NEWS | June 20, 2012

UC Davis researcher receives funding to improve physicians' counseling skills


Joshua Fenton, a leader in research to improve the quality of primary health-care services, has been selected to receive nearly $700,000 from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to identify ways to reduce unneeded medical care.

Joshua Fenton  Joshua Fenton

Fenton, a UC Davis associate professor of family and community medicine, will lead a two-year study focused on improving physician counseling skills to help ensure that provided treatments are necessary and beneficial to patients.

"Many factors contribute to inappropriate care delivery, including patient requests that can lead to unnecessary diagnostic tests or treatments that can actually do more harm than good," said Fenton, who is affiliated with the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research. "The goal of our study is to develop and test specific communication strategies that physicians can use to prevent unnecessary care while enhancing the patient-doctor relationship."

The award is part of PCORI's Pilot Projects Program, which approves research designed to advance patient-centered care and decision-making, create new patient-centered care measures and improve delivery of care in various health-care settings.

PCORI is committing $30 million in funding over two years for the pilot projects, which were selected by the organization's board of governors through a competitive, multi-stage review process. Proposals were evaluated for scientific merit and rigor and fit within specific areas of interest for the pilot projects.

"The pilot projects will improve our understanding of how to conduct research and disseminate research findings in ways that are more responsive to the needs of patients and the health-care community," said PCORI executive director Joe Selby. "We are excited to be funding 50 projects nationwide, led by creative and innovative researchers. Their work will help us establish a foundation for patient-centered outcomes research that will give patients, caregivers and clinicians the tools they need every day."

Fenton's UC Davis co-investigators on the project are Anthony Jerant, Peter Franks, Debora Paterniti, Heejung Bang and Richard Kravitz.

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers and clinicians with evidence-based information needed to make better-informed health-care decisions. More information is available at

The UC Davis Department of Family and Community Medicine provides comprehensive, compassionate and personal care for patients within the context of family and community. The team integrates a humanistic approach to treating the "whole person" with evidence-based care. Special areas of research are health-behavior change, physician-patient communication, chronic-illness care, women's health issues, and reducing racial and ethnic health disparities. For more information, visit

The UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research conducts research on health-care access, delivery, costs, outcomes and related health policy to improve the organization, quality and effectiveness of the practice of medicine, especially primary care. Established as an interdisciplinary program, the center includes more than 80 researchers who represent disciplines ranging from business management and psychiatry to preventive medicine, epidemiology and statistics. For more information, visit