Many Docs Prescribing New Drugs Fail in Communication

While many physicians spell out new medication's goal, only a third explain possible ill-effects

MONDAY, Sept. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Only about one-third of physicians prescribing new medications warn patients about possible adverse effects or advise how long to take it, researchers report in the Sept. 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Derjung M. Tarn, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of California Los Angeles, and colleagues used surveys and transcripts of audiotaped office visits to measure the quality of physician communication during 185 office visits involving 45 California health care providers who prescribed 243 new medications.

The researchers found that physicians carried out a mean of 3.1 of five expected communication tasks when prescribing new medication, including 3.7 for psychiatric, 3.5 for pulmonary and 3.4 for cardiovascular medication.

Physicians often explained a new medication's goal (87 percent), and said its name (74 percent), but less often outlined adverse effects (35 percent), how long to take it (34 percent), how many tablets to take (55 percent), how often or when (58 percent).

"When initiating new medications, physicians often fail to communicate critical elements of medication use," the authors write. "This might contribute to misunderstandings about medication directions of necessity and, in turn, lead to patient failure to take medications as directed."

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