The organization and distribution of patient education materials in family medicine practices

Kristine L.S.P. McVea, Meena Venugopal, Benjamin F. Crabtrfe, Virginia Aita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND - Millions of dollars are spent annually on the production and distribution of patient education materials; however, there are no studies describing their actual use by physicians. Using qualitative data from a large comparative case study, our analysis evaluates how patient education materials are organized and used in family practices. METHODS - Eighteen purposefully selected family medicine practices were directly observed for 4 to 12 weeks each. A total of 57 providers were shadowed by a research nurse, and detailed field notes on 1600 patient encounters were recorded. A 3-member analysis team reviewed the qualitative data and identified emergent patterns. RESULTS - Clinics' use of patient education materials fell mostly into 2 distinct patterns. 'Stockpilers' were providers who relied on the clinic staff to develop and organize a common library of patient education handouts. Providers with a 'personal stash' collected much smaller numbers of materials that they personally maintained. Providers in the latter group had a known repertoire of a limited amount of educational material and used it more often than providers with access to a greater variety and number of handouts. In all practices, providers distributed most handouts; staff and self-selection by patients played a minor role. CONCLUSIONS - It appears that provider involvement and familiarity with patient education materials are key to their use in clinical practice. Clinicians use written patient education materials most efficiently by personally selecting and maintaining a small number of handouts that address topics most relevant to their practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-326
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Family Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2000


  • Education materials [non-MESH]
  • Patient education
  • Patient handouts [non-MESH]
  • Patient information [non-MESH]

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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