Patient Requests for Tests and Treatments Impact Physician Management of Hypothyroidism

Thyroid. 2019 Nov;29(11):1536-1544. doi: 10.1089/thy.2019.0383. Epub 2019 Oct 10.


Background: Levothyroxine is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. Although prior research focused on over- and undertreatment and patient dissatisfaction with thyroid hormone, little is known about physician-reported barriers to managing thyroid hormone therapy. In addition, the impact of patient requests for tests and treatments on hypothyroidism management remains unexplored. Methods: We randomly surveyed physician members of the Endocrine Society, American Academy of Family Practice and American Geriatrics Society. Respondents were asked to rate barriers to management of thyroid hormone therapy. We conducted multivariable logistic regression analyses to determine correlates with physician report of the most commonly reported barriers, including patient requests. Results: Response rate was 63% (359/566). Almost half of the physicians reported that patient requests for tests and treatments were somewhat to very likely to being a barrier to appropriate management of thyroid hormone therapy (46%). Endocrinologists (odds ratio [OR] = 2.29 [95% confidence interval, CI 1.03-5.23], compared with primary care physicians) and physicians with more than 25% of patients on thyroid hormone therapy per year (OR = 1.90 [CI 1.05-3.46], compared with those with <25% patients per year) were more likely to report patient requests as a barrier. Physicians with more years in practice were less likely to do so (11-20 years: OR = 0.44 [CI 0.21-0.89]; >20 years: OR = 0.24 [CI 0.12-0.46], compared with ≤10 years). Physician-reported patient requests included requests for preparations other than synthetic thyroxine (52%), adjusting thyroid hormone dose based on symptoms when biochemically euthyroid (52%), maintaining thyrotropin level below the reference range (32%), and adjusting dose according to serum T3 level (21%). Physicians who reported receiving patient requests for the former three unconventional practices were more likely to execute them (p < 0.001, p = 0.014, p < 0.001, respectively). Conclusions: Physicians reported patient requests for tests and treatments as a common barrier to appropriate thyroid hormone management. In some scenarios, physician adherence to patient requests may be a driver for inappropriate care and lead to harm. Understanding physician-reported barriers to thyroid hormone management and factors associated with physician perception that patient requests are a barrier is key to improving patient care.

Keywords: barriers; hypothyroidism; patient requests; survey; thyroid hormone therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Disease Management
  • Female
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism / diagnosis*
  • Hypothyroidism / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Preference*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thyroid Function Tests*
  • Thyroid Hormones / therapeutic use
  • United States


  • Thyroid Hormones