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Br J Gen Pract. Jun 2002; 52(479): 459–462.
PMCID: PMC1314320

Continuity of care in general practice: a survey of patients' views.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: It is not known how patients value continuity for different health problems. In addition, it is not clear how different types of patients value continuity. It has been argued, for example, that young and healthy individuals have different ideas about continuity from older people with chronic illnesses. More extensive exploration of patients' views and expectations on personal continuity is important as this may help to organise general practice better in the future. AIM: To explore patients' views on continuity of care in general practice and their relations to patient characteristics. DESIGN OF STUDY: Postal questionnaire survey. SETTING: Thirty-five general practices throughout The Netherlands. METHOD: A sample of 25 patients from each practice was sent a questionnaire. RESULTS: The response rate was 644/875 (74%). The percentage of patients feeling that it was important to see their personal doctor varied, from 21% for a splinter in the eye, to 96% for discussing the future when seriousy ill. The main reasons for preference of their own general practitioners (GPs) were the GP's assumed better medical knowledge of the patient and understanding of the personal and family background. Multiple linear regression analysis (GLM) showed that patient characteristics could explain 10% to 12% of the variance in these views on personal continuity. CONCLUSION: The importance that patients attach to continuity of care depends on the seriousness of the conditions/facing them. Patients in The Netherlands desire a high level of personal care for serious conditions. Patient characteristics, such as age, sex, and frequency of visits to the GP influence views on continuity of care only to a minor extent.

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Selected References

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