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Ann Fam Med. 2004 Sep-Oct;2(5):445-51.

Interpersonal continuity of care and patient satisfaction: a critical review.

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Department of Family Medicine, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Ore 97239-3098, USA.



We wanted to review the medical literature regarding the relationship between interpersonal continuity of care and patient satisfaction and suggest future strategies for research on this topic.


A search of the MEDLINE database from 1966 through April 2002 was conducted to find articles focusing on interpersonal continuity of patient care. The resulting articles were screened to select those focusing on the relationship between interpersonal continuity in the doctor-patient relationship and patient satisfaction. These articles were systematically reviewed and analyzed for study method, measurement technique, and the quality of evidence.


Thirty articles were found that addressed the relationship between interpersonal continuity and patient satisfaction with medical care. Twenty-two of these articles were reports of original research. Nineteen of the 22, including 4 clinical trials, reported significantly higher satisfaction when interpersonal continuity was present.


Although the available literature reflects persistent methodologic problems, a consistent and significant positive relationship exists between interpersonal continuity of care and patient satisfaction. Future research in this area should address whether the same is true for all patients or only for those who seek ongoing relationships with physicians in primary care.

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