A randomized trial to improve patient-centered care and hypertension control in underserved primary care patients

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BACKGROUND: African Americans and persons with low socioeconomic status (SES) are disproportionately affected by hypertension and receive less patient-centered care than less vulnerable patient populations. Moreover, continuing medical education (CME) and patient-activation interventions have infrequently been directed to improve the processes of care for these populations. OBJECTIVE: To compare the effectiveness of patient-centered interventions targeting patients and physicians with the effectiveness of minimal interventions for underserved groups. DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial conducted from January 2002 through August 2005, with patient follow-up at 3 and 12 months, in 14 urban, community-based practices in Baltimore, Maryland. PARTICIPANTS: Forty-one primary care physicians and 279 hypertension patients. INTERVENTIONS: Physician communication skills training and patient coaching by community health workers. MAIN MEASURES: Physician communication behaviors; patient ratings of physicians' participatory decision-making (PDM), patient involvement in care (PIC), reported adherence to medications; systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP) and BP control. KEY RESULTS: Visits of trained versus control group physicians demonstrated more positive communication change scores from baseline (-0.52 vs. -0.82, p=0.04). At 12 months, the patient+physician intensive group compared to the minimal intervention group showed significantly greater improvements in patient report of physicians' PDM (β=+6.20 vs. -5.24, p=0.03) and PIC dimensions related to doctor facilitation (β=+0.22 vs. -0.17, p=0.03) and information exchange (β=+0.32 vs. -0.22, p=0.005). Improvements in patient adherence and BP control did not differ across groups for the overall patient sample. However, among patients with uncontrolled hypertension at baseline, non-significant reductions in systolic BP were observed among patients in all intervention groups-the patient+physician intensive (-13.2 mmHg), physician intensive/patient minimal (-10.6 mmHg), and the patient intensive/physician minimal (-16.8 mmHg), compared to the patient+physician minimal group (-2.0 mmHg). CONCLUSION: Interventions that enhance physicians' communication skills and activate patients to participate in their care positively affect patient-centered communication, patient perceptions of engagement in care, and may improve systolic BP among urban African-American and low SES patients with uncontrolled hypertension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1297-1304
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • hypertension
  • patient-centered care
  • patient-physician communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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