family medicine attributes related to satisfaction, health and costs

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family medicine attributes related to satisfaction, health and costs

  1. 1. Family Practice doi:10.1093/fampra/cmi112Ó The Author (2006). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.Family medicine attributes related to satisfaction,health and costsMireia Sans-Corralesa,b, Enriqueta Pujol-Riberaa,Joan Gene´-Badiaa,b,c, Maria Isabel Pasarı´n-Ruad,Begon˜ a Iglesias-Pe´rezaand Josep Casajuana-BrunetaSans-Corrales M, Pujol-Ribera E, Gene´-Badia J, Pasarı´n-Rua MI, Iglesias-Pe´rez B and Casajuana-Brunet J. Family medicine attributes related to satisfaction, health and costs. Family Practice2006; Pages 1–9 of 9.Objective. To identify, from a systematic review of the literature, the attributes of FamilyMedicine (FM) that influence the primary health care outcome as measured by users’satisfaction, improvement in patient health and in costs.Data Sources. Literature search of Medline and the Cochrane library using MeSH terms‘Primary Health’ or ‘Family Practice’ or ‘Family Physicians’ and ‘Outcome Assessment’ or‘Process Assessment’. Papers were excluded if they lacked a based on primary data, if nosingle component of FM was assessed; if indicators of evaluation were not related to health,satisfaction or costs.Results. A total of 356 articles were initially identified and 19 finally met the inclusioncriteria. Study methods were a systematic review of randomized control trials, a double-blind randomized trial, 4 systematic reviews of observational studies, 2 cohort studies and12 descriptive cross-sectional studies.Conclusions. There was evidence of relationships between the attributes of FM and the serviceoutcomes measured by indicators of satisfaction, health and cost. User satisfaction wasassociated with accessibility, continuity of care, consultation time and the doctor–patientrelationship. Improvement in patient’s health was related to continuity, consultation time,doctor–patient relationship and the implementation of preventive activities. Coordinationof care showed mixed results with health outcomes. Continuity, consultation time, doctor–patient communication and prevention were cost-effective in the primary care setting.Keywords. Family medicine, outcomes, health satisfaction, costs.IntroductionIn 2002, WONCA Europe issued a new definition ofGP/Family Medicine1(FM) which encompasses theideal content of the speciality, the core content as wellas the function of this clinical discipline.2It offers a newand universal approach while continuing to be basedon the traditional attributes of FM.As with every public service, FM should be account-able to society. Currently, there is a great variety ofhealth care evaluation indicators. This complicatescomparison between different organizations and withother types of services. Policy makers and managersoften measure only partial aspects of the service.3Inmany cases, we do not know if these performance indic-ators inform on the final health care outcome, or merelyoffer a description of how the health care process hadbeen conducted.Evaluation of the final outcome of the health careprocess can be considered in three dimensions: (1)impact on health dimension, as evaluated by mortalityand morbidity rates or by subjective health question-naires; (2) the satisfaction dimension, defined as thelevel at which the user’s expectations of the serviceare met and (3) the economic dimension, which is thecost of the services provided.Received 22 February 2005; Accepted 28 December 2005.aInstitut Catala` de la Salut (ICS), Spain, bUniversitat de Barcelona, Spain, cConsorci d’Atencio´ Primaria de Salut de l’Eixample(CAPSE), Spain, and dAge` ncia de Salut Pu´ blica de Barcelona, Spain. Correspondence to Joan Gene´-Badia, MD, PhD, Consorcid’Atencio´ Primaria de Salut de l’Eixample (CAPSE), C/Rosello´ 161, 08036 Barcelona, Spain; Email: jgene@clinic.ub.esPage 1 of 9Family Practice Advance Access published February 3, 2006
