The Role of Patient-Physician Communication on the Use of Hydroxyurea in Adult Patients with Sickle Cell Disease

J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2019 Dec;6(6):1233-1243. doi: 10.1007/s40615-019-00625-5. Epub 2019 Aug 13.


Objective: This qualitative study analyzed the perspective of patients living with sickle cell disease (SCD) on their process of deciding whether to take hydroxyurea (HU), and the role of physician communication in patients' decision-making process.

Methods: From October 2015 to July 2016, we conducted semi-structured interviews among patients with SCD (N = 20) that were audio-recorded and transcribed. Participants were ≥ 18 years old, a patient of an urban adult sickle cell center, able to provide informed consent, and English-speaking. We iteratively developed codes and used thematic analysis to organize the key themes.

Results: Most participants were female (65%), middle aged (M = 44, SD = 12.2), and 55% were prescribed HU for an average of 10.4 (SD = 4.7) years. Participants described 3 key factors that influenced their decision regarding HU treatment: (1) lifestyle, (2) health status, and (3) HU characteristics. Four themes emerged about provider communication and HU treatment decisions: (1) provider's advisement, (2) shared decision-making, (3) "wrestled," and (4) not feeling heard.

Conclusion: Providers who engaged in shared decision-making empowered participants to decide whether to start HU treatment. Participants who felt their providers were not listening to their concerns expressed disengaging from HU treatment. During discussions about HU with patients living with SCD, providers must understand the multi-faceted aspects that impact patients' decision and empower patients to engage in such discussions. Further research is needed to understand the role of shared decision-making among patients with SCD to improve management of SCD.

Keywords: Patient-provider communication; Shared decision-making, hydroxyurea; Sickle cell disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / drug therapy*
  • Antisickling Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Communication*
  • Decision Making
  • Decision Making, Shared*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyurea / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Qualitative Research


  • Antisickling Agents
  • Hydroxyurea