Original Article

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 236-241

First online:

Patients’ Beliefs and Preferences Regarding Doctors’ Medication Recommendations

  • Sarah L. GoffAffiliated withMeyers Primary Care InstituteBaystate Medical Center Email author 
  • , Kathleen M. MazorAffiliated withMeyers Primary Care InstituteUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School
  • , Vanessa MeterkoAffiliated withMeyers Primary Care Institute
  • , Katherine DoddAffiliated withMeyers Primary Care Institute
  • , James SabinAffiliated withHarvard Pilgrim Healthcare

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An estimated 20–50% of patients do not take medications as recommended. Accepting a doctor’s recommendation is the first step in medication adherence, yet little is known about patients’ beliefs and preferences about how medications are prescribed.


To explore patients’ beliefs and preferences about medication prescribing to understand factors that might affect medication adherence.


Fifty members from 2 health plans in Massachusetts participated in in-depth telephone interviews. Participants listened to an audio-vignette of a doctor prescribing a medication to a patient and were asked a series of questions related to the vignette. Responses were reviewed in an iterative process to identify themes related to participants’ beliefs and preferences about medication prescribing.


Participants’ beliefs and preferences about medication prescribing encompassed 3 major areas: patient–doctor relationships, outside influences, and professional expertise. Important findings included participants’ concerns about the pharmaceutical industry’s influence on doctors’ prescribing practices and beliefs that there is a clear “best” medication for most health problems.


Patients’ beliefs and preferences about medication prescribing may affect medication adherence. Additional empiric studies that explore whether doctors’ relationships with pharmaceutical representatives impact medication adherence by affecting trust are indicated. In addition, it would be worthwhile to explore whether discussions between patients and doctors regarding equipoise (no clear scientific evidence for 1 treatment choice over another) affect medication adherence.


medication adherence qualitative patient preferences communication medication prescribing pharmaceutical detailing shared decision making