  2. 2. In this article we review available evidences ininternational literature on relationships between theattributes of FM and the final outcomes of healthcare provision in terms of health, user satisfactionand cost. Despite considerable evidence indicatingthat better results are obtained when health systemsare orientated towards primary care and FM,4wesought to identify the specific attributes of FM thatcould be responsible for these positive outcomes.The objective of the present study was to identify,via a literature search, the attributes of FM that arerelated to the outcomes with respect to dimensions ofsatisfaction, health and costs. The identification ofthese attributes can be of considerable use in defininga group of indicators that more effectively describe thebenefits that this type of health care provides for thepopulation.MethodWe performed a literature search of the Medline data-base and of the Cochrane Library (The CochraneControlled Trial Register). Key word descriptorsor MeSH Thesaurus terms were ‘Primary Health’ or‘Family practice’ or ‘Family physician’) and ‘outcomeassessment’ or ‘process assessment’. Publication typelimitations excluded ‘letter’, ‘editorial’ or ‘practiceguideline’. No language limits were used.The search included all studies up to June 2005that evaluated the attributes of FM using qualitativeor quantitative methodology (observational andexperimental, systematic reviews and meta-analyses).Articles were excluded because of the followingcriteria: (1) papers without analyses based on primarydata; (2) papers not assessing at least an attribute ofFM; (3) studies where the indicators of evaluationwere not related to health, user satisfaction or costs.The selection of the studies and extraction of thedata were performed by three investigators (MSC,EPR and JGB). All disagreements were solved bydialogue and final consensus among all six coauthors.From each of the identified studies, the followingvariables were collected: identification of the study,numbers and types of participants, methodology (studydesign, setting of the study, participants, indicatorsof service evaluation and sources of the information)and the most relevant results/outcomes.ResultsThe literature search identified 356 articles. On apply-ing the different selection criteria, 20 articles werefinally selected. The de-selected papers were rejectedbecause they lacked a research based on primary data(n = 16); they did not assess at least one componentof FM (n = 296) and their evaluation indicators werenot related to health, user satisfaction or costs (n = 24).The selection procedure is depicted in Figure 1. Themethodologies of the selected papers are summarizedin Table 1.Table 2 summarizes the studies that had foundassociations between attributes of FM and patientsatisfaction outcome as the health care indicator.The accessibility indicators associated with greatersatisfaction were obtaining an outpatient appointmentwith the family doctor for the same, or following,day5and spending a short time (6–10 minutes) in theconsultation waiting room.5The continuity indicator that was associated withsatisfaction was having the same family doctor overan extended period.5–10The length-of-consultation indicators (or thepatient’s perception of the duration) showed a directassociation with increased satisfaction i.e. the longerthe clinical visit the greater the patient satisfaction.11–13Short consultations classified by the author as ‘withhigh technical medical efficiency’ seemed to be relatedto poor communication and patient dissatisfaction.14Citizens are more satisfied with the doctor whoappears warm, friendly and with a reassuring manner,15who is confident16,17and provides patient-centredcare,18,19who shows an interest in the patient’s concernsand expectations,19who discusses the health problem,who provides a clear explanation of the diagnosis andprognosis and who shares the treatment decisionwith the patient.19Greater satisfaction occurs whenthe patient has the perception of being listened to, ofbeing treated with respect, humanely and as fairly asothers.19An overall personal patient–doctor relation-ship increased the odds of the patient being satisfiedwith the consultation.7There was no support for thehypothesis that GPs’ task-relevant patient-centredbehaviour would predict patient enablement as wellas satisfaction.12Physicians who held patient-centredPotentially relevant papers identified andscreened for retrieval(n = 356)Papers excluded because they lack analysisbased on primary data (n = 16)Papers retrieved for more detailed evaluation(n = 339)Papers excluded because they lack theassessment of even one component ofFamily Medicine (n =296)Papers excluded because the indicators ofevaluation were not health, usersatisfaction or costs (n = 24)Papers included in the analysis(n = 20)FIGURE 1 Progress through the stages of article selectionin the literature searchPage 2 of 9 Family Practice—an international journal
