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October 21, 1983

Reducing Physician Visits for Colds Through Consumer Education

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Family and Community Medicine (Drs Roberts, Turner, and Hosokawa) and the Office of Continuing Medical Education (Dr Roberts), University of Missouri, Columbia, and the Family Health Center (Dr Turner), Washington, Mo; and the Department of Health and Safety Education (Dr Imrey) and the College of Medicine (Dr Imrey and Ms Alster), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr Roberts is now with Southwestern Company, Nashville, Tenn.

JAMA. 1983;250(15):1986-1989. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340150028021

A randomized, controlled, blinded clinical trial was conducted to determine if self-care instructions, coupled with a health education program, could reduce unnecessary visits to physicians for minor respiratory illness. A symptom-based algorithm was developed for determining the necessity of a physician visit and provided, along with a brief educational package on proper care of the common cold, to a randomly selected group of 433 families attending a family practice clinic. Subsequent clinic visits by family members were monitored and evaluated in relation to the algorithm, and results were compared with those obtained from a control group of 444 families. The subsequent rate of visits for upper respiratory tract infections classified as unnecessary using the algorithm was 44% lower in the test as compared with the control group, while the rate of necessary visits was only 15% lower. No increase was seen in complications of upper respiratory tract infections.

(JAMA 1983;250:1986-1989)

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