Medical researchers at University of California in San Francisco and the health plan Kaiser Permanente found patients who feel their doctors involve them in decisions and understand their problems are more likely to take their medications as prescribed. The team that included researchers from University of Washington in Seattle, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Health Care System, and California Department of Public Health, published their findings this week online in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine (paid subscription required).
The researchers surveyed 9,377 patients in the Diabetes Study of Northern California, a poll conducted by Kaiser Permanente. The patients selected were taking medications to control their blood sugar, blood pressure, or cholesterol.
Part of the survey included items on patient-doctor communication taken from the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey and Trust in Physicians and Interpersonal Processes of Care studies. The team defined adherence — or rather non-adherence — to prescribed drugs as delays of 20 percent or longer in refilling their medications.
“Thirty percent of people [in the study] were not necessarily taking their medications the way their doctors thought they were,” says lead author Neda Ratanawongsa (pictured right), a professor at UC San Francisco. In addition, notes Ratanawongsa, “Rates for non-adherence were four to six percent lower for patients who felt their doctors listened to them, involved them in decisions and gained their trust.” Associations between communication and adherence were somewhat larger for blood sugar control than for other medications.
Co-author Andrew Karter of Kaiser Permanente adds “we found that medication adherence is better if the physician has established a trusting relationship with the patient and prioritizes the quality of communication, even if that communication is not specifically focused on medication adherence.”
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