Understanding health care communication preferences of veteran primary care users

Sherri L. LaVela*, Gordon Schectman, Jeffrey Gering, Sara M. Locatelli, Andrew Gawron, Frances M. Weaver

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess veterans' health communication preferences (in-person, telephone, or electronic) for primary care needs and the impact of computer use on preferences. Methods: Structured patient interviews (n=448). Bivariate analyses examined preferences for primary care by 'infrequent' vs. 'regular' computer users. Results: Only 54% were regular computer users, nearly all of whom had ever used the internet. 'Telephone' was preferred for 6 of 10 reasons (general medical questions, medication questions and refills, preventive care reminders, scheduling, and test results); although telephone was preferred by markedly fewer regular computer users. 'In-person' was preferred for new/ongoing conditions/symptoms, treatment instructions, and next care steps; these preferences were unaffected by computer use frequency. Among regular computer users, 1/3 preferred 'electronic' for preventive reminders (37%), test results (34%), and refills (32%). Conclusion: For most primary care needs, telephone communication was preferred, although by a greater proportion of infrequent vs. regular computer users. In-person communication was preferred for reasons that may require an exam or visual instructions. About 1/3 of regular computer users prefer electronic communication for routine needs, e.g., preventive reminders, test results, and refills. Practice implications: These findings can be used to plan patient-centered care that is aligned with veterans' preferred health communication methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)420-426
Number of pages7
JournalPatient education and counseling
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Communication preferences
  • Patient participation
  • Patient-provider communication
  • Primary care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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