Computer-assisted health counselor visits: a low-cost model for comprehensive adolescent preventive services

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1999 Jan;153(1):63-7. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.153.1.63.


Objective: To evaluate a low-cost strategy for providing preventive health services to adolescents using computerized health assessments with individualized educational videos, trained health counselors, and nurses.

Design: Feasibility study, cost analysis, and comparative evaluation of health problems identified, guidance delivered, and patient satisfaction.

Setting: Eleven sessions at nontraditional sites including schools, universities, shopping malls, and after-hours clinics on Oahu, Hawaii.

Participants and intervention: Adolescents (N=258, mean age 17 years) completed confidential computerized health assessments, received individualized feedback, and viewed automatically selected educational videos on a laptop computer. The computer additionally printed a prioritized problems list for the graduate student-level health counselor to review with the adolescent. The counselor subsequently reviewed each encounter with a nurse-educator who performed further counseling and physical examinations when indicated.

Results: Visit length averaged 44 minutes. Subjects spent an average of 21 minutes completing the automated health assessment and viewing interactive multimedia and 15 minutes with the health counselor. One third of subjects required further evaluation and counseling by the nurse (average, 8 minutes). A team of 2 counselors and 1 nurse provided comprehensive screening, health counseling, and physical examinations to 1 patient every 10 minutes at a salary cost of $7.46 per visit. This model identified risk behaviors at levels consistent with local behavioral data, and addressed and documented them significantly more often than do physicians in traditional settings. Subjects (71%) preferred the computer-assisted visits to standard office visits, and 92% felt the amount of time spent was acceptable.

Conclusions: Computer-assisted delivery of adolescent preventive services using nonphysician health counselors is a feasible, economical, and acceptable alternative to traditional clinical practice for screening young people for health-compromising behaviors and providing individualized health education and routine physical examinations. This model would likely increase adolescents' access to needed preventive services at a very modest cost.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services / economics*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Counseling
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking
  • Medical Informatics Applications*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pilot Projects
  • Preventive Health Services / economics
  • Preventive Health Services / methods*
  • Risk-Taking
  • Time Factors