Discussing weight with obese primary care patients: physician and patient perceptions

J Gen Intern Med. 2008 May;23(5):581-7. doi: 10.1007/s11606-008-0553-9. Epub 2008 Mar 6.


Objective: To evaluate patient-provider agreement on whether weight and related behaviors were discussed during routine visits.

Design: Post-visit survey assessments of patients and providers.

Participants: Obese patients make up the majority of all patients seen in primary care (PC). The patients and physicians were recruited at the time of PC visits.

Measurements and main results: Percent patient-physician agreement and patient, provider and practice characteristics associated with agreement. Patients (456) and physicians (30) agreed about whether or not they discussed weight, physical activity (PA), and diet for 61% of office visits. There was disagreement on one of the items (weight, PA, or diet) for 23% of office visits, and for 2 or more of the items for 16% of the visits. Agreement was relatively greater for discussing weight than for discussing diet or physical activity. Physicians reported discussing weight issues more often than did patients. Overall patient-physician agreement was 0.51-0.59 (weighted Kappa statistic). In a multivariate analyses of factors associated with patient-physician agreement, health insurance (odds ratio [OR]=3.67, p value = 0.002), physician description of patient weight status (OR = 2.27, p value = 0.002), patient report of how weight relates to health (OR = 1.70, p value = 0.04), and female patient gender (OR = 1.62, p = value = 0.02) were significantly related to agreement.

Conclusions: Patients and providers disagreed about whether or not weight issues were discussed in a large number of primary care encounters in this study. Physicians may be able to improve care for their obese patients by focusing discussions on specific details of diet and physical activity behaviors, and by clarifying that patients perceive weight-related information has been shared.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Clinical Competence
  • Cohort Studies
  • Communication*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity*
  • Office Visits
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians, Family
  • Primary Health Care*