Doctors and their families less likely to follow guidelines about medicine

Credit: Unsplash+

Following established guidelines about prescription drugs would seem to be an obvious course of action, especially for the professionals that do the prescribing.

But in a study from MIT and elsewhere, scientists found doctors and their family members are less likely than other people to comply with those guidelines,

Depending on your perspective, that result might seem surprising or it might produce a knowing nod. Either way, the result is contrary to past scholarly hypotheses.

Many experts have surmised that knowing more, and having easier communication with medical providers, leads patients to follow instructions more closely.

In the study, the team used over a decade of population-wide data from Sweden and includes suggestive evidence about why doctors and their families may ignore medical advice.

Overall, they found that the rest of the population adheres to general medication guidelines 54.4 percent of the time, while doctors and their families lag 3.8 percentage points behind that.

Since doctors and their close relatives adhere to medical guidelines less often than the rest of the population, what exactly explains this phenomenon?

While homing in on an answer, the research team examined and rejected several hypotheses.

First, the lower compliance by those with greater access to expertise is unrelated to socioeconomic status.

Additionally, the researchers did not find any link between existing health status and adherence.

The lower adherence rates for doctors and their relatives were similar in magnitude whether the guidelines pertained to taking medication or, alternately, not taking medication.

Instead, the researchers believe the answer is that doctors possess “superior information about guidelines” for prescription drugs—and then deploy that information for themselves.

In the study, the difference in adherence to guidelines between experts and nonexperts is largest in the case of antibiotics: Doctors and their families are 5.2 percentage points less in compliance than everyone else.

The issue, however, is that what is good for the public in the long run—trying more targeted drugs first—may not work well for an individual patient.

For this reason, doctors could be more likely to prescribe broader-spectrum antibiotics for themselves and their families.

Another suggestive piece of data comes from different types of prescription drugs that are typically avoided during pregnancies.

The results imply that probably what’s going on is that experts have a more nuanced understanding of what is the right course of action for themselves, and how that might be different than what the guidelines suggest.

If you care about health, please read studies about new treatment option for COVID-19, and this common plant nutrient could help reduce high blood pressure.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about drug that may slow down vision loss in older people, and results showing the glue that could repair injured nerve.

The study was conducted by Amy Finkelstein et al and published in the American Economic Review: Insights.

Copyright © 2022 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.