Conversation Cards May Help Antidepressant Decisions

Doctors discusses treatment options with a patientSimple conversation cards may help doctors more effectively discuss antidepressants with people experiencing depression, which could improve patient and physician satisfaction with medication, a Mayo Clinic study has found. The findings have been published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Conversation Cards to Decrease Noncompliance

Noncompliance—the decision to not take antidepressants, or to not take them as directed by a doctor—can be a serious issue for people with depression and other conditions antidepressants can treat. In one 2003 study of 740,000 people prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)—the most frequently prescribed category of antidepressants—50% were noncompliant at 60 days, and 72% were noncompliant at six months.

Antidepressants can produce unwanted side effects, particularly in the early weeks of treatment. Some antidepressant users stop taking their medication before side effects have a chance to disappear. Because many people with depression may have to try multiple antidepressants before something works, noncompliance can delay relief from symptoms. The conversation cards are designed to reduce noncompliance by helping people feel more confident in their decision to take antidepressants.

Will Decision Cards Help People Experiencing Depression?

Researchers provided 117 Minnesota and Wisconsin physicians with conversation cards to help them more effectively discuss treatment with their patients. The cards provided evidence-backed information about antidepressants and offered conversation tools designed to help physicians more effectively listen to and address patient needs.

The physicians provided researchers with data from the use of conversation cards with 301 patients. Compared to previous treatment, conversation cards improved patients’ feelings about taking antidepressants. On a scale of 100 points, patients had a 5-point increase in their comfort making decisions about antidepressants and a 10-point increase in their knowledge about antidepressants. The cards also encouraged doctors to embrace patient involvement in the decision process, improving involvement by 16 points. Overall, the decision cards more than doubled the likelihood of patient satisfaction.

In a busy medical climate, doctors may be concerned about how much time such conversation tools require. However, the use of conversation cards did not lengthen discussion time. Researchers did not test whether the cards improved compliance with medication, but they suggest use of the conversation cards could improve patient knowledge and involvement, which may lead to an improvement in compliance.


  1. Gharbia, S. A., PharmD. (n.d.). Common side effects of antidepressants. Retrieved from
  2. Keene, M. S., MD. (2005). Confusion and complaints: The true cost of noncompliance in antidepressant therapy. Retrieved from
  3. Nellis, B. (2015, September 29). Decision aids help patients with depression and doctors feel better about medication. Retrieved from

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  • Helen447


    October 2nd, 2015 at 9:05 AM

    Current treatments are just not working. AD medication seems to be the “go-to” treatment, however if they worked as well as the drug companies say they did, depression rates would be falling, not becoming the worldwide epidemic that it is today.
    In my opinion, more natural treatments for depression such as the “Destroy Depression System” should get more exposure, because it is written by somebody who has actually been through depression and recovered. It teaches 7 natural steps which figures show work way better than current ‘treatments’. These treatments come with no ill side-effects like medication does, cost next to nothing and more importantly, because the patient is healing themselves, they start to feel like THEY are the ones regaining control over their lives.

  • cara


    October 3rd, 2015 at 6:41 AM

    I’m sorry but if my doc needs a flash card to talk to me then something is just not right in our professional relationship

  • Bekkah


    October 5th, 2015 at 9:50 AM

    I think that more patients would be more likely to comply if they honestly felt that the treatment that they were being prescribed was working. When people think that they are going to have to wait for weeks and weeks to see results then it becomes so discouraging. That is why maybe meds are not so much the answer and we should look at other options for patients who need to see results immediately.

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