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Visit satisfaction and tailored health behavior communications in primary care

      Abstract

      Background

      Although studies suggest that computer-tailored health communications can help patients improve health behaviors, their effect on patient satisfaction, when used in healthcare settings, has yet to be examined.

      Methods

      A stand-alone computer application was developed to provide tailored, printed feedback for patients and physicians about two of the most common adverse health behaviors seen in primary care: smoking and physical inactivity. Ten primary care providers and 150 of their patients were recruited to use the program in the office before their visit. After the visit, patients completed a self-report survey that addressed demographics, computer use history, satisfaction with the visit, and the extent to which the physician addressed the reports during the visit. All data presented were collected between October 2001 and February 2002.

      Results

      Most patients were female (67.6%), approximately half (46.0%) were seen for a routine exam, most (63.3%) had at least one chronic illness, and fewer than one third (31.3%) had ever used the Internet or e-mail. Most (81.1%) patients reported that the program was easy to use, but fewer than half of the doctors looked at the report in front of the patient (49.2%) or discussed the report with the patient (44.3%). Multivariate modeling showed that visit satisfaction was significantly greater among those whose doctor examined the report. This effect of the doctor examining the report on satisfaction was even greater for those who reported a chronic illness.

      Conclusions

      Physicians who incorporate computer tailored messaging programs into the primary care setting, but who do not address the feedback reports that they create may contribute to patients being less satisfied with their care.
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