Administering a health behavior questionnaire on a personal digital assistant (PDA) seems to be an effective method for primary care practices to screen teens for risky behaviors, as well as their willingness to change those behaviors. This helps doctors use the limited time of well visits to best address issues for each patient, according to this small exploratory study.
Despite the consequences of health habits developed during adolescence, in a national survey most teens reported their doctors did not discuss the risk behaviors the teens wanted to discuss during their annual exams. So, in this study, 1,052 kids, aged 11-19 years, were given screening questionnaires to fill out on PDAs at their well visits with five primary care practices in New England. Physicians reviewed the results before meeting with the patient so they could tailor counseling to each teen.
This may be the first study to examine whether providing assessments of adolescents’ motivation helps primary care physicians enhance counseling. The use of inexpensive PDA-based screening at well visits with teens does show promise, although further study needs to be done to see if these results can be extended to other adolescent populations and care settings.