Background: The use of illness visits as opportunities to increase the delivery of preventive services has been widely recommended, but its feasibility in community practice is not known. We examined the prevalence of this opportunistic approach to providing preventive services, and the degree to which patient satisfaction and time limitation are barriers.
Methods: Consecutive patient illness visits to 138 community family physicians were directly observed. Visits by patients who received at least one preventive service recommended by the US Preventive Services Task Force were compared with visits by patients not receiving any recommended preventive services, controlling for potentially confounding patient characteristics.
Results: Among 3547 illness visits, preventive services were delivered during 39% of visits for chronic illness and 30% of visits for acute illness. Opportunistic health habits counseling occurred more frequently than screening or immunization. Visit satisfaction reported by 2454 patients using the Medical Outcomes Survey 9-item Visit Rating Scale was not different during illness visits with or without the delivery of preventive services. The duration of illness visits that included preventive services was an average of 2.1 minutes longer than illness visits without such interventions (95% confidence interval, 1.7-2.4).
Conclusions: The delivery of preventive services during illness visits is common in community practice and is well accepted by patients. The expansion of an opportunistic approach to providing preventive services will require attention to time-efficient approaches.