Prescribing new medications: a taxonomy of physician-patient communication

Commun Med. 2008;5(2):195-208. doi: 10.1558/cam.v5i2.195.


Physician-patient communication about new medications can influence patient medication adherence. Little is known about the detailed content of conversations about new medications, or about how physicians and patients word information when discussing new medications. Yet nuances in communication may influence patient comprehension and affect behaviour. A comprehensive coding framework delineating the intricacies of physician-patient discussions is needed to better understand the range of communication about new prescriptions. This study used analytic induction to analyse 185 audiotaped outpatient encounters, during which 243 new medications were prescribed by family physicians, internists and cardiologists in two healthcare settings. Seventy-six codes were developed to demonstrate the range of physician counselling about information concerning new prescriptions, such as medication name, purpose, directions for use, side effects, acquisition and monitoring. The conversational content represented by the codes can be used to understand the breadth of conversations regarding new medications, identify sources of potential patient misunderstandings when medication instructions are conveyed, and inform recommendations for desired communication content. The coding system also can be used to measure the quality of new medication discussions for linkage to outcomes and can inform interventions to improve communication when prescribing new drugs.

Keywords: pharmaceuticals; physician patient relationship; prescription medication; provider patient communication; qualitative analysis; taxonomy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • California
  • Classification / methods
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence*
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Psycholinguistics / methods
  • Qualitative Research