Continuity of care improves patient outcomes

New research highlights the critical role of general practice as the medical home, and the general practitioner-patient relationship for positive preventative and long-term health care outcomes. A recent systematic review has highlighted that increased continuity of care by doctors is associated with lower patient mortality rates.

Patients’ benefit from continuity of care with both generalist and non-GP specialist doctors, and this effect is maintained across cultural boundaries.

The authors highlight the importance of the interpersonal relationship between doctors and patients as a key component of this positive effect – claims-based measures of continuity were associated with increased mortality, while higher levels of patient-reported continuity were associated with lower mortality rates.

The study suggests that continuity of care is perceived by patients as the doctor being more responsive. This in turn makes the patient more likely to disclose, and thus easier for the doctor to tailor medical care to the patient’s needs. Increased patient satisfaction may also generate ‘optimism’ to boost health. Together, the cumulative impact of these gains may be reflected in reduced mortality.

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