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Same doctor contact brings benefits

Patients who see the same doctor over again have lower death rates, a study suggests (as reported by the BBC). The benefits applied to visits to GPs and specialists and were seen across different cultures and health systems. University of Exeter researchers said the human aspect of medical practice was “potentially life-saving” but had been neglected. GPs’ leaders said they recognised the value of patients seeing ‘their own’ doctor.

Because of intense workforce pressures, however, this could mean waiting even longer for an appointment, the Royal College of GPs said. Continuity of care is known to be particularly beneficial for patients with chronic conditions, long-term mental health issues and complex needs.

The study, published in BMJ Open, analysed the results of 22 studies in nine countries, including England, France, US, Canada and South Korea. Eighteen of the studies indicated that contact with the same doctor over an average of two years meant fewer deaths over the periods studied, compared with other patients. The researchers said continuity of care was important and should be given a higher priority in healthcare planning.

Prof Philip Evans, from the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “Continuity of care happens when a patient and a doctor see each other repeatedly and get to know each other. This leads to better communication, patient satisfaction, adherence to medical advice and much lower use of hospital services.”

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