Background: African Americans and persons with low socioeconomic status (SES) are disproportionately affected by hypertension and receive less patient-centered care than less vulnerable patient populations. Moreover, continuing medical education (CME) and patient-activation interventions have infrequently been directed to improve the processes of care for these populations.
Objective: To compare the effectiveness of patient-centered interventions targeting patients and physicians with the effectiveness of minimal interventions for underserved groups.
Design: Randomized controlled trial conducted from January 2002 through August 2005, with patient follow-up at 3 and 12 months, in 14 urban, community-based practices in Baltimore, Maryland.
Participants: Forty-one primary care physicians and 279 hypertension patients.
Interventions: Physician communication skills training and patient coaching by community health workers.
Main measures: Physician communication behaviors; patient ratings of physicians' participatory decision-making (PDM), patient involvement in care (PIC), reported adherence to medications; systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP) and BP control.
Key results: Visits of trained versus control group physicians demonstrated more positive communication change scores from baseline (-0.52 vs. -0.82, p = 0.04). At 12 months, the patient+physician intensive group compared to the minimal intervention group showed significantly greater improvements in patient report of physicians' PDM (β = +6.20 vs. -5.24, p = 0.03) and PIC dimensions related to doctor facilitation (β = +0.22 vs. -0.17, p = 0.03) and information exchange (β = +0.32 vs. -0.22, p = 0.005). Improvements in patient adherence and BP control did not differ across groups for the overall patient sample. However, among patients with uncontrolled hypertension at baseline, non-significant reductions in systolic BP were observed among patients in all intervention groups-the patient+physician intensive (-13.2 mmHg), physician intensive/patient minimal (-10.6 mmHg), and the patient intensive/physician minimal (-16.8 mmHg), compared to the patient+physician minimal group (-2.0 mmHg).
Conclusion: Interventions that enhance physicians' communication skills and activate patients to participate in their care positively affect patient-centered communication, patient perceptions of engagement in care, and may improve systolic BP among urban African-American and low SES patients with uncontrolled hypertension.