Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Effect of Communication Style on Perceptions of Medication Side Effect Risk among Pharmacy Students

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Effect of Communication Style on Perceptions of Medication Side Effect Risk among Pharmacy Students

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Fear of potential side effects is reported to be the single greatest deterrent from taking prescription drugs. (1) Although information on medication side effects is the most frequently requested information by patients, it has detrimental effects on the evaluations of medications and medication adherence. (2) Thus, providing information about side effects in a manner that leads to correct interpretation of the intended message is of great value. Research indicates that use of semantic or verbal descriptors (ie, use of expressions like "one may rarely experience" or "most common side effect") to express probability of a side effect has more effect on the estimates of risk and on treatment advice when compared to numeric expressions. (3,4) However, there is wide variability in interpretation of verbal expressions and, when patient interpretation differs from that of health care providers, compliance problems may arise. (5) Verbal descriptions may be considered vague and difficult to interpret. Numeric descriptors like percentages (50% chance) or natural frequencies (4 in 100) are considered easier to understand by physicians and patients. (6,7) In fact, patients prefer numeric information to verbal descriptions about frequency of side effects. (8)

Information about medication side effects is often provided to patients during counseling sessions with pharmacists. For effective and accurate patient education to be provided, pharmacists need knowledge and skills of patient counseling. Messages communicated to patients need to be adapted to suit patients' language skills and understanding level. (9) Foundations of counseling can be laid during the formal years of pharmacy education. Pharmacy students are trained in counseling through practical examinations and real-world experiences behind the counter. During these formative years, students should be made aware of intricacies involved in communicating risks of medication side effects. Self-perceptions and characteristics of a particular behavior can also have an influence on the manner in which a message is communicated to patients. A study by Antworth and colleagues demonstrated that over or underweight health care providers were less confident in counseling patients regarding weight and lifestyle modification compared to their normal weight counterparts. (10) Ahmed et al also reported that lack of knowledge and understanding of a disease and related concerns is associated with lower confidence in counseling competence. (11) Such instances may also arise with respect to confidence in counseling on the risk of medication side effects. As there are no formal structures regarding use of language and terms in counseling medication side effect risk, pharmacy students may use semantics based on their own perceptions. Even though they may intend to communicate one particular value of frequency of side effect, it may not be translated correctly by the receiver (patient), leading to misinterpretation. Thus, the purpose of a counseling session may not be adequately served. The use of vague verbal descriptors is reported among pharmacists, (12) further supporting the need to train pharmacy students appropriately in communicating medication side effects.

To identify focus areas of training for communicating risk of medication side effects, we need to understand perceptions of pharmacy students when presented with commonly used verbal and numeric descriptors. No study has yet investigated how pharmacy students perceive these verbal descriptors and whether perceptions differ when verbal descriptors are combined with numbers. Assessing pharmacy students' perception of risk of side effects can give insight into their understanding of commonly used language in counseling sessions, which may eventually help in future educational interventions to improve pharmacist-patient communications. Another important factor that may alter perceptions of risk is the context in which the risk is communicated. …

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