Understanding health care communication preferences of veteran primary care users

Patient Educ Couns. 2012 Sep;88(3):420-6. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2012.06.004. Epub 2012 Jul 4.


Objective: To assess veterans' health communication preferences (in-person, telephone, or electronic) for primary care needs and the impact of computer use on preferences.

Methods: Structured patient interviews (n=448). Bivariate analyses examined preferences for primary care by 'infrequent' vs. 'regular' computer users.

Results: Only 54% were regular computer users, nearly all of whom had ever used the internet. 'Telephone' was preferred for 6 of 10 reasons (general medical questions, medication questions and refills, preventive care reminders, scheduling, and test results); although telephone was preferred by markedly fewer regular computer users. 'In-person' was preferred for new/ongoing conditions/symptoms, treatment instructions, and next care steps; these preferences were unaffected by computer use frequency. Among regular computer users, 1/3 preferred 'electronic' for preventive reminders (37%), test results (34%), and refills (32%).

Conclusion: For most primary care needs, telephone communication was preferred, although by a greater proportion of infrequent vs. regular computer users. In-person communication was preferred for reasons that may require an exam or visual instructions. About 1/3 of regular computer users prefer electronic communication for routine needs, e.g., preventive reminders, test results, and refills.

Practice implications: These findings can be used to plan patient-centered care that is aligned with veterans' preferred health communication methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Communication*
  • Comprehension
  • Electronic Mail
  • Female
  • Health Communication / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation
  • Patient Preference*
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Telephone
  • United States
  • Veterans*