Doc Talk: Finding the Right Way to Discuss Exercise as a Vital Sign

Talking about the benefits of physical activity is a win-win-win proposition for doctors and patients. Members gain the benefits of physical activity first hand. Clinicians have a technique for incorporating exercise into every visit. And the system as a whole wins when quality improves.

This is the impetus behind Kaiser Permanente’s Exercise as a Vital Sign initiative, in which medical assistants or primary care providers ask patients how many minutes they exercise per day and per week.

But finding the right way to talk about exercise during an appointment – when members have lots of pressing things on their mind – can be a challenge, especially given the limited time available for this very important interaction.

Dr. Latifat Apatira’s latest blog, the third in a seven-part series, addresses clinicians’ concerns about how to bring up physical fitness during an appointment. She offers techniques for ways to get in a few sentences about exercise while examining other vital signs, and likens doctors and medical assistants encouraging physical activity to dieticians counseling members on nutrition.

During each visit, despite a variety of circumstances, Dr. Apatira makes an effort to incorporate Exercise as a Vital Sign, an important component of Kaiser Permanente’s Total Health vision that looks at an individual’s physical, mental, and social wellbeing.

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