People who keep seeing the same doctor have lower death rates | Tech News
Seeing the same doctor doesn’t just give you the comfort of a familiar face – it might save your life.
Denis Pereira Gray of St Leonard’s Medical Practice and colleagues at the University of Exeter, UK analysed the results of 22 studies from nine countries with different health systems. Eighteen of the studies found that people who saw the same doctor over time had significantly lower death rates.
Because the studies use different ways to measure continuity, it wasn’t possible to get an overall estimate for how big the reduction in mortality is. One recent study looked at 396,838 patients with diabetes in Taiwan. In those with a high level of continuity, the death rate was half as high as those with low continuity.
The benefits of continuity were not limited to family doctors or GPs, but applied to specialist physicians, psychiatrists and surgeons too.
The relationship could be because people with poor health need to see more different doctors, but the studies tried to account for this.
Studies have shown that patients who see the same doctor consistently have higher satisfaction, are more likely to follow medical advice, take up preventative care such as immunisations more often and have significantly fewer unnecessary hospital admissions.
“When a patient sees a doctor they know and get on with, they talk more freely and give that doctor much more relevant information, sometimes quite personal information or anxieties they have, and the doctor can then tailor the advice and management plans much more subtly,” says Pereira Gray.
However, being able to give patients continuity is increasingly challenging because of a shortage of GPs. According to a recent study in England, the chance of seeing the same GP fell by 27 per cent between 2012 and 2017.
The importance of continuity is seriously underappreciated in health systems, says Pereira Gray. “It’s seen in hospitals and general practices as a kind of convenience to give the patient they want to see,” he says. “It’s becoming clearer that this is about the quality of medical practice.”
Journal reference: BMJ Open, DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-021161
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