Patient capacity for self-care in the medical record of patients with chronic conditions: A mixed-methods retrospective study

Kasey R. Boehmer, Maria Kyriacou, Emma Behnken, Megan Branda, Victor M. Montori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Patients with chronic conditions must mobilize capacity to access and use healthcare and enact self-care. In order for clinicians to create feasible treatment plans with patients, they must appreciate the limits and possibilities of patient capacity. This study seeks to characterize the amount, nature, and comprehensiveness of the information about patient capacity documented in the medical record. Methods: In this mixed-methods study, we extracted notes about 6 capacity domains from the medical records of 100 patients receiving care from 15 primary care clinicians at a single practice. Using a generalized linear model to account for repeated measures across multiple encounters, we calculated the rate of documented domains per encounter per patient adjusted for appointment type and number. Following quantitative analyses, we purposefully selected records to conduct inductive content analysis. Results: After adjusting for number of appointments and appointment type, primary care notes contained the most mentions of capacity. Physical capacity was most noted, followed by personal, emotional, social, financial, and environmental. Qualitatively, we found three documentation patterns: patients with broad capacity notes, patients with predominantly physical domain capacity notes, and patients with capacity notes mostly in domains other than physical. Records contained almost no mention of patients' environmental or financial capacity, or of how they coped with capacity limitations. Rarely, did notes ever mention how well patients interacted with their social network or what support they provided to the patient in managing their health. Conclusion: Medical records scarcely document patient capacity. This may impair the ability of clinicians to determine how patients can handle patient work, at what point patient capacity might become overwhelmed leading to poor adherence and health outcomes, and how best to craft feasible treatment programs that patients can implement with high fidelity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number164
JournalBMC Family Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2 2018


  • Chronic conditions
  • Chronic illness
  • Electronic health record
  • Electronic medical record
  • Minimally disruptive medicine
  • Multimorbidity
  • Patient capacity
  • Treatment burden
  • Treatment planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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