the Drug, General Use of the Medication, Expected Effect on Symptoms, Form of the Medication, Indications Another Consultation Needed, and Alternative Medication. The least often discussed themes include clinically significant ones such as Possible Adverse Effects, Observed Adverse Effects, Expression of Attitudes and Emotions with regard to the medication, Compliance and Warnings. The average number of themes discussed differed between medications that were prescribed during the encounter, either New prescriptions or Represcribed drugs, compared to medications that were only discussed during the encounter.

CONCLUSION: Our results show that medication discussions are heterogeneous and vary with the status of the medication and the theme. Also, the nature and extent of the discussions about medications do not support the shared-decision making model.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Though it is too soon to make specific recommendations about discussions on medications, it seems clear that information-sharing about medications during medical encounters is a process that extends beyond any single encounter. Although communication skills are now part of most medical curriculums, there is an obvious need to put forth the concept of patient medication knowledge-building over multiple physician-patient encounters and to better prepare physicians to use the specific content and process skills necessary to revisit issues related to medications that seem necessary to support their patients' medication-taking practices.

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