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

ients in the VMS group reached the target, safe level almost twice as fast as those patients who were in the standard group -- 28 vs. 42 days. In addition, the researchers found that the effect of the VMS tool was principally among those patients who, at the start of the study, had misunderstood their prescription instructions.

Among this "at-risk" subset of patients, the VMS worked even faster (28 vs. 49 days), presumably by helping to correct the original misunderstanding that led to them initially being out of target range, the researchers say. One notable finding, they add, was that the VMS tool was especially effective among Spanish-speaking patients, again suggesting that the tool is most effective for those with communication barriers.

Miscommunication between doctors and patients with regard to medication is common and often goes unnoticed, according to Schillinger. He and Machtinger began looking at the link between miscommunication and poor health about eight years ago when they realized that miscommunication could be a key, remediable cause of poor health outcomes and medication errors among vulnerable populations of patients.

"It was amazing to us that the final crucial step in a long pipeline of science and disease intervention--communication around the actual taking of medications--was being largely ignored," says Machtinger.

Their previous studies showed that problems at this final step were far more serious than the field had realized. These early studies were among the first to show a direct link between miscommunication and poor health, Schillinger says.

This approach, says Schillinger, provides the clinician with immediate feedback on the patient's understanding of his medication and the opportunity to correct misinformation, along with a visual aid-the take-home calendar and verbal reinforcement.

The idea for the visual part of the communications tool is not novel, the researchers say. For dec
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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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