Five basic elements can improve how physicians can talk to patients about new prescriptions, a study found.
An hour-long educational session for doctors improved patient ratings of how doctors explained new prescriptions, according to the controlled trial.
Doctors were audio recorded after the training session to assess how they communicated five basic elements regarding a new prescription to patients, who also received a patient information handout.
Results appeared in the Annals of Family Medicine.
In the study, 7 general internists, 6 family physicians and 14 internal medicine residents from academic internal medicine and family medicine offices at the University of California, Los Angeles prescribed 113 new medications to 82 of 256 patients from February 2009 to 2010.
Physicians were taught about five basic elements of a new prescription, medication name, purpose, directions for use, duration of use, and side effects. The session, which included role-playing, also addressed typical reasons for not doing this, such as fear of scaring patients with side effects.
The mean communication index for medications prescribed by physicians in the intervention group was 3.95 (SD=1.02) compared to control group physicians (2.86, SD=1.23, P less than 0.001), regardless of whether chronic vs. nonchronic medications were prescribed.
Counseling about three of the five communication index components was significantly higher for medications prescribed by physicians in the intervention group, as were patients' ratings of the experience (P=0.02). Higher communication index scores were associated with better patient ratings about information about new prescriptions (P=0.003).
Researchers wrote, "Interestingly, higher MCI scores also were associated with more reports of communication about topics not directly included in the intervention. For example, the intervention encouraged physicians to discuss potential medication side effects with patients, but patients also reported better communication about the risk of experiencing side effects and what to do if side effects occurred."
While not included in the study, researchers added, "This finding, however, suggests that new medication discussions which include more basic elements of medication communication are also more complete in other ways."