Drug-safety Issue: Prescription Medication Noncompliance Due to Patient Misunderstanding
In the August 2005 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Mayo Clin Proc 2005;80:991-994) a small study report suggests that poor communication with patients when being discharged from the hospital is probably the leading cause of medication noncompliance.
In this study researchers asked some patients being discharged from a New York hospital about their discharge diagnosis as well as the names, purposes, and side effects of their prescribed medications. On average, these patients were prescribed 3.89 medications upon hospital discharge.
The researchers found that about 42% of patients could correctly state their diagnosis upon discharge, with just 37% knowing the purpose for which their medications had been prescribed, and only 28% able to recite the names of these medications that had been prescribed. Most alerting, perhaps, is that fewer than one in six (14%) of the discharged patients were aware of the common side effects associated with those medications that they had been prescribed.
The study's co-author, Dr. Eli A. Friedman, from the State University of New York in Brooklyn, made this observation in a statement about the published study report:
All methods that enhance patient's understanding of his or her discharge treatment plan focus on one central aspect -- proper communication. Although not all patients are noncompliant because of poor communication, this is probably the leading cause of noncompliance.
Dr. Edward Rosenow, a Mayo Clinic physician and author of a related editorial, said, "I collectively refer to the issues contributing to misunderstanding and medication noncompliance as the sixth vital sign, because in many ways they are as important as the well-known four vital signs and the new fifth vital sign of pain."
One certainly hopes that this small study report gets some major attention in hospitals across the land so that fewer patients suffer problems due to medication noncompliance resulting from this apparent failure by prescribing doctors to communicate well with their patients.
(Posted by: Tom Lamb)