Objectives: We sought to test the hypothesis that training medical assistants to provide health coaching would improve patients' experience of care received and overall satisfaction with their clinic.
Study design: Randomized controlled trial.
Methods: Low-income English- or Spanish-speaking patients aged 18 to 75 years with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and/or hyperlipidemia were randomized to receive either a health coach or usual care for 12 months. Patient care experience was measured using the Patient Assessment of Chronic Illness Care (PACIC) scale at baseline and at 12 months. Patient overall satisfaction with the clinic was assessed with a single item asking if they would recommend the clinic to a friend or family member. PACIC and satisfaction scores were compared between study arms using generalized estimating equations to account for clustering at the clinician level.
Results: PACIC scores were available from baseline and at 12 months on 366 (76%) of the 441 patients randomized. At baseline, patients receiving health coaching were similar to those in the usual care group with respect to demographic and other characteristics, including mean PACIC scores (3.00 vs 3.06) and the percent who would "definitely recommend" their clinic (73% and 73%, respectively). At 12 months, coached patients had a significantly higher mean PACIC score (3.82 vs 3.13; P < .001) and were more likely to report they would definitely recommend their clinic (85% vs 73%; P = .002).
Conclusions: Using medical assistants trained in health coaching significantly improved the quality of care that low-income patients with poorly controlled chronic disease reported receiving from their healthcare team.