Background: An increasing prevalence of having survived a myocardial infarction increases the importance of medical secondary prevention. Although preventive medication reduces mortality, prescribing and adherence are known to be frequently insufficient. General practitioners are the most important prescriber. However, their perspective on prescribing and medical non-adherence following myocardial infarction has not yet been explored. Thus, the aim of this study was to explore the general practitioners' perspective on long-term care after myocardial infarction focussing on medical prevention.
Methods: In this qualitative interview study we conducted episodic interviews with sixteen general practitioners from rural and urban surgeries in Germany. Framework analysis with focus on general practitioners' prescribing and patients' non-adherence was performed.
Results: Almost all general practitioners reported following guidelines for myocardial infarction aftercare and prescribing the medication that was initiated in the hospital; however, they described deviating from guidelines because of drugs' side effects or patients' intolerances. Some questioned the benefits of medical secondary prevention for the oldest of patients. General practitioners perceived good adherence among their patients who had had an MI while they regarded their methods for assessing medical non-adherence as limited. They perceived diverse reasons for non-adherence, particularly side effects, patients' freedom from symptoms and patients' indifference to health. They attributed mainly negative characteristics, like lack of knowledge and understanding, to non-adherent patients. These characteristics contribute to the difficulty of convincing these patients to take medications as prescribed. General practitioners improved adherence by preventing side effects, explaining the medication's necessity, facilitating intake and involving patients in decision-making. However, about half of the general practitioners reported threatening their patients with negative consequences of non-adherence.
Conclusions: General practitioners should be aware that discharge medication can be insufficient and thus, should always check hospital recommendations for accordance with guideline recommendations. Improving physicians' communication skills and informing and motivating patients in an adequate manner, for example in simple language, should be an important goal in the hospital and the general practitioner setting. General practitioners should assess patients' motivations through motivational interviewing, which no general practitioner mentioned during the interviews, and talk with them about adherence and long-term treatment goals regularly.