Infrequent Older Adult–Primary Care Provider Discussion and Documentation of Dietary Supplements

David J. Jang, MD; Derjung M. Tarn, MD, PhD


J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014;62(7):1386-1388. 

In This Article


These results reveal incomplete discussion and documentation of dietary supplements during primary care office visits with older adults. Although it may be unrealistic to expect dietary supplement discussions to occur during every office visit, it is surprising that there was such incomplete documentation of supplement use. Poor documentation of supplements discussed during office visits may reflect provider ambivalence about the importance of documenting supplement use.

The importance of full disclosure of an individual's dietary supplements is debatable because many may be unlikely to cause adverse events or supplement–drug interactions.[7] More vigilance might be expected with dietary supplements that have potential drug–supplement interactions, but the current study did not find significant differences in supplement discussion or documentation based on whether supplements were NVNM supplements (more likely to have potential interactions or adverse events)[3,8] or supplements considered to be more benign, such as vitamins and minerals.[7,9] The study examined medical records over a 12-month period, so it was not possible to assess documentation of supplement use on the day of audio-recorded visits.

Given the lack of awareness about potential adverse effects of dietary supplements and about drug–supplement interactions, physicians may need to ask patients proactively about supplement use. Greater physician education about the potential risks of dietary supplements may be needed to enhance awareness of the importance of assessing and documenting supplement use[10] and to ensure patient safety.