Patients often complain that they can't see the same doctor, but does this matter? A new study from Samuel Merriel and colleagues from the University of Bristol suggests that it may where a relationship between patient and doctor has been built.
Dr Merriel and his colleagues from the Centre for Academic Primary Care used a validated measure of the depth of the patient-doctor relationship and studied 190 patients consulting 30 GPs.
The team found that patients who have deeper relationships with their GPs discuss more problems. More emotional and psychological issues were also found to be raised with known doctors.
"This is the first time anyone has studied whether a difference in the doctor-patient relationship affects what happens in a GP consultation,” said Dr Merriel. "GPs have long suspected that the depth of relationship has an effect on what happens in a consultation and this study finally provides evidence for this. It follows on from a unique study that my colleagues did that quantified how many different problems were raised and dealt with in GP consultations."
The researchers hope that their work, which is published in the British Journal of General Practice, will feed into the broader debate around whether continuity of care has value for patients.
"When there is much debate currently about access to any doctor in primary care, these findings are a salutary reminder of the influence of seeing the same doctor on patient care," said Dr Merriel. "Our work will be useful to people working in GP workforce planning and decision-makers considering future models of care in GP."
The team plans to build on this work, and plan to use the One in a Million consultation archive to analyse more GP consultations.
Depth of the patient–doctor relationship and content of general practice consultations: cross-sectional study, Samuel William David Merriel, Christopher Salisbury, Chris Metcalfe, Matthew Ridd, British Journal of General Practice, DOI: 10.3399/bjgp15X686125