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Understanding health care communication preferences of veteran primary care users.

LaVela SL, Schectman G, Gering J, Locatelli SM, Gawron A, Weaver FM. Understanding health care communication preferences of veteran primary care users. Patient education and counseling. 2012 Sep 1; 88(3):420-6.

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OBJECTIVE: To assess veterans'' health communication preferences (in-person, telephone, or electronic) for primary care needs and the impact of computer use on preferences. METHODS: Structured patient interviews (n = 448). Bivariate analyses examined preferences for primary care by ''infrequent'' vs. ''regular'' computer users. RESULTS: Only 54% were regular computer users, nearly all of whom had ever used the internet. ''Telephone'' was preferred for 6 of 10 reasons (general medical questions, medication questions and refills, preventive care reminders, scheduling, and test results); although telephone was preferred by markedly fewer regular computer users. ''In-person'' was preferred for new/ongoing conditions/symptoms, treatment instructions, and next care steps; these preferences were unaffected by computer use frequency. Among regular computer users, 1/3 preferred ''electronic'' for preventive reminders (37%), test results (34%), and refills (32%). CONCLUSION: For most primary care needs, telephone communication was preferred, although by a greater proportion of infrequent vs. regular computer users. In-person communication was preferred for reasons that may require an exam or visual instructions. About 1/3 of regular computer users prefer electronic communication for routine needs, e.g., preventive reminders, test results, and refills. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: These findings can be used to plan patient-centered care that is aligned with veterans'' preferred health communication methods.

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