Can physicians accurately predict which patients will lose weight, improve nutrition and increase physical activity?

Journal Article

BACKGROUND: Physician counselling may help patients increase physical activity, improve nutrition and lose weight. However, physicians have low outcome expectations that patients will change. The aims are to describe the accuracy of physicians' outcome expectations about whether patients will follow weight loss, nutrition and physical activity recommendations. The relationships between physician outcome expectations and patient motivation and confidence also are assessed. METHODS: This was an observational study that audio recorded encounters between 40 primary care physicians and 461 of their overweight or obese patients. We surveyed physicians to assess outcome expectations that patients will lose weight, improve nutrition and increase physical activity after counselling. We assessed actual patient change in behaviours from baseline to 3 months after the encounter and changes in motivation and confidence from baseline to immediately post-encounter. RESULTS: Right after the visit, ~55% of the time physicians were optimistic that their individual patients would improve. Physicians were not very accurate about which patients actually would improve weight, nutrition and physical activity. More patients had higher confidence to lose weight when physicians thought that patients would be likely to follow their weight loss recommendations. CONCLUSIONS: Physicians are moderately optimistic that patients will follow their weight loss, nutrition and physical activity recommendations. Patients might perceive physicians' confidence in them and thus feel more confident themselves. Physicians, however, are not very accurate in predicting which patients will or will not change behaviours. Their optimism, although helpful for patient confidence, might make physicians less receptive to learning effective counselling techniques.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Pollak, KI; Coffman, CJ; Alexander, SC; Tulsky, JA; Lyna, P; Dolor, RJ; Cox, ME; Brouwer, RJN; Bodner, ME; Østbye, T

Published Date

  • October 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 29 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 553 - 560

PubMed ID

  • 22315467

Pubmed Central ID

  • 22315467

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1460-2229

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/fampra/cms004


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England