Patients' perspectives on taking warfarin: qualitative study in family practice
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BACKGROUND: Despite the well-documented benefits of using warfarin to prevent stroke, physicians remain reluctant to initiate therapy, and especially so with the elderly owing to the higher risk of hemorrhage. Prior research suggests that patients are more accepting of the risk of bleeding than are physicians, although there have been few qualitative studies. The aim of this study was to employ qualitative methods to investigate the experience and perspective of individuals taking warfarin. METHODS: We conducted face-to-face interviews with 21 older patients (12 male, 9 female) who had been taking warfarin for a minimum of six months. Participants were patients at a family practice clinic situated in a large, tertiary care teaching hospital. We used a semistructured interview guide with four main thematic areas: decision-making, knowledge/education, impact, and satisfaction. Data were analysed according to the principles of content analysis. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: Participants tended to have minimal input into the decision to initiate warfarin therapy, instead relying in great part on physicians' expertise. There appeared to be low retention of information received regarding the therapy; half the patients in our sample possessed only a superficial level of understanding of the risks and benefits. This notwithstanding, participants reported a high level of satisfaction with the care provided and a low level of impact on their day-to-day lives. CONCLUSIONS: Minimal patient involvement in the initial decision and modest knowledge did not appear to diminish satisfaction with warfarin management. At the same time, care providers exert a tremendous influence on the initiation of warfarin therapy and should strive to incorporate patient preferences and expectations into the decision-making process.
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