Physician discussion about social activities in primary care encounters with older adults.
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OBJECTIVE: Involvement in social activities is linked to positive health outcomes. This study focused on the prevalence of social activity discussions during the primary care medical encounter, and examined how patient, physician, and contextual factors were associated with discussions between physicians and older patients. METHODS: The research was a secondary analysis of 434 videotapes recorded during primary care medical visits between 1998 and 2000 in outpatient clinics. Recordings were coded to identify a number of variables related to patient, physician, and companion characteristics, physician discussion on various topics, and quality of the physician's interaction with the patient. RESULTS: Physicians discussed social activity in only 31% of medical encounters. Variables significantly associated with social activity discussions included patient and physician race/ethnicity, physician age group, physician supportiveness, and the geographical site of the visit. CONCLUSION: Results support the inclusion of discussion and counseling about social activities in medical encounters with older patients. Family physicians will likely experience improved patient satisfaction, and geriatric patients can potentially reap health benefits that improve both quality of life and medical outcomes. Additional research is needed to understand more fully the correlates and benefits of social activity discussion during the medical encounter.