Many of us go to multiple doctors’ appointments throughout the year. Between those appointments, work, family life and other things it can be hard to process and remember the information your doctor tells you. One of our funded researchers, Dr. Delesha Carpenter is looking at how well Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients recall information about newly prescribed DMARDs – disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. Her 3-year Arthritis Foundation funded research project, called “Understanding how RA patients process conflicting information about DMARDs”, was recently presented at the 2016 ACR Annual Meeting & Conference in November.
Patients could take part in the study if they were prescribed a new or different DMARD at the doctor’s visit. The study looked at information from 38 RA patients who visited 3 different RA doctors between May 2014 and December 2015. Each visit was audio-recorded. Then patients were interviewed right after the visit.
When the information from the visits and the interviews were compared, about 50% of patients shared information that was different than they were given. “What was surprising,” said Dr. Carpenter “was the number of patients who had difficulty accurately recalling information immediately after their doctor’s visit. Part of it is that there is so much information given at once. The information can be overwhelming and a patient may not necessarily be able to take it in and process it. We may need to develop materials that patients can refer to later when they have more time to process it.”
In terms of processing information, the study also looked at recall over time. After the interview, patients were given diaries to record what types of information they looked for about their new DMARDs. Patients were also asked to record where they were getting the information. Were they asking friends or searching the internet or did they have other sources? A follow-up phone call was made one week after the visit to see if patients had filled their prescriptions. The patients were asked about their prescriptions again at a final 1-month follow-up visit.
Dr. Carpenter is still analyzing the diary and final visit information. She is interested in finding out where patients are looking for information and what types of information they are looking for. She intends to compare what the outside sources say with what was said at the doctor’s visit. According to Dr. Carpenter, “We have to determine whether the outside sources are giving conflicting information or incorrect information. The exciting part of this research is that it is designed to look at conflicting information. How much are patients exposed to and where is it coming from?”
Dr. Carpenter’s interest in patient-provider communication about drug-related issues stems from her mom, who has battled MS for years. “MS is similar to RA in that they are both chronic diseases,” Dr. Carpenter said. “I have helped my mom understand the different drugs that she has been prescribed. I think it’s important to help patients understand the drugs they take and help them to make informed decisions.”
Through her work, Dr. Carpenter hopes to develop tools to improve patient-provider communication about drug-related issues and improve the ability of patients to better self-manage their disease. Dr. Delesha Carpenter is an assistant professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy, Eshelman School of Pharmacy, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was awarded an Arthritis Foundation new investigator grant in 2014 for her 3-year study.