Increases in patient participation in medical interactions have been achieved to date using structured waiting-room interviews. In this pilot study, a printed intervention was tested as an inexpensive alternative with potential for wider dissemination. Sixty-seven family medicine patients were assigned randomly to one to two educational conditions just prior to their medical visit: a treatment booklet stressing the importance of recognizing information needs and encouraging patients to ask questions; or a placebo education booklet similar in format but not in content. The patient-physician interactions were audiotaped to determine the number of questions patients asked, and a questionnaire was administered after each encounter to assess patient satisfaction with care. The mean numbers of questions asked in the experimental and control groups were 7.46 and 5.63, respectively; the mean difference of 1.83 questions was statistically non-significant (P greater than 0.05). Question-asking did not correlate with reported satisfaction. Suggestions for modification to this research approach are presented.