Teachable moments for health behavior change and intermediate patient outcomes

Susan A. Flocke, Elizabeth Clark, Elizabeth Antognoli, Mary Jane Mason, Peter J. Lawson, Samantha Smith, Deborah J. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Objective: Teachable moments (TM) are opportunities created through physician-patient interaction and used to encourage patients to change unhealthy behaviors. We examine the effectiveness of TMs to increase patients' recall of advice, motivation to modify behavior, and behavior change. Methods: A mixed-method observational study of 811 patient visits to 28 primary care clinicians used audio-recordings of visits to identify TMs and other types of advice in health behavior change talk. Patient surveys assessed smoking, exercise, fruit/vegetable consumption, height, weight, and readiness for change prior to the observed visit and 6-weeks post-visit. Results: Compared to other identified categories of advice (i.e. missed opportunities or teachable moment attempts), recall was greatest after TMs occurred (83% vs. 49-74%). TMs had the greatest proportion of patients change in importance and confidence and increase readiness to change; however differences were small. TMs had greater positive behavior change scores than other categories of advice; however, this pattern was statistically non-significant and was not observed for BMI change. Conclusion: TMs have a greater positive influence on several intermediate markers of patient behavior change compared to other categories of advice. Practice implications: TMs show promise as an approach for clinicians to discuss behavior change with patients efficiently and effectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-49
Number of pages7
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Communication
  • Health behavior change
  • Health promotion
  • Primary care
  • Teachable moment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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