Measuring patient and physician participation in exchanges on medications: Dialogue Ratio, Preponderance of Initiative, and Dialogical Roles

Claude Richard, Marie-Thérèse Lussier
Patient Education and Counseling 2007, 65 (3): 329-41

OBJECTIVE: To identify, describe and characterize the patient and physician participation in content production in medication-related exchanges during primary care consultations.

METHODS: Descriptive study of audio recordings of 422 medical encounters. MEDICODE, a validated instrument was used to analyze verbal exchanges on medications. Two main indicators of participation were developed: Dialogue Ratio (DR), a 0-1 scale indicating extent of monologue/dialogue; Preponderance of Initiative (PI), a -1 to +1 scale for patient/physician initiative. Participation analyses were conducted by content theme and medication categories (New, Represcribed and Active).

RESULTS: We identified 1492 discussions of medications. Categorical analyses identified four communication roles patients and physicians adopted when participating in medication-related exchanges during consultations: (a) Listener, (b) Information Provider, (c) Participant, and (d) Instigator. The mean observed DRs and PIs indicated that monologues and physician initiation dominated medication-related exchanges.

CONCLUSION: Four factors are suggested to explain the communicational behaviors observed: (1) patient knowledge about medications, (2) physician expertise, (3) patient experience with the medication, and (4) the act of prescribing. Our data indicate a generally low level of dialogue when discussing medications during primary care encounters since physicians' monologues seem to be the rule rather than the exception, pointing to a lack of mutuality in exchanges on medications.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: The proposed concepts offer a unique vocabulary and conceptual framework to help physicians master the necessary content and process skills required to discuss medications with patients.

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