New evidence-based guide helps implement health assessments in primary care settings

Nov 21, 2013, 12:08 ET from Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality

ROCKVILLE, Md., Nov. 21, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An evidence-based guide designed to help primary care doctors, nurses and other staff successfully select, adopt and implement health assessments was released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Health assessments are used to collect information to help primary care providers evaluate a patient's health status and risks.   The information is used to identify potentially problematic but treatable health behaviors and factors such as anxiety, alcohol use, depression, unhealthy eating, and sedentary lifestyle that patients often don't bring up during a medical visit.  However, research shows that many patients do not receive an assessment of health risks or a plan to address those risks.  The Affordable Care Act authorizes Medicare coverage of annual wellness visits and specifies that a health risk assessment be included as part of those visits.

"The guide provides practical and evidence-based methods to implement health risk assessments and ultimately to engage patients in making lifestyle changes to improve their health," said AHRQ Director Richard Kronick, Ph.D. 

Health Assessments in Primary Care:  A How-to Guide for Clinicians and Staff employs the best current evidence for successful implementation of health assessments in the primary care setting.  It includes tools to help clinicians decide which health assessments to use, how to integrate them into their daily workflow and how to maintain the process. The guide is designed for practices that use electronic health records as well as those that use paper charts.

The guide gives clinicians sample health assessment questions for seniors, adults, adolescents and children. It also provides a crosswalk of health assessments related to incentive and quality programs. Sample health assessment information for patients and a patient feedback survey are included.  These tools represent findings from observations and interviews with primary care providers, staff and administrators.    

The health assessment guide was developed by a team of researchers led by Douglas Fernald, M.A., and David West, Ph.D., in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the Colorado Health Outcomes Program, and the Shared Networks of Collaborative Practices and Partners. The guide was pilot-tested by primary care practices in Colorado, New Jersey, Georgia and Louisiana. 

SOURCE Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality