Assessing the quality and content of contraceptive counseling visits

Recent Bixby research has documented the importance of high-quality, patient-centered contraceptive counseling. But, what are patients and providers actually discussing during counseling visits and how do those conversations compare to ideal counseling standards?

A new study used audio recordings of visits, as well as patient surveys, to analyze both their quality and content. The vast majority (90%) of patients were “completely or very satisfied” with “how their provider helped them choose a contraceptive method.” At the same time, the analysis also revealed several areas in which providers can improve communication, including:

  • Discussing pregnancy intention (occurred in only 51% of visits)
  • Giving patient a chance to ask questions (53% of visits)
  • Discussing emergency contraception (32% of visits)
  • Mentioning the use of condoms to prevent STIs (29% of visits)
  • Explaining how to follow up if patient dislikes chosen method (62% of visits)

Provider counseling patient

Credit: Cindy Chew

One area of strength was the consistency of counseling, regardless of the patient’s race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status. The opposite has been found in many prior studies, such as those showing that providers are more likely to recommend IUDs to women from marginalized groups. Although promising, more research is needed to understand the factors behind this finding and whether it holds true outside of this study’s setting.

By helping providers identify the strengths and weaknesses of their counseling, we can develop better support tools for them and ensure patients’ contraceptive preferences and needs are fully met.