Background: Elderly minority patients are less likely to receive influenza vaccination and
colorectal cancer screening than are other patients. Communication between primary care
providers (PCPs) and patients may affect service receipt.
Methods: Encounters between 7 PCPs and 18 elderly patients were observed and audiotaped at
2 community health centers. Three investigators coded transcribed audiotapes and field notes. We
used qualitative analysis to identify specific potential barriers to completion of preventive services
and to highlight examples of how physicians used patient-centered communication and other
facilitation strategies to overcome those barriers.
Results: Sharing of power and responsibility, the use of empathy, and treating the patient like a
person were all important communication strategies which seemed to help address barriers to
vaccination and colonoscopy. Other potential facilitators of receipt of influenza vaccine included
(1) cultural competence, (2) PCP introduction of the discussion, (3) persistence of the PCP
(revisiting the topic throughout the visit), (4) rapport and trust between the patient and PCP, and
(5) PCP vaccination of the patient. PCP persistence as well as rapport and trust also appeared to
facilitate receipt of colorectal cancer screening.
Conclusion: Several communications strategies appeared to facilitate PCP communications with
older patients to promote acceptance of flu vaccination and colorectal cancer screening. These
strategies should be studied with larger samples to determine which are most predictive of
compliance with prevention recommendations.