Do doctors understand the individualisation of treatments?

May 24, 2013, University of Exeter
Do doctors understand the individualisation of treatments?
Credit: Shutterstock

The individualisation of drug treatments to support patients to self-manage their conditions is a concept that sits at the heart of policy, but a recent study in BMJ Open shows that there is no concrete definition of the term and consequently no cohesive understanding of what it means in practice among prescribing doctors.

The authors of the study, from the University of Exeter Medical School supported by the National Institute for Health for Leadership in Applied and Care in the South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC), believe that the term individualisation needs to be defined so that doctors understand what it means and so help patients to manage their treatments after consultation.

Evidence suggests that some patients, as many as half in , are modifying their intake of to fit their lifestyles. This may be due to a number of reasons: the cost of ; side-effects; a of how to take their medicine.

The authors of the study believe that doctors need a defined interpretation of individualisation so they can support patients to achieve any modification safely and with the minimum of adverse effect. The ideal is for the patient and their doctor to work together to come up with an agreed course of treatment. As a consequence doctors could increase the extent to which their patients are taking medicines as prescribed, contribute to a reduction in the amount of drugs prescribed and improve on drug wastage figures. The potential benefits to patient health, treatment outcomes and costs to the are immense.

The study team interviewed a cohort of GPs, geriatricians and clinical academics in the South West of England. They found that the understanding of individualisation varied between doctors and that their initial descriptions of individualisation were not always consistent with the examples given.

The surveyed doctors also frequently discussed individualisation in terms of drug treatment decisions, that is, to meet medical needs by reducing the effect of side-effects and other issues. Few of the doctors spoke of making such decisions in relation to a patient's personal preference, or in terms of supporting those patients to individualise their own treatments after the consultation.

The study was led by Sarah Denford from the University of Exeter Medical School. She said: "Our study showed the need for there to be a refining of the concept of individualisation. This is required before policy recommendations concerning individualisation and self-management can be achieved: policy makers and researchers need to be clear about what they are advocating, and need a concrete definition on which to base their patient care strategies."

She added: "This would be the first step towards developing and piloting methods of individualisation in different situations so that recommendations can be made for practice. Given that some patients are already individualising treatments of their own, supporting them to do so safely would result in improved self-management practices, better outcomes for patients and potential savings from a reduction in drug prescription and waste."

Explore further: Study finds gaps in 'decision aids' designed to help determine right cancer screening option

Related Stories

Study finds gaps in 'decision aids' designed to help determine right cancer screening option

May 10, 2013
When it comes to a cancer diagnosis, timing can be everything – the sooner it's found, the more treatable it is. But when and how often should someone get screened?

Doctors should discuss financial concerns of cancer patients, study finds

May 17, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Most cancer patients would like to talk about the cost of their care with their doctors, but often don't because they fear the discussion could compromise the quality of their treatment, researchers at ...

97 percent of UK doctors have given placebos to patients at least once

March 20, 2013
A survey of UK doctors found that 97% have prescribed placebo treatments to patients at least once in their career.

NHS prescribing errors puts patients at risk, warn Leicester academics

April 30, 2013
Researchers at the University of Leicester are aiming to improve the prescribing behaviour of junior doctors in the NHS which will save lives as well as time and money.

Doctors not informed of harmful effects of medicines during sales visits

April 10, 2013
The majority of family doctors receive little or no information about harmful effects of medicines when visited by drug company representatives, according to an international study involving Canadian, U.S. and French physicians.

Health care providers can learn to communicate better with patients

December 19, 2012
Medical students, doctors and nurses can be taught to use a more holistic, patient-centered approach during medical consultations, focusing on the person and not just their medical complaint, finds a new review in The Cochrane ...

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.