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Practitioners Can Help Patients With Habit Focused Interventions

Follow-Up Questions re Meds May Aid Patient Adherence

Newswise — A visit to the doctor’s office typically begins with a series of questions, including one about medications. An Iowa State University researcher recommends doctors ask a follow up to that question to make sure patients are taking their medications as prescribed.

Alison Phillips, an associate professor of psychology, says medication adherence is vital to patient health and outcomes. However, research shows 20 to 50 percent of patients forget or do not take their meds for various reasons. While doctors know adherence is a problem, Phillips says they avoid asking about it, because patients struggle to recall missed pills or give an answer they think doctors want to hear rather than admit the truth.

Understanding these challenges, Phillips and co-author Elise A. G. Duwe, former postdoctoral researcher in Phillips’ lab and resident physician at Northeast Iowa Family Medicine Education Foundation, tested whether doctors could effectively estimate adherence by reading transcripts of patients’ descriptions of their medication routine. The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, is one of the first to find doctors were as accurate in estimating patients’ adherence as patients were in reporting the medications they had taken.

“Most doctors do not discuss adherence with their patients, but they should,” Phillips said. “If it’s too uncomfortable to ask if they’re taking their medications, doctors should ask patients about their habits. It can offer insight on adherence or at the very least be a conversation starter for a…

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