What matters most to patients in primary care?

In our recent paper (Paddison et al Health Expectations, June 2013) we examine what matters most to patients in primary care. Using data from more than 2 million patients in England, collected as part of the 2009/10 General Practice Patient Survey, we show that for all patient groups communication with the doctor is the most important driver of overall satisfaction with primary care. Despite being a policy priority for Government, measures of access, including the ability to obtain appointments, were only weakly related to overall satisfaction.

What are the implications of this research? We believe that teaching new doctors how to communicate well with their patients is one part of improving physician communication. At least as important may be identifying existing doctors with poor communication skills and developing effective ways to improve them. In the UK, this could potentially occur as part of revalidation. What matters most to patients in primary care should also be reflected in Government policy. Good doctor-patient communication should be included as a priority for health policy, as it may be one of the most useful ways to improve the quality of primary care in line with patients’ priorities.

Further coverage of this paper by Pulse, with comments from GPs, can be found here.

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  • The Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research (CCHSR) is a thriving collaboration between the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe. We aim to inform health policy and practice by conducting research and evaluation studies of organisation and delivery of healthcare, including safety, effectiveness, efficiency and patient experience.