Improving communication between medical providers and patients about medical cannabis by strengthening cannabis knowledge among both groups

Heather Samuelson
DocMJ

Objective: Primary care physicians are now increasingly likely to need to address cannabis use with their patients as its use is becoming more common. It is imperative to have good communication for shared decision making between medical providers and their patients. My goal was to see if strengthening cannabis knowledge results in an improvement in communication between medical providers and patients.

Methods: Presentations were given to small groups of patients and medical staff on a variety of cannabis topics. Everyone received general information about the process of obtaining a medical marijuana certification in Florida, products available and where to find additional resources but patients’ education also focused more in depth on how to choose products to help them with their conditions. Surveys were offered to all participants and were scored on a 1-5 likert scale. Additionally, an educational display and website (https://physicianscannabiscompendium.com) were created to reach out to a wider audience as social distancing limited in person interactions.

Results: A total of 281 surveys were completed. Medical staff completed 43 and patients/caregivers completed 238. All groups reported an improvement in knowledge about the topics that were reviewed. Patients who qualified for a recommendation on the same day rated the greatest improvement in communication ability followed by those who qualified later. Caregivers and medical staff rated their communication ability about cannabis lowest; however, caregivers felt most comfortable talking with a primary care doctor about it. Medical staff were the least comfortable talking with their own doctor about cannabis. Providers, pharmacists, nurses and medical assistants overall felt more comfortable than front desk staff, pharmacy techs and housekeeping staff in talking with patients about cannabis.

Conclusion: Overall, there was a perceived improvement in knowledge about cannabis and ability to communicate about it. There was a slightly smaller improvement in comfort talking about cannabis between the groups reported by participants to be due to stigma and legal concerns. More work is still needed to bridge the gap between providers and patients to improve communication for shared decision making.

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