Providers contextualise care more often when they discover patient context by asking: meta-analysis of three primary data sets

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One important component of patient-centred care is provider incorporation of patient contextual factors—life circumstances relevant to their care—in managing the patient's health. The current study uses data sets collected from direct observation of care to examine if how a provider learns contextual information influences whether the provider incorporates the information into a care plan.


Three data sets were reanalysed: a research study with physicians, a quality improvement project with physicians and a performance measurement project with telephone health assistants. In each data set, investigators compute rates of incorporation of patient contextual factors into the care plan for encounters in which factors were elicited in response to a probe by the provider versus revealed spontaneously by the patient. We report the rates, CIs and associated ORs for each study and overall using a random effects meta-analysis.


Providers elicited 57%, 49% and 30% of patient contextual factors identified in encounters in each data set. Patient contextual factors identified in response to probes were incorporated into the plan of care more frequently than those revealed spontaneously by patients (68% vs 46%, 71% vs 54% and 93% vs 77%, respectively). The summary OR for incorporation of patient contextual factors into the care plan when the factor was probed versus revealed spontaneously was 4.16 (95% CI 2.0 to 8.6). While this estimate was associated with significant heterogeneity (I2=76%), the ORs for the individual data sets were 2.53 (1.4 to 4.5), 6.25 (4.9 to 8.0) and 4.2 (0.9 to 19.3).


In encounters where addressing patient contextual factors may play an important role in care decisions, factors that are elicited actively by the provider are more likely to be incorporated in the care plan than factors revealed spontaneously by the patient. These differences in the care process associated with provider performance can only be demonstrated through direct observation.

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