Background: Due to the aging population and the associated increase in multi-morbidity, polypharmacy will become an important issue. Little is known about general practitioners' perception of polypharmacy. We have explored this issue within the framework of a research course organised by the German Society for General Practice and Family Medicine (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Allgemeinmedizin und Familienmedizin, DEGAM.)
Methods: A total of 21 participants were divided in three homogeneous groups and one heterogeneous group according to their professional concentration (full-time general practitioners, junior researchers, senior researchers). Each group was supervised by two non-directing moderators. A two-step analysis was performed. In a fist step, mind maps were generated and in a second step, mind maps were interpreted according to the grounded theory.
Results: We identified three core aspects of polypharmacy in general practice: overview of prescribed medication, communication between doctors, patients and other health care professionals as well as evidence for managing multi-morbidity. General practitioners are torn between providing individual medical care and guideline stipulations. Pharmacotherapy is influenced by interprofessional communication, prescriptions by multiple physicians, patient expectations, adherence, advertisements, guidelines and costs. One's view on polypharmacy is influenced by professional background and experience.
Conclusions: From the general practitioner's perspective, interprofessional and doctor-patient communication are highly important for a good medication overview as well as dealing with uncertainties in daily medical care. Simply improving evidence for the care of patients with multi-morbidities in the form of meta-guidelines would not be sufficient to overcome the effects of the many other influencing factors.