Doctor-Patient Communication Improves Patient Adherence Rates

At the 14th World Congress on Pain, Phyllis Butow, PhD, co-director of the Centre for Medical Psychology & Evidence-Based Decision Making and chair of Psycho-Oncology Cooperative Research Group, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, explains that “patient adherence rates to pain medication are poor and this is linked to the way patients think about pain medication, the way they feel, and what they experience physically when they take pain medication.”

In her plenary address, Dr. Butow states three main goals that optimize doctor-patient communication and increase adherence to pain medication.

1) Actively ask about pain and reassure. It’s necessary to listen carefully and respond to patients’ concerns. Ask them if they feel pain, find out how intense and persistent the pain is, and understand if they’re worried about implications of their pain in order to independently address the issue.

2) Involve patients. “It’s important to create active collaboration between doctor and patient,“ adds Dr. Butow. “Patients who feel that they have been involved in the decision about their pain management are more likely to stick to it and they are also more likely to feel empowered to do something about their pain.”

3) Involve family members. “If patients feel their family does not believe they are in pain, or disapprove of opioid use, they are less likely to take it. Educating the family is often as important as educating the patient,” Dr. Butow comments.

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