Communication Between Physicians and Patients with Ulcerative Colitis: Reflections and Insights from a Qualitative Study of In-Office Patient–Physician Visits

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Abstract

Background:

We analyzed in-office communication between patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) and their gastroenterologists.

Methods:

Participating gastroenterologists (United States N = 15; Europe N = 8) identified eligible patients with scheduled clinic visits. Patients (United States N = 40; Europe N = 28; ≥18 yr old; physician-defined moderately-to-severely active ulcerative colitis for approximately ≥1 yr; ≥1 flare in preceding year; prior or current therapy with 5-aminosalicylates and/or corticosteroids) consented to have their visit recorded. Follow-up interviews were conducted separately with gastroenterologists and patients. Transcripts were analyzed using sociolinguistic methods to explore quality of life (QoL) impacts, treatment goals, and attitudes to therapies.

Results:

In the European and U.S. research, the trend was for patients not to discuss ulcerative colitis QoL impacts during their visits. In the U.S. research, complete patient–physician alignment on QoL impacts (patient and physician stating the same impacts) was seen in 40% of cases. Variation in treatment goals was seen between gastroenterologists and patients: 3% of U.S. patients described absence of inflammation as a treatment goal versus 25% of gastroenterologists. This goal was not always conveyed to the patient during visits. Consistent with guidelines, physicians generally framed biologic therapy as suitable for patients refractory to conventional therapies. However, although putative efficacy offered by biologic therapy is generally aligned with patients' stated treatment goals, many considered biologic therapy as more appropriate for more severe disease than theirs.

Conclusions:

Alignment between patients and physicians on ulcerative colitis QoL impact, treatment goals, and requirement of advanced therapies is poor. New tools are needed to cover this gap.

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