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Health communication project did not increase physician-patient interaction

A program designed to strengthen physician-patient communication and improve health outcomes may not be as effective as originally thought, according to a study in the March/April Annals of Family Medicine. The Ask Me 3 program encourages patients to ask three questions during each physician visit: What is my main problem? What do I need to do? Why is it important for me to do this? But researchers found that the initiative did not lead to patients asking these specific questions or more questions in general. In addition, the program did not improve patients' adherence to prescription medications or lifestyle recommendations (www.annfammed.org/cgi/content/abstract/8/2/151/). For the study, researchers randomly assigned 20 physician practices, which were part of the American Academy of Family Physicians' National Research Network, to an intervention group or a control group. The practices included 41 doctors. For the intervention group, AM3 posters were placed on waiting room walls, patients received program pamphlets and they were reminded to ask their physician the three recommended questions. None of these techniques was used with the control group. Researchers studied audio recordings of 763 patients visits made from November 2004 to May 2005. Patients were called for follow-up interviews if they were given a new medication or a refill. The study found that 92% of patients in both groups asked at least one question during their visits. In the intervention group, 26% asked at least one AM3 question. Among the control group, 30% asked at least one of the recommended questions. The average number of questions asked, including AM3 questions, during each visit was 6.94 in the intervention group and 6.37 in the control group. "Given the fact that patients overall asked many other questions ... there does not appear to be the need for these three specific questions," said James M. Galliher, PhD, lead author of the study and research director of the AAFP's National Research Network. The full and original article can be found here: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2010/03/29/prsb0331.htm
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