Patient-doctor communication is key for taking diabetes medication properly

Medication--whether for short-term or long-term health problems--can be ineffective if it's not used the right way.

And according to a recent study out of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), a key component of medication adherence is being fumbled by many doctors: communication. This is leading to poor health outcomes for diabetics and those with other serious medical conditions.

The study

The study included 9,377 patients that were all taking some sort of medication for different reasons: lowering blood sugar, lowering blood pressure or lowering cholesterol.

After having the patients complete a survey, researchers found that the patients who had given their doctors low scores on communication were the ones most likely to struggle with properly adhering to their medication schedule and/or dosage.

Trust, communication and involvement

"Communication matters," said Neda Ratanawongsa, MD, MPH, an assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Medicine and the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations at SFGH. "Thirty percent of people [in the study] were not necessarily taking their medications the way their doctors thought they were."

Ratanawongsa also notes that non-adherence rates were 4 to 6 percent lower in patients who felt their doctors actually listened to them and kept them involved in the decision-making process for their health outcomes. Trust, the study found, was an important element that patients equated with good communication skills.

Andrew Karter, PhD, a senior research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research and the principal investigator of DISTANCE, elaborates:

"What is unique about our study is that 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."

According to Ratanawongsa, it comes down to training doctors to be better communicators. Helping them develop better relationships with their patients will ultimately help the patients take better care of themselves.

The study is published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Source: Science Daily

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