Sun protection 'interview' useful tool

September 7, 2011

State College, Pa. ? A new interview technique could help physicians more effectively counsel their patients in the use of sun-protection methods, Medscape Today reports.

State College, Pa. - A new interview technique could help physicians more effectively counsel their patients in the use of sun-protection methods, Medscape Today reports.

In a small pilot study headed by Kimberly Mallett, Ph.D., of Pennsylvania State University’s Prevention Research Center, eight dermatologists affiliated with the university’s School of Medicine were asked to use a specially devised interview method called ABC (for “addressing behavior change”) as a tool for promoting sunscreen use among patients.

“The focus of the current study was to teach a sample of dermatologists the ABC method and assess their ability to deliver it with fidelity as well as their sustained use and satisfaction with using it over a six-month period,” the authors write.

Researchers note that participating dermatologists underwent two one-hour training sessions, and that on average, the patient interview itself, designed to be incorporated into a routine office visit, required only two to three minutes.

The study showed that the physicians quickly learned the ABC method, were able to sustain use of the technique with their patients for the desired period of time, and planned to continue using it.

Dr. Mallett notes in the study that previous research has shown education alone isn’t an effective strategy for changing patient behavior. “However, communication that incorporates the principles of motivational interviewing (MI), a patient-centered approach that uses empathic communication, has been successful in improving a variety of health-related behaviors,” she writes.

Further, the authors write, recent research has shown that dermatologists who viewed video examples of MI-oriented interventions aimed at increasing sun protection thought those interventions would constitute a useful tool for enhancing communication with patients.

Investigators stress that further studies are needed to assess whether physicians’ use of the technique actually results in patients paying more attention to sun protection.

The study was published online as a research letter in Archives of Dermatology.