A recent research by scientists at the University of California in Los Angeles reveals that in general, doctors give only 62% of the information to patients for them to take the medication properly.
"This is a good indication that there is actually a lack of communication between patients and doctors," said the lead author Derjung M. Tarn.
The study is published in the Sept. 25 volume of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.
In order to find out if the five main points of information are being communicated to the patients, the researchers carried out at investigation on 185 outpatient visits to 44 physicians. The 5 key points are the name of the medication, the purpose for taking it, the duration of use, possible adverse effects and the number and frequency of doses.
The study revealed that at least one of the key points was missed by most of the patients. Doctors gave the name of the medication in 74% of new prescriptions; the purpose of it was elaborated in 87% of cases and the undesirable effects of it were discussed in 35% of the cases. The duration of medication was discussed in only 1/3rd of the cases, the number of tablets to be taken was told in 55% of the cases and the frequency or timing of the dos in 58%.
"Healthcare providers seemed to make more of an effort to convey information about analgesic and psychiatric medication, but compared to how doctors should do, that is not enough," said Tarn.
"Doctors should be able to hit all five points. If patients do not hear the information at the physician`s office, they may not get it elsewhere," she added.
"A lot of this information is not on the package insert. And when that information is missing, patients may not take their medication appropriately, leading to medical errors and unnecessary hospitalizations," she said.
According to a study released by the Institutes of Medicine in July over 1.5 million people are affected by errors in medication every year and it costs around $3.5 billion.
The study reveals that lack of time for doctors to give all the information to patients is the major cause and developing new methods of communication for doctors to tell the patients all that they need to know can rectify it.
"One possible solution would be a computer system that gives patients a printout of the facts about their prescription or makes them available on a Web site, but those methods cannot fully substitute for face-to-face communication with a doctor ," Tarn said.
"Some type of verbal communication does need to occur -- some patients struggle with poor literacy."
The American Medical Association has brought out guidelines fro doctors as to what is to be told to the patients. This would prevent the problems due to lack of communication. As per the guidelines, oral counseling should be given to patients and all the key 5 points should be given in written form and later followed-up.
"However, in order to truly ensure that patients take their medication correctly, doctors need to go beyond a one-size-fits-all approach," said Hedy Cohen, vice president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.
"Patients have varying levels of English fluency and medical literacy. They also have different learning styles. Some patients may need to receive information in a visual way, for example. Older patients may have difficulty remembering the details of their complicated medication regimes," she said.
"For anyone, right after getting a scary diagnosis might not be the best time to receive important information," she said.
"Your mind has begun to shut down. You now have to absorb that you have a serious illness. You don`t necessarily hear a lot.'Doctors should help patients by presenting information in a variety of ways and taking the time to make sure patients know what they need to know. If they do not have the time to communicate themselves, they should hire nurses of pharmacists to do it for them. But patients should also do more," she said.
"The prescriber has a responsibility, but patients have an added responsibility to make this partnership work. Patients can bring notebooks, tape recorders or other people to help them get necessary details and contact the doctor`s office again if they have questions after they get home," said Cohen.
"Physicians have to change, but patients have to change also," she said. "It`s an overwhelming problem, but it`s easily addressable."