  3. 3. TABLE1Methodology(studytypes)andresultsoftheselectedarticlesFirstauthorStudydesignParticipantsCountryMainresultsWasson6(84)Double-blindrandomizedtrial17medicalstaffand776patientsUSAThecontinuityofoutpatientcareproviderresultsinmorepatientsatisfaction,shorterhospitalizationsandfeweremergencyhospitaladmissionsHjortdah7(92)Cross-sectionalobservationalstudy133GPsand3918patientsNorwayAnoverallpersonalpatient–doctorrelationshipincreasedtheoddsofthepatientbeingsatisfiedwiththeconsultation.Thedurationofthepatient–doctorrelationshipinitselfshowedaweakbutsignificantassociationwithpatientsatisfactionMcColl23(98)SystematicreviewsPrimarycaredocumentsUKTheuseofevidence-basedindicatorslinkedtointerventionsthatimprovehealthoutcomessuchasthosesuggestedinthisstudycouldbeanimportantadjunctifusedininteractivepracticeorprimarycaregroupeducationalmeetingsSafran13(98)Cross-sectionalobservationalstudy6094patientsUSAPhysicians’comprehensiveknowledgeofpatientsandpatients’trustintheirphysicianwerethevariablesmoststronglyassociatedwithcompliance.Trustwasthevariablemoststronglyassociatedwithpatients’satisfactionwiththeirphysician.Theleadingcorrelatesofself-reportedhealthimprovementswereintegrationofcare,thoroughnessofphysicalexaminations,communication,comprehensiveknowledgeofpatientsandtrustRadish24(99)Cohortstudy12.997patientsUSAContinuityofcarewasassociatedwithreductioninresourceutilizationandofcostsStewart18(00)Observationalcohortstudy39familyphysiciansand315patientsCanadaPatient-centredcommunicationwascorrelatedwiththepatients’perceptionsoffindingcommonground.Inaddition,positiveperceptionwasassociatedwithbetterrecoveryfromdiscomfortandconcern,betteremotionalhealthtwomonthslater,fewerdiagnosticstestsandreferralsCampbell8(01)Cross-sectionalobservationalstudy60generalpracticeUKAsthma,diabetesandanginaqualityofcarewerehigherinpracticeswith10minutebookingintervals.Diabetescarewasbetterinlargerpracticesandinpracticeswithbetterteamclimate.Accesswasbetterinsmallpractices.Preventivecarewasworseinpracticeslocatedinsocioeconomicallydeprivedareas.Satisfaction,continuityofcareandaccesstocarewerehigherinpracticeswherestaffreportedbetterteamclimateDiBlasi15(01)Systematicreview.Randomizedcontrolledtrials25randomizedcontrolledtrials.USAandCanadaThreeofthesestudiesshowedthatenhancingpatients’expectationsthroughpositiveinformationregardingthetreatmentorillness,whileprovidingsupportorreassurance,significantlyinfluencedhealthoutcomesGoedhuys14(01)Cross-sectionalobservationalstudy34generalpracticeBelgiumTherewasanegativecorrelationbetweenthe‘‘efficiency-per-timescore’’oftheGP-traineesandthesatisfactionofthestandardizedpatientsandbetweenthe‘‘efficiency-per-timescore’’andthequalityofthecommunicationKrupat20(01)Cross-sectionalobservationalstudy45doctorsand909patientsUSAThepatientsofpatient-centredphysicianwerenomoretrustingorendorsingoftheirphysicians,andtheywerenotmoresatisfiedwiththetargetvisit.However,patientswhosebeliefwerecongruentwiththeirphysicians’beliefsweremorelikelytotrustandendorsethem,eventhoughtheywerenotmoresatisfiedwiththetargetvisitOutcomes of family medicine attributes Page 3 of 9
  4. 4. TABLE1ContinuedFirstauthorStudydesignParticipantsCountryMainresultsLittle19(01)Cross-sectionalobservationalstudy661patientsUKIfdoctorsdon’tprovideapositive,patient-centredapproachpatientswillbelesssatisfied,lessenabledandmanyhavegreatersymptomburdenandhigherratesofreferralSturmberg9(01)Cross-sectionalobservationalstudy254patientsUSAandCanadaComprehensivenessisexplainedbymodifiedcontinuityindexandage.Non-relatedindependentvari-ablesaregender,numberofvisitsandnumberofyearsattendingthepracticeCape11(02)Cross-sectionalobservationalstudy160patientsUKConsultationswherepatientsweremoresatisfiedappearedtopatientstohavelastedlonger,butwerenotactuallylonger.PatientconcernsabouttimemaybeasmuchaboutqualitytimeasaboutactualtimeHartle21(02)Cross-sectionalobservationalstudy224participantsUSAPrimarycareproviders’interpersonaltreatmentandlongitudinalcontinuitywerepredictorsofcom-prehensiveknowledgeofthepatientMead12(02)Cross-sectionalobservationalstudy173videotapedconsultationsUKGP’spatient-centredbehaviourdidnotpredictpatientsatisfactionorenablementWilson13(02)Systematicreview30papersUSA,UK,Sweden,TheNetherlandsPatientsseekinghelpfromadoctorwhospendsmoretimewiththemaremorelikelytohaveacon-sultationthatincludesimportantelementsofcareBower5(03)Cross-sectionalobservationalstudy14291patientsUKSatisfactorystandardsofaccesswerenextdayappointmentsanda6–10minutewaitforconsultations.AsatisfactorylevelofcontinuitywasseeingthesameGP‘‘alotoftime’’Tarrant17(03)Cross-sectionalobservationalstudy1078patientsUKMeasuresofthequalityoftheGP–patientrelationshipwerestronglyassociatedwithtrustinapatient’susualGP,whereaspatients’reportsofdurationofregistrationwiththepractice,andproportionofvisitstotheusualGPwerenotCabana10(04)Systematicreview18papersUSANostudiesdocumentednegativeeffectsofincreasedcontinuityofcareonqualityofcare.Continuityofcareisassociatedwithpatientsatisfaction,decreasedhospitalizationsandemergencydepartmentvisitsandimprovedreceiptofpreventiveservicesStille29(05)Reviewandexpertsadvice81papersUSAAlthoughclinicalscenariosdemonstratetheimportanceofgoodcoordinationofcareasanessentialpartofprimarycare,objectiveevidenceshowingitsbenefitislimitedPage 4 of 9 Family Practice—an international journal
