Talking about medicines: Older adults’ perceptions of communication with their physicians

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Roberta E Goldman
Brian J. Quilliam
Kate L. Lapane


Objective:  Discussions between physicians and patients in primary care regarding medications and lifestyle change alternatives are often suboptimal, resulting in poor adherence to medication therapy.  Our objective was to investigate perceptions of communication with physicians about medications among a racially/ethnically diverse sample of low-income older adults in the U.S..Methods: We recruited a stratified purposeful sample of 105 low-income participants (predominantly Latino, non-Hispanic White, and non-Hispanic Black) for 11 focus groups, conducted from November 2007 through March 2008.Results: Most participants claimed that their primary care physicians rarely explained much about their medications and they reported little understanding of the medical benefits of each medication they are prescribed.  Few said that their physician asked them if they have any problems with their medications. Latinos described receiving more frequent and substantive information from physicians about medication than did white or black participants.  Many participants expressed their preference to try lifestyle behavior changes to avoid taking medications, however few of their physicians had discussed this option with them.  Most participants believed that their medical chart accurately reflects the medications and dosages they are taking, even if they have not reviewed the medications with their physicians, nor told them about medications that have been prescribed by other physicians and how they actually take their medications. Conclusions: Educational efforts are needed to empower low-income, diverse, older patients to initiate and participate in multi-faceted discussions regarding medications with their physicians, and to motivate physicians to include these discussions more regularly in their outpatient visits.

Article Details

Clinical and Electronic Communication
Author Biography

Roberta E Goldman, Alpert Medical School of Brown University

Clinical Professor of Family Medicine


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