Sticking to one doctor could save your life, reveals study

Researchers concluded that when a patient was always or repeatedly seen by the same doctor, the death rate went down. The study drew attention to the place of human interactions in medical practice, with its ‘potentially life-saving’ role

Sticking to one doctor could save your life, reveals study
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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 which had quite different cultures and healthcare systems.

Eighteen of the studies found that people who saw the same doctor over time had significantly lower death rates.

The study, explored the connection between patient death rates and continued care by one doctor.

Professor Philip Evans, University of Exeter Medical School, one of the researchers of the study, explained that ‘continuity of care’ occurs only with repeated contact and familiarity between a patient and a doctor, and is associated in turn with good communication. This leads to highly beneficial outcomes including significantly better compliance with medical advice, higher patient satisfaction scores and lower hospitalisation rates.

Researchers believed that this aspect should receive much higher priority, in place of the current focus on advanced technology and novel treatment methods.

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.

Sir Denis Pereira Gray commented that patients have always felt the importance of seeing a particular doctor and especially the vital role of communication between physician and patient.

“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, he went on to add, “Until now arranging for patients to see the doctor of their choice has been considered a matter of convenience or courtesy: now it is clear it is about the quality of medical practice and is literally ‘a matter of life and death’.”

Source: News Medical Net

With inputs from New Scientist