Patients' perceptions of preventive lifestyle in primary care practice were examined.
Practice was assessed with a modified version of the Primary Care Assessment Survey (PCAS). This was mailed to random samples of patients twice, using practice mailing lists from three Ontario Family Health Networks (FHNs). Family Health Networks are physician-based group practices, with additional nurse-led telephone advisory services to provide care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The PCAS questionnaire consisted of nine scales (ranging from 0 to 100). For preventive counselling, additional questions on diet and exercise counselling were included to determine how the physician delivered the intervention.
Of the 2184 survey questionnaires mailed to patients, 22% were undeliverable. The response rate was 62% at valid addresses (49% of all mailed questionnaires). Of the nine scales, scores (± standard deviation) for preventive counselling were lowest at 33 ± 25. In particular, rates of diet (37%) and exercise (24%) counselling were low in the FHNs. For most other aspects of primary care services, patients generally rated FHNs highly. The majority of patients advised about diet and exercise were given verbal advice or pamphlets.
In these primary health care organizations, considerable room exists for increased preventive counselling, especially about diet and exercise.