How seeing the same doctor helps your health

Patients are more likely to raise a health problem with a doctor they’ve seen over time and have built-up a relationship with, new research has revealed. The insight comes as an increasing number of patients struggle to see the same GP.

Researchers from the University of Bristol will share their findings with health practitioners and researchers at the South West Society for Academic Primary Care (SW SAPC) meeting today [07 March].

Seeing the same GP is thought to be important in ensuring quality of patient care, as the doctor will have better knowledge of the patient’s history, medications, and health-related behaviours and attitudes.

However, a quarter of patients find it difficult to see the doctor of their choice most of the time due to a combination of factors. Namely, a reduction in doctors’ working hours, an increase in part-time working, a focus on access and rapid appointments in the 2004 GP contract, and organisational changes in out-of-hours care.

Previous studies have quantified the numbers and types of problems that are raised in GP consultations, but there is little evidence about the effect of increasing depth of patient-doctor relationships on the content of these interactions.

To shed light on this, researchers collected data from 22 practices in the Bristol area, recording consultations between 190 patients and 30 GPs.

Researchers then looked at whether consultation length and the number of problems and issues raised were affected by patient-doctor continuity.

Analysis showed that almost a third of patients had a ‘deep’ relationship with their GP, which in turn encouraged them to raise 0.5 more problems (a topic requiring a GP to make a decision or diagnosis) and 0.9 more issues (the number of topics raised within each problem, such as symptoms) during each consultation.

This may mean many more problems and issues are addressed over the course of several visits.

Dr Matthew Ridd, from Bristol University’s School of Social and Community Medicine, was part of the research team and said: “Participants mostly reported a strong relationship with their GP, built-up over time. There was evidence that patients raised more problems and issues with GPs that they felt they had a deep relationship with.

“This could be because patients feel more comfortable raising additional issues with a GP they feel they know well, or because more issues can be addressed within the time available as the GP knows the patient and their medical history.

“This research study is the first of its kind to show how seeing the same doctor can positively affect consultations.”

The study also found that the type of problem or issue raised was not related to the depth of the relationship between the patient and their doctor, except that behavioural problems or issues were less likely to be raised when a deep relationship existed.

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1 thought on “How seeing the same doctor helps your health”

  1. I can certainly agree with the study, out of personal experience I know the comfort that comes from finding that one doctor that you have walked a long road with, knowing you can say anything and it will truly be taken to heart. Many of the people I have communicated with truly feel the same, they want to have a doctor they know will truly listen to them, give them just the right amount of personal attention without being overly personal or just too impersonal, and that truly cares for them and that wants to fully treat them back to health and not just get a consultation fee with doing the least amount of work. The comfort that comes from being with the same doctor for longer will allow you to fully disclose any symptom that can truly make or break a diagnosis, or that could be the key element for the doctor to fully understanding what is wrong with their patient, and it can ultimately save their life in life-threatening situations like the early diagnosis of breast cancer. This concept not only apprise to General Practitioners (GP’s) but to more intimate specialists like gynaecologists and urologists, where the diagnosis of ovarian or prostate cancer can be critical, and without the patient being comfortable they would not want to divulge critical symptoms. The only problem today is that, it seems that doctors today seem more concerned about the number of patients that they can see, to increase their profits for the month, than how thorough and precise they can be with their patient finding the best possible treatment, for example a friend of mine was treated with medication for her migraines that caused her to develop asthma like symptoms. My question is, if you know the risk, why would you prescribe something that could ultimately cause them to suffer in the future? isn’t it worth spending a little more time trying to find a solution that will fully help them?

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