In-office discussions of migraine: Results from the American migraine communication study

Richard B. Lipton, Steven R. Hahn, Roger K. Cady, Jan Lewis Brandes, Suzanne E. Simons, Philip A. Bain, Meaghan R. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Research indicates that successful migraine assessment and treatment depends on information obtained during patient and healthcare professional (HCP) discussions. However, no studies outline how migraine is actually discussed during clinical encounters. OBJECTIVE: Record naturally occurring HCP-migraineur interactions, analyzing frequency and impairment assessment, and preventive treatment discussions. DESIGN: HCPs seeing high volumes of migraineurs were recruited for a communication study. Patients likely to discuss migraine were recruited immediately before their normally scheduled appointment and, once consented, were audio- and video-recorded without a researcher present. Separate post-visit interviews were conducted with patients and HCPs. All interactions were transcribed. PARTICIPANTS: Sixty patients (83% female; mean age 41.7) were analyzed. Patients were diagnosed with migraine 14 years and experienced 5 per month, on average. APPROACH: Transcripts were analyzed using sociolinguistic techniques such as number and type of questions asked and post-visit alignment on migraine frequency and impairment. American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study guidelines were utilized. RESULTS: Ninety-one percent of HCP-initiated, migraine-specific questions were closed-ended/short answer; assessments focused on frequency and did not focus on attention on impairment. Open-ended questions in patient post-visit interviews yielded robust impairment-related information. Post-visit, 55% of HCP-patient pairs were misaligned regarding frequency; 51% on impairment. Of the 20 (33%) patients who were preventive medication candidates, 80% did not receive it and 50% of their visits lacked discussion of prevention. CONCLUSIONS: Sociolinguistic analysis revealed that HCPs often used narrowly focused, closed-ended questions and were often unaware of how migraine affected patients' lives as a result. It is recommended that HCPs assess impairment using open-ended questions in combination with the ask-tell-ask technique.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1145-1151
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2008


  • Communication
  • Migraine
  • Prevention
  • Sociolinguistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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