  5. 5. beliefs regarding power and information-sharing wererated no more positively on measures of satistaction.20Table 3 summarizes the studies identified that hadshown an association between FM attributes andhealth-outcome indicators.An association was observed between the continuityof care, such as having the same family doctor over aprotracted period of time,5,6,8,10and better health indic-ators. The patients attended to by the same doctorpresented with less back pain, less infarcts, less liverpathologies and less stomach ulcers.21Similarly, thedoctors with longer continuity are better able to manageacute and chronic problems such as psychosocialproblems, to pay more attention to diet and weightfluctuations, to smoking cessation, to vaccination,lipid profiles, blood pressure and alcohol consumption.9Having the same health care provider was related, aswell, to more effective implementation of appropriatepreventative activities resulting in a reduction in mor-bidity and mortality.21Patients with longer continuityhad fewer hospitalizations, fewer days in intensivecare, shorter hospital stays and lower percentage ofemergency hospitalizations.6,10Associations were found between the length of con-sultation appointment and the health dimension. Whenthe period of consultation time was >10 minutes, thosepatients with diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular dis-ease achieved better control.8The doctors who pro-vided longer consultation time identified and treatedmore chronic problems and psychosocial disorders.They achieved greater patient compliance with treat-ment recommendations for specific disorders (bloodpressure and dysuria), they provided more active andpassive advice, implemented more preventive measuresto promote better health, prescribed less drugs and pro-vided better evidenced-based quality of treatment.13Perceived health improvement was based onconfidence in the doctor,17integrated care, detailedphysical examination, good communication and know-ledge of the patient.13Patient adherence to treatmentwas related to greater empathy with the doctor who hada more detailed knowledge of the patient and to thosepatients who evidenced a greater reliance on theirdoctor.13The health status of the patient improvedwhen the doctor provided a clear diagnosis, positivelytransmitted the prognosis and treatment, and paidTABLE 2 Relationship between attributes of FM and satisfaction of the citizenAttributes References IndicatorsAccessibility Bower5GPAS questionnaire* (indicators of accessibility: waiting-list time for an appointment with a specificdoctor, or any doctor; waiting time spent in the consulting room5Continuity Bower5GPAS questionnaire (indicator of continuity; to be cared-for by the same doctor over an extendedperiod of time)5Sturmberg9Indicators of continuity in the process (index of modified continuity) and of continuity in the outcomes(acute problems, chronic, prevention and psychosocial9Campbell8Questionnaire on accessibility, continuity, interpersonal relationship and care8Hjortdahl7Questionnaire to evaluate the influence of continuity of care on patient satisfaction7Cabana10Systematic review, indicators to determine the effect of continuity of care on the quality of patient care10Wasson6Indicators of continuity on the process and outcomes of the medical care6Consultation time Campbell8Questionnaire on accessibility, continuity, quality of care to chronic pathologies and application ofpreventive activities8Wilson13Indicators of capacity for resolution, effectiveness, efficiency, accessibility, patient care and health13Cape11Questionnaire on health status (General Health Questionnaire), satisfaction and estimation of theconsultation lenght11Goedhuys14Quality of communication (MAAS-global Questionnaire), satisfaction (EVA-PAT Questionnaire) andconsultation time14Mead12Videotaped, questionnaire on satisfaction (CSQ), questionnaire on enablement (PEI)12Doctor–patientrelationshipGoedhuys14Recording of the visit, quality of communication (MAAS-global