Patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) benefit from anticoagulation to reduce stroke risk. However, 30-60% of patients with AF are not anticoagulated. This study explored physicians’ reasons for under-treatment of AF, focusing on the role of the novel oral anticoagulants (NOACs). We interviewed primary care physicians and cardiologists involved in AF management in a variety of practice settings. We conducted interviews using a semi-structured format and analyzed the data using the Framework Method. Four themes emerged. First, the likelihood of physicians to prescribe NOACs depends upon their willingness to try new medications and their successful experience with them. Second, physicians typically balance the benefits and risks of anticoagulation in AF patients, although not always accurately. Third, patient convenience and preferences, as well as physician convenience, are important when considering anticoagulation. Finally, concerns regarding the out-of-pocket cost of NOACs deter many physicians from prescribing them. The persistence of under-treatment in AF despite the availability of effective therapies suggests that new strategies are needed to improve physician knowledge and practice. These strategies should enhance physician awareness of AF under-treatment, emphasize accurate assessment of bleeding risk among AF patients, compare the safety, efficacy, and convenience of NOACs relative to warfarin, and address physician concerns regarding the out-of-pocket cost of NOACs. Guidelines and decision supports which promote physician knowledge in these areas have the potential to increase oral anticoagulant use and reduce preventable morbidity and mortality.
Credits: Katherine Kirley; Goutham Rao;Victoria Bauer;Christopher Masi