Asking questions: the effect of a brief intervention in community health centers on patient activation

Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Aug;84(2):257-60. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.07.026. Epub 2010 Aug 25.


Objective: To evaluate the impact of a patient activation intervention (PAI) focused on building question formulation skills that was delivered to patients in community health centers prior to their physician visit.

Methods: Level of patient activation and patient preferred role were examined using the patient activation measure (PAM) and the patient preference for control (PPC) measure.

Results: More of the 252 patients evaluated were at lower levels of activation (PAM levels 1 or 2) than U.S. population norms before the intervention. Paired-samples t-test revealed a statistically significant increase from pre-intervention to post-visit PAM scores. One-third of participants moved from lower levels of activation to higher levels (PAM levels 3 or 4) post-intervention. Patients preferring a more passive role had lower initial PAM scores and greater increases in their post-intervention PAM scores than did those who preferred a more active role.

Conclusion: Patients exposed to the PAI demonstrated significant improvement on a measure of activation. The PAI may be useful in helping patients prepare for more effective encounters with their physicians.

Practice implications: The PAI was feasible to deliver in the health center setting and may be a useful method for activating low-income, racial/ethnic minority patient populations.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Communication*
  • Community Health Centers / organization & administration*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Patient Participation / methods*
  • Patient Participation / psychology
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Self Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires