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Improving doctor-patient communication yields significant health benefits
Date:10/11/2007

A UCSF research team has developed a simple tool that can improve the effectiveness of communication between doctors and patients about prescribed medications and result in dramatic improvements in health and safety.

The new communication tool involves a computer-generated weekly calendar with color images of the medication to be taken each day, combined with instructions written in English and in a patient's native language if the patient does not speak English. The researchers call it a VMS, for visual medication schedule.

"Improving communication has often been thought of as soft science, but our study shows significant clinical benefits when the information gap between physician and patient is bridged in the right way," says co-lead investigator Edward Machtinger, MD, assistant professor of medicine and director of the Women's HIV Program at UCSF.

Machtinger and co-lead investigator, Dean Schillinger, MD, associate professor of medicine at UCSF and director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center, developed the tool and conducted a study on its effectiveness. Research findings are reported in the October 2007 issue of the "Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety," published by Joint Commission Resources (http://www.jcrinc.com).

The research team selected patients taking an anticoagulant (clot preventing or blood thinning) medication for stroke prevention known as warfarin. Most patients in the study suffered from atrial fibrillation, a common heart condition in which the heart pumps irregularly, leading to formation of clots in the heart that travel to the brain and result in stroke.

Atrial fibrillation affects over 2.5 million adults in the US and is responsible for 20 percent of all strokes. Treatment with warfarin, if taken correctly, can reduce the likelihood of stroke by 80 percent.

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Contact: Vanessa deGier
vdegier@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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