Background: The objective of the study was to determine physicians' views of the effects of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTCA) on health service utilization, quality of care, and the doctor-patient relationship.
Methods: Cross-sectional survey of a nationally representative sample of US physicians to determine their perceptions of the effects of patients discussing information from DTCA on time efficiency; requests for specific interventions; health outcomes; and the doctor-patient relationship.
Results: Physicians reported that more than half (56%) of patients who discussed information from DTCA in a visit did so because they wanted a specific intervention, such as a test, change in medication, or specialist referral. The physician deemed 49% of these requests clinically inappropriate. Physicians filled 69% of requests they deemed clinically inappropriate; 39% of physicians perceived DTCA as damaging to the time efficiency of the visit, and 13% saw it as helpful. Thirty-three percent of physicians thought discussing DTCA had improved the doctor-patient relationship; 8% felt it had worsened it. The effect on the relationship was strongly associated with doing what the patient wanted.
Conclusions: DTCA can have good and bad effects on quality of care, the doctor-patient relationship, and health service utilization. The benefits might be maximized, and the harms minimized, by increasing the accuracy of information in advertisements; enhancing physicians' communication and negotiation skills; and encouraging patients to respect physicians' clinical expertise.