Direct observation and patient recall of health behavior advice

Susan A. Flocke, Kurt C. Stange

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Background. Patient recall of health behavior change discussions with physicians is an important intermediate outcome to adherence with recommendations and subsequent behavior change. This study reports patient recall of health behavior discussions during outpatient visits and tests patient and visit characteristics associated with recall. Method. In a cross-sectional study of 2670 adult outpatients visiting 138 family physicians in 84 practices, provision of health behavior advice was measured by direct observation. Patient recall of discussion of each health behavior topic was assessed by patient survey. Results. Patient recall rates ranged from 11% for substance use assessment to 75% of smokers recalling smoking cessation advice. Patient demographics were not associated with recall. In multivariable models, the strongest predictor of patient recall of diet and exercise advice was the duration of the advice. Advice provided during well care visits was more likely to be recalled by patients than during illness visits, but presence of a health behavior-relevant diagnosis during an illness visit was associated with a 2-fold increase in patient recall. Conclusions. Patient recall of health behavior advice is enhanced by longer duration of advice and by linking advice to visit contexts that represent teachable moments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-349
Number of pages7
JournalPreventive medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Health behavior
  • Health promotion
  • Patient education
  • Primary health care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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