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Health habit counseling amidst competing demands: effects of patient health habits and visit characteristics.

Chernof BA, Sherman SE, Lanto AB, Lee ML, Yano EM, Rubenstein LV. Health habit counseling amidst competing demands: effects of patient health habits and visit characteristics. Medical care. 1999 Aug 1; 37(8):738-47.

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OBJECTIVE: This study assesses the effects of competing demands, such as poor health habits or new medical problems, on health-habit counseling during a primary care visit. METHODS: We surveyed a consecutive sample of 1,259 patients visiting primary care clinicians at an academic VA medical center. Before the visit, patients reported their health status, health habits, and sociodemographics; immediately after the visit, patients reported reasons for the visit and whether they had been counseled about specific health habits. We scored visit acuity ranging from visits for unscheduled walk-in care or new medical problems to scheduled visits for check-ups or old problems. We defined counseling "triggers" as clinical indications for counseling about particular health habits (e.g., smoking). We developed a logistic model predicting primary care provider counseling during a visit. RESULTS: Over two-thirds of patients (68.9%) received some health habit counseling. Controlling for other independent variables, patients with more triggers were more likely to report being counseled. Counseling rates went up as visit acuity went down; patients with the lowest visit acuity having 67% greater odds of being counseled than patients with the highest visit acuity. CONCLUSIONS: Physicians set priorities for health-habit counseling during a visit based on patients' health habit problems or triggers; whether the visit is scheduled or walk-in; and whether the patient has new or acute problems. Future research about primary care performance of health habit counseling should account for these patient and visit characteristics, and prevention-oriented health care organizations should ensure access to scheduled "check-up" visits.

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