Physician's Preventive Health Practices Predict Patient's

Lara C. Pullen, PhD

April 08, 2013

Physicians who follow preventive health measures are more likely to have patients who follow preventive health measures. This suggests that improving the physical health of medical students and physicians may translate into a healthy physician–healthy patient relationship that benefits the patients as well as the physicians. The results of the study also imply that the health system would benefit overall from supporting physician health.

Erica Frank, MD, PhD, from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues published the results of their assessment online April 8 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The study included 1488 physicians and their 1,886,791 adult patients.

The authors examined 8 indicators and found that for all indicators, patients were more likely to undergo preventive practices if their physicians had undergone the same practices (P < .05). For example, if the physician had received the influenza vaccine, 49.1% of the physician's eligible patients also received the vaccine. If, however, the physician had not received the influenza vaccine, then only 43.2% of the physician's eligible patients had received the vaccine (5.9% absolute difference and 13.7% relative difference).

The relative difference identified in influenza vaccine uptake was approximately twice the relative difference (7.2%) found for pneumococcal vaccine–eligible patients of influenza-vaccinated vs nonvaccinated physicians (60.9% vs 56.8%). In contrast, patients of physicians who did and did not receive the influenza vaccine had identical mammography rates. The authors interpreted this to mean that similar preventive practices showed a stronger relationship than dissimilar preventive practices.

In their conclusion, the authors state, "Our findings suggest that there is room for improvement in some physicians' preventive practices (particularly around screening and vaccination) and that improving the health of physicians could improve outcomes for their patients as well. We believe that programs for physician health promotion should be developed and studied to determine how best to actively encourage the healthy doctor–healthy patient association. We know of no studies that have tested promoting physical health habits among physicians and of only one large intervention study that promoted such habits among medical students."

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

CMAJ. Published online April 8, 2013. Abstract