Questionnaire), QVRS, SF-36 andindicators of resolution capacity14Di Blasi15Indicators on cognitive aspects of the consultation, emotional aspects of care, health status, use of healthservices, satisfaction, treatment expectations, treatment compliance and doctor–patient relationship15Tarrant17Confidence, communication, interpersonal relationship, knowledge and GPAS* questionnaire17Safran13PCAS Questionnaire (including structural and organizational factors and quality of doctor–patientinteraction)13Krupat20PPOS questionnaire including: confidence in the doctor, satisfaction with the clinical care, and evaluationof the doctor, post-visit20Stewart18Patient-centred communication (recorded interview and perception of the patient) quality of life(CVRS and SF-36) and resolution capacity18Little19Questions on satisfaction, communication, personal relationship, awareness of the problem and interest inthe effect of the problem on personal and family quality of life19Hjortdahl7Questionnaire to evaluate the influence of continuity of care on patient satisfaction7Mead12Videotaped, questionnaire on satisfaction (CSQ), questionnaire on enablement (PEI)12Outcomes of family medicine attributes Page 5 of 9
  6. 6. attention to the cognitive and emotional aspects ofthe patient.15When the patient and doctor hadshared beliefs, there was an increase in the patient’sconfidence in the professional health care provider,the patient was more likely to recommend the serviceto other potential patients, and the doctor’s advice wasmore likely to be adhered to.20When the consultationwas patient centred, there was a quicker recoveryfrom the disease and a greater health-status improve-ment.18,19A recent review reported positive results on theeffect of care coordination on health care outcomessuch as appropriate use of health services. In contrast,studies that examined health outcomes alone tendedto report mixed results.22Implementation of preventive measures was directlyrelated to health. Mortality and morbidity rates werereduced with the following intervention measures: pre-scribing aspirin to persons with high cardiovascular risk;controlling blood pressure; providing anti-smokingadvice; treating cardiac insufficiency with angiotensinconverting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors; prescribing statinsfor primary and secondary hyperlipidaemias; pre-scribing oral anti-coagulants for atrial fibrillation andimmunizing against influenza, pneumonia and tetanus.23Table 4 summarizes the relationships between the attri-butes of primary care and the costs. Having the samefamily doctor over a long period of time was associatedwith lower costs.10,21Continuity was associated withdecreased total annual health care expenditure.10Continuity of care was related to indirect indicatorsof efficiency such as fewer hospital days, fewer intensivecare days, shorter hospital stays and lower percentagesof emergency hospitalizations.6,10Continuity of carewas associated with reduction in resource utilizationand of costs.24Longer consultation time was associated withindirect indicators of efficiency. Doctors who spendmore time in the consultation process appear to pre-scribe less and with more evidence-based treatment.13A short consultation, with a high level of technicalefficiency, can be very productive but with poor patientsatisfaction.14The review by McColl et al.23analysed the cost-effectiveness of different preventative measures andconcluded that the most cost-effective treatmentswere in the control of hypertension, in the use of statinsfor patients with high cardiovascular disease risk, and inthe use of oral anti-coagulants for patients with atrialfibrillation and those having stroke risk-factors. Otherstrategies were, possibly, cost-effective as well. Theseincluded aspirin for patients with high risk of coronaryartery or cerebro-vascular events, anti-tobacco advicefor smokers, statins in patients with low risk of coronaryTABLE 3 Relationship of attributes of FM and health outcomesAttributes References IndicatorsContinuity Sturmberg24Indicators of continuity of the process (index of modified continuity) and of continuity in the outcomes(acute problems, chronic, prevention and psychosocial problems24Hartley21PCAS Questionnaire (including factors of structure, organization and quality of doctor–patientsinteraction), preventive advice and detection of health problems21Cabana10Wasson6Systematic review, indicators to determine the effect of continuity of care on the quality of patient care10Indicators of continuity on the process and outcomes of