BACKGROUND: Patient-doctor continuity is valued by both parties, yet the effect of the depth of the patient-doctor relationship on the content of consultations in general practice is unknown.
AIM: To assess whether differences in the depth of relationship between a patient and their GP affects the length of consultations, and the number and type of problems and issues raised during a consultation.
DESIGN AND SETTING: Cross-sectional study in 22 GP practices in the UK.
METHOD: GP consultations (n = 229) were videotaped and the number of problems and aspects of those problems and issues identified. Patients completed the Patient-Doctor Depth of Relationship (PDDR) and General Practice Assessment Questionnaire-communication (GPAQc) scales. Associations were explored using multivariable linear and logistic regression.
RESULTS: Complete data were available on 190 participants consulting 30 GPs. In unadjusted analysis, patients with a deep relationship with their GP discussed more problems (mean 2.8) and issues (mean 4.7) compared with those with a moderate (2.4 problems; 4.0 issues) or shallow (2.3 problems; 3.8 issues) relationship. Patients with deep relationships had consultations that were on average 118 seconds (95% CI = 1 to 236) longer than those with shallow relationships. Adjustment for participant and GP factors attenuated these relationships, although the main trends persisted.
CONCLUSION: A greater number of problems and issues may be raised in a consultation when patients have a deeper relationship with their GP. Over several clinical encounters each year, this may be associated with significant benefits to patients and efficiencies in GP consultations and warrants further investigation.
Bibliographical note© British Journal of General Practice 2015.
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