Over half of all Americans take dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbal products) along with their prescription medications. With the economic downturn, dietary supplement sales have surged, perhaps as a result of people attempting to stave off or delay medical care. Supplements are generally thought to be harmless, but some can potentially interact with prescription medications, cause liver or kidney damage, and even adversely affect surgical outcomes. Those substituting dietary supplements for prescription medications also may suffer significant adverse consequences. The United States Food and Drug Administration and the Institute of Medicine recommend that patients considering dietary supplement use consult their providers. Unfortunately, patients fail to disclose dietary supplement use in up to two-thirds of outpatient office visits. To improve discussions, it is important to understand what prompts physicians and patients to communicate about dietary supplements.
The overall objectives of this application are to understand how, when and why physicians and patients communicate about dietary supplements, and to assess how patients respond to these discussions. An ethnically diverse group of patients and their physicians will be surveyed and their office visits will be audio recorded. Audio recordings of the visits will be used to assess the relationship of patient and physician attitudes and values, and the physician-patient relationship on dietary supplement discussions. A subset of these patients and physicians will be interviewed to explore how they made decisions to initiate or forgo discussions about supplements. They also will be asked questions concerning the necessity of and responsibility for initiating dietary supplement conversations. Patient responses and reactions to actual discussions also will be explored. Data from observed and reported interactions will be compared to provide a deeper understanding of factors related to disclosure. This project aims to provide a broad understanding of the content of physician-patient discussions about dietary supplements, and to describe how and why physician and patient attitudes and opinions affect these discussions. Identification of mutable factors can result in interventions to increase communication about dietary supplements, help maintain patient safety, and promote appropriate use of supplements concurrent with prescription medications.