the medical care6Coordinated Care Stille29Review, indicators to determine the effect of coordinated care on the quality of patient care and healthoutcomes29Consultation time Campbell8Questionnaire on accessibility, continuity, interpersonal attention8Wilson13Indicators of resolution capacity, effectiveness, efficiency, accessibility, attention to client and to health13Cape11Questionnaire on health status, satisfaction and estimation of consultation time11Goedhuys14Quality of communication (MAAS-global Questionnaire), satisfaction (EVA-PAT Questionnaire) andconsultation time14Doctor–patientrelationshipDi Blasi15Indicators on cognitive aspects of the consultation, emotional aspects of the care, health status,use of health care services, satisfaction, treatment expectation, treatment compliance anddoctor–patient relationship15Tarrant17Confidence, communication, interpersonal relationship, knowledge and GPAS questionnaire17Safran13PCAS questionnaire and questions on adherence, satisfaction and health status13Krupat20PPOS questionnaire that includes: confidence in the doctor, satisfaction with the consultation andevaluation of the doctor post-visit20Stewart18Communication centred on the patient (recorded interview and perception of the patient), quality of life(CVRS and SF-36) and resolution capacity18Little19Questions on satisfaction, communication, personal relationship, awareness of the problem and interest inthe effect of the problem of personal and family quality of life19Preventive activities McColl23Mortality theoretically avoided, mortality avoided, additional mortality avoided, reduction in relativerisk, reduction in absolute risk, NNT, number and proportion of persons eligible for each interventionamong 100 000 citizens, number of deaths prevented if 100% of the population received the intervention23Page 6 of 9 Family Practice—an international journal
  7. 7. artery disease and vaccination against the influenzavirus in those >65 years of age.23Indirectly, patient-centred consultation appeared to be efficient becauseit decreased the number of referrals and diagnostictests.18,19A good interpersonal relationship betweendoctors and patients was associated with less referralsto the specialist.19Short consultations appeared to bemore productive, although there appeared to be aninverse correlation between the consultation time andthe level of patient–doctor communication.14DiscussionThis review obtained evidence of associations betweenFM attributes and the outcomes of health care as meas-ured by patient satisfaction, improvements in healthand of costs. User satisfaction was related to continuityof care, consultation time and doctor–patient relation-ship. Accessibility, continuity of care, consultation time,patient–doctor relationship and the preventive healthcare activities were associated with improvements inthe level of population health. The coordination ofcare has mixed results with respect to health outcomes.Continuity, consultation time, doctor–patient com-munication and preventive health care activities werecost-effective in the primary care setting.These results highlight that the core values of FMstated in the new definition of WONCA relied on anempirical ratification. An effective family doctor isone who follows up the patient over the greaterpart of his life and who is accessible in the initialphase of his patient’s every new health problem. Thisleads to a relationship of understanding and confidencethat encourages the patient to adopt an active andresponsible attitude towards his own health. The familydoctor takes the time to listen and understand thepatient, to apply scientific medicine, to anticipate thepathology and to maximize the benefit of this closerelationship with the patient in providing preventivemeasures appropriate for patient’s specific needs.It is important to highlight that this classical figure ofthe family practitioner not only satisfies the patientbut has positive effects on health, as well. A group ofexperts gathered under the auspices of the RobertWood Johnson Foundation25observed that despitepeople expressing a preference for a personal familyphysician (who is aware of the individual’s clinicalhistory and who appreciates the patient as a person)the family doctors in the United States are, currently,not fulfilling this commitment to the patient. Theexpert panel stated that this was the central point ofthe crisis in FM in some countries, particularly theUSA. The profession is a caring one, and one whichhas tremendous difficulties in fulfilling the naturalhopes and aspirations of the