Interactions between primary care providers and patients can be improved with use of a waiting room visit planning tool, which helps patients identify and express their top visit concerns, according to a study published in Annals of Family Medicine.

The investigators of this cluster-randomized controlled study sought to test whether a waiting room health information technology (IT) tool could help patients identify and voice their top priorities for visiting their primary care provider and lead to improved patient-provider interactions and quality of care.

The study included 750 English- and Spanish-speaking adults who had at least 1 gap in clinical care, such as being overdue for cancer screening, having suboptimal control over a known disease factor, or medication nonadherence. Participants were randomly assigned to receive the visit planning tool intervention prior to care or receive care as usual without the tool. The intervention arm was directed to use the investigator-designed visit planner tool in the waiting room of their provider’s office.

Outcomes were patient preparation and prioritization, efficiency and productivity of primary care visits, and quality of care. Patients reported their experiences via a post-visit telephone survey, and clinical outcomes included the closing of care gaps within 6 months of the study visit.

By post-visit survey, a larger proportion of patients in the intervention group reported “definitely” preparing questions for their provider compared with the control group (59.5% vs 44.8%; P <.01). Similarly, more of the intervention group reported “definitely” voicing their top concerns at the start of their visit vs the control group (91.3% vs 83.2%; P <.01). Overall, both study arms reported high satisfaction with their care (86.8% vs 89.9%; P =.20). There was no significant difference in clinical care gap outcomes between groups, which were similarly reduced after 6 months of follow-up.

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Limitations to the study included weighing clinical care gap outcomes equally despite capturing a wide range of care needs among the study population. Furthermore, the intervention was not tailored to a subset of patients who could most benefit from visit planning support, nor was it tested over a longer time period in which multiple visits could benefit from accrued clinical management tactics.

The investigators indicate that a simple waiting room IT tool may significantly improve communication between patients and providers, because patients using the visit planner were more prepared and began their visit by expressing top health concerns.

Reference

Grant RW, Lyles C, Uratsu CS, Vo MT, Bayliss EA, Heisler M. Visit planning using a waiting room health IT tool: the aligning patients and providers randomized controlled trial. Ann Fam Med. 2019;17(2):141-149.