Patient–Rheumatologist Communication Concerning Prescription Medications: Getting to the Gist




Fuzzy trace theory was used to develop a coding scheme that captures the gist that patients extract from information about medication risks and benefits and to explore the extent to which different patients extract different gist representations from the same information.


Data were collected from 2003–2007 in a study that included audiotape recording office visits that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients had with their rheumatologists. Each patient (n = 365) had up to 3 visits audiotape recorded. The audiotapes were transcribed to facilitate content analysis. Four patients with RA who did not participate in the original study guided development of the coding scheme and used it to code the transcripts.


The coding scheme contains 14 gist themes centering on medication effectiveness, need, and safety. There was considerable variation among the gist coders in the specific themes they extracted from individual transcripts. We observed the greatest intercoder agreement for the 4 gist theme variables related to whether the rheumatologist wanted to make changes to the medication regimen. Furthermore, the coders rarely used the “not clear” category to code these 4 variables. In contrast, intercoder agreement for the remaining gist themes, which were designed to capture issues central to the communication of information about medication risks and benefits, was low and the “not clear” category was used more frequently.


Our study findings suggest that different people exposed to the same information may form different gist representations. Patient–provider communication concerning medication risks and benefits might be enhanced by better understanding the factors that influence the gist extraction process.