Methods for Determining Patient Improvement Following Visits to Family Physicians

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Two instruments were used to assess patient improvement following visits to providers in a university based family practice center--the Modified Williamson Functional Assessment (MWFA) and the Mini-Duke-UNC Health Profile (Mini-DUHP). Of the 90 patients over the age of 18 seen for problem or health maintenance visits who were included in the study, 64 adequately completed the instruments at the time of the visit and one month later. Functional assessments by in-person, mail, and telephone methods of administration were similar. Patients' MWFA scores did not significantly improve by the time of the one-month follow-up. Mini-DUHP subscales for symptom and physical function also did not significantly improve. Mini-DUHP emotional, social, and composite scores indicated a decrease in function following the visits, particularly visits for health maintenance. MWFA and Mini-DUHP scores correlated only modestly, with the highest correlation occurring between Mini-DUHP Physical Score and the MWFA (0.414 or 0.509, P less than .001). Additional study is needed to identify or develop an instrument that can adequately assess broad changes in functioning for multiple diagnoses following specific physician interventions, and the reason for the decline in emotional and social function following visits needs further elucidation and evaluation.

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