Background: Establishing priorities for discussion during time-limited primary care visits is challenging in the care of patients with cognitive impairment. These patients commonly attend primary care visits with a family companion.
Objective: To examine whether a patient-family agenda setting intervention improves primary care visit communication for patients with cognitive impairment DESIGN: Two-group pilot randomized controlled study PARTICIPANTS: Patients aged 65 + with cognitive impairment and family companions (n = 93 dyads) and clinicians (n = 14) from two general and one geriatrics primary care clinic INTERVENTION: A self-administered paper-pencil checklist to clarify the role of the companion and establish a shared visit agenda MEASUREMENTS: Patient-centered communication (primary); verbal activity, information disclosure including discussion of memory, and visit duration (secondary), from audio recordings of visit discussion RESULTS: Dyads were randomized to usual care (n = 44) or intervention (n = 49). Intervention participants endorsed an active communication role for companions to help patients understand what the clinician says or means (90% of dyads), remind patients to ask questions or ask clinicians questions directly (84% of dyads), or listen and take notes (82% of dyads). Intervention dyads identified 4.4 health issues for the agenda on average: patients more often identified memory (59.2 versus 38.8%; p = 0.012) and mood (42.9 versus 24.5%; p = 0.013) whereas companions more often identified safety (36.7 versus 18.4%; p = 0.039) and personality/behavior change (32.7 versus 16.3%; p = 0.011). Communication was significantly more patient-centered in intervention than in control visits at general clinics (p < 0.001) and in pooled analyses (ratio of 0.86 versus 0.68; p = 0.046). At general clinics, intervention (versus control) dyads contributed more lifestyle and psychosocial talk (p < 0.001) and less biomedical talk (p < 0.001) and companions were more verbally active (p < 0.005). No intervention effects were found at the geriatrics clinic. No effect on memory discussions or visit duration was observed.
Conclusion: Patient-family agenda setting may improve primary care visit communication for patients with cognitive impairment.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov : NCT02986958.
Keywords: cognitive impairment; dementia; family caregiving; health communication; primary care.