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The ABC Method of Physician-Patient Communication [Pilot Study]

Kimberly Mallett, Ph.D, from the Prevention Research Center, Department of Biobehavioral Health at Pennsylvania State University, along with colleagues, writes that education alone is not an effective enough strategy to alter patient behavior.    
Dr. Mallett and her colleagues have devised “the ABC method” for dermatologists to use when promoting sunscreen use with their patients.  The author’s goal with the study was to teach a group of dermatologists the ABC method and assess their ability to successfully communicate the method to their patients and track patients’ satisfaction and progress over a 6-month time period.
The researchers note:
“Communication that incorporates the principles of motivational interviewing (MI), a patient-centered approach that uses empathic communication, has been successful in improving a variety of health-related behaviors.” 
Recent study demonstrates that dermatologists who viewed video examples of MI-oriented interventions dealing with sun protection believed that MI-oriented interventions would indeed be a helpful tool for increasing patient communication and awareness.
In the first part of the study, dermatologists learned the 6 key components of the ABC method.  Ideally, the method should be incorporated into regular office visits and take only 2-3 minutes.
How might the ABC Method be used in-office for Sun Protection?
1.  Assessing the patient’s ultraviolet risk
2.  Assessing the patient’s use of sunscreen
3.  Assessing the obstacles to use of sunscreen
4.  Facilitating removal of obstacles to sunscreen use
5.  Assessing other methods of sun protection
6.  Summarizing patients’ motivations and ideas for improved sunscreen use.
At the second session, dermatologists enacted in role-playing with mock patients.  Following this, the doctors, shadowed by trainers, utilized the ABC method with actual patients, and were given feedback on their technique.  At a 3 month follow-up, the dermatologists reported utilizing the ABC method in 66.3 % of interactions, and at the 6 month mark, an increase to 74.5%.
“This method was often used as a way to build rapport with patients and replaced conversation that was less relevant to patient behavior,” they write.
“Overall, the findings suggest that the ABC method is a feasible way for dermatologists to communicate with patients about sun protection during an office visit.”
Ultimately, it is yet to be known whether physicians’ use of the ABC  technique will actually alter patient behavior.  Future studies are recommended in order to determine use of the method will result in patients following up with sun protection.
Source: Archives of Dermatology (August 15, 2011)

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