An evaluation of the effect of pharmaceutical information load on the prescribing attitudes of medical house staff

William Henry Smith, University of Pennsylvania


The generation of massive and sometimes overwhelming volumes of data as the result of advances in science, technology, and medicine presents some interesting challenges. One major challenge is to develop selective mechanisms for making decisions about the value of certain information to potential users of it, and how to transmit the information. The ability to rise to this challenge is extremely important in the field of regulation of human medicinal products. Physicians' access to materials regarding drugs may have an impact on prescribing attitudes and behavior which, in turn, would effect the health care delivery system. This research involved three major activities: (1) The U.S. drug prescribing information (data sheet) was used as a model of "high information load," and compared with the U.K. version of the data sheet, a model of "low to moderate information load." A group of U.S. residents (N = 80) was randomly assigned to receive either a copy of the U.S. data sheet, or the analogous data sheet for the U.K. (2) A survey was designed to differentiate the effects of information load on the ability of the physician to make prompt decisions. Preliminary interviews conducted with a convenience sample of several U.S. physicians revealed that drug information which cannot be accessed within approximately 5 minutes would be of very limited use to a clinician in a busy practice. (3) The results of the survey, along with a comparative evaluation of U.S. and U.K. federal regulatory policy were used to suggest improvements in the management of drug safety data to increase benefit to physicians. Also, the current and possible future roles of patient education materials, and the balance of information between what is provided to physicians and to patients were considered. Comparison of the group that used the U.S. drug data sheet versus the group using the U.K. data sheet showed that both groups were equally confident that all necessary data for making decisions were present in the data sheet, and equally convinced of the importance of safety data in prescribing decisions. The U.K. group, (roughly one page of prescribing information), and the U.S. group (seven pages) both stated that the amount of information presented was appropriate for clinical decision-making. However, the results indicated a significant difference in the physicians' decision to prescribe, with physicians in the U.K. group recommending the use of the drug more strongly than those in the U.S. group. A review of the literature indicated that international standardization of pharmaceutical information materials can be an effective means of improving the communication of information to physicians and between physicians and patients. Prudent policy changes may enable the provision of more succinct, user-friendly data directly to the physician. With both physician and patient receiving concise and appropriate materials, communication (and health care delivery in general) can be expected to improve.

Subject Area

Adult education|Pharmaceutical sciences|Health education

Recommended Citation

Smith, William Henry, "An evaluation of the effect of pharmaceutical information load on the prescribing attitudes of medical house staff" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9521123.