Patients in regular contact with health care providers more satisfied with care

Patients who received care in Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities who had a direct, regular channel of communication with their primary care provider or physician “extenders” were more satisfied with their care, according to a recently published study.

Researchers included 4,393 Veterans Affairs (VA) outpatients who were assigned to a primary care provider (PCP) and had at least three primary care visits during the survey period, which lasted from 2009 to 2010. These visits also included time spent with physician extenders, such as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Patients completed a follow-up survey in 2011 to assess their thoughts on the VA’s Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) initiative, an approach to care similar to patient-centered medical homes.

Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents rated their communication with their PCP as excellent. Seventy-two percent of patients said their PCP explained things clearly, and 74% said their PCP listened carefully to them. Only 21% of patients who had a complaint about their visit reported excellent interpersonal communication with the provider.

“Continuity of care is a core metric used by the Veterans Health Administration to monitor the progress of primary care sites as they migrate to the PACT model,” the researchers aid. “Good patient-provider communication is the cornerstone of relational continuity…Having a provider who is understanding and easy to talk with is highly valued by primary care patients.”

“This is a time of intense change in health care, and all of these aspects potentially contribute to more fragmentation,” David Katz, MD, associate professor in internal medicine at the University of Iowa, stated. “That’s why we can’t lose sight of the doctor-patient relationship, and how we’re communicating with our physicians.”

For more information:

Katz DA. J Gen Intern Med. 2013;doi:10.1007/s11606-013-2633-8.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

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