What makes them (not) talk about proper medication use with their patients? An analysis of the determinants of GP communication using reflective practice

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Sandra van Dulmen
Evelien van Bijnen


Many patients do not use their medication as prescribed. This non-adherence is a well-known and resistant problem, requiring good physician-patient communication. However, when it comes to talking about (non-)adherence, both physician and patient refrain from putting the topic high on the agenda. The reasons for doing so are far from clear. We therefore conducted a qualitative, video-facilitated study to find out why physicians communicate with their patients about medication use and adherence in the way they do. Using reflective practice, 20 general practitioners (GPs) independently watched videorecordings of their own visits and were asked to reflect on ‘critical incidents’ operationalised as segments of a visit which ask for a discussion of proper medication use or adherence. Determinants of  such a discussion appeared to be the type of medication, patient and GP characteristics, and particular elements of the medical visit and of the broader practice organisation in which the visit took place. Determinants mentioned most often were a lack of time, other priorities, being acquainted with the patient, reluctance to disclose too much information out of a risk of reinforcing side-effects, and relying on the patient for returning to the GP office when existing complaints persist. Apparently, many GPs are biased when it comes to discussing proper medication use and preventing non-adherence. These results provide input for developing communication interventions and guidelines for discussing medication use with patients more elaborately. Reflective practice appeared to be a valuable and appreciated tool to investigate determinants of physician behaviour.

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Third Geneva Conference on Person-Centered Medicine: Person-centered Basic Communication Skills