patients but which should,indeed, define the profession.26It seems surprising that only a limited number ofpapers dealt with evaluating the core attributes ofFM. It was not our aim to review the whole literatureon FM attributes. We restricted the selection criteriain order to fulfil our specific research objective. Werejected papers presenting comparisons of the careprovided by FM doctors to patient groups comparedwith other specialists if, in the article, it was notpossible to identify which attribute FM was beingevaluated. Other papers assessing key aspects of pri-mary care nursing or other health care professionalswere also rejected even if they were evaluating attrib-utes that were similar to those of FM.TABLE 4 Relationship of attributes of FM and of costsAttributes References IndicatorsContinuity Hartley21PCAS Questionnaire (including factors of structure, organization and quality of doctor–patientinteraction), advice on prevention and detection of health problems21Cabana 10Systematic review, indicators to determine the effect of continuity of care on the quality of patient care10Wasson6Indicators of continuity on the process and outcomes of the medical care6Raddish24Indicators of health care utilization and costs (number of prescriptions, number of hospital admissions,the number of outpatient visits)24Consultation time Wilson13Indicators of resolution capacity, effectiveness, efficiency, accessibility, attention to client, and of health13Goedhuys14Quality of communication (MAAS-global Questionnaire), satisfaction (EVA-PAT Questionnaire)and consultation time14Doctor–patientrelationshipGoedhuys14Quality of communication (MAAS-global Questionnaire), satisfaction (EVA-PAT Questionnaire)and consultation time14Stewart18Communication centred on the patient(recorded interview and perception of the patient), quality of life(CVRS and SF-36) and resolution capacity18Little19Questions on satisfaction, communication, personal relationship, awareness of problems and interest inthe effects of the problem on personal and family quality of life19Preventive activities McColl23Mortality theoretically avoidable, mortality avoided, additional mortality avoidable, relative reduction ofrisk, absolute reduction of risk, NNT, number and proportion of eligible persons for each interventionamong 100 000 citizens, number of preventable deaths if 100% of the population received theintervention23Outcomes of family medicine attributes Page 7 of 9
  8. 8. A possible limitation of the present study couldbe that not all the relevant papers on the topic hadbeen identified. As stated in the Methods section, theliterature search was performed on the main electronicdatabases. However, it is possible that there havebeen some relevant studies containing additionalinformation but published in non-indexed journals.Table 1 shows that there is an evident publication biasin favour of English-speaking countries. This limits theacquisition of evidence and jeopardizes the externalvalidity of the results of this literature review. Also,the observed associations may not exist in other culturalenvironments, or in health service organizations withhealth-provision structures that are different from theNational Health Systems of most Western developedcountries.We included every study identified in the literaturesearch irrespective if they had been included in one ofthe four systematic reviews included in the presentstudy i.e. the purpose of our study was not to poolpatients from different studies but to conduct a literat-ure review aimed at presenting all the publishedinformation currently available on the theme of FMattributes and patient outcomes.Clinical trials and cohort studies offer good evidenceon the causal relationship between continuity of careand health improvement, satisfaction and costs. Oursystematic review of randomized controlled trials andof a cohort study offers good evidence that patient-centred care improves health outcomes and efficiency.The majority of studies included in the present analysisonly evaluated associations between variables; becausemost were observational cross-sectional studies theywere not able to propose causal relationships. Weobserved, for example, that doctors who providedlonger consultations and better continuity of careachieved higher user satisfaction and more improve-ments in patient health. However, the design of thesestudies does not allow us to assume that by merelyincreasing the time per consultation and the continuityof care provided by the family physician we wouldautomatically result in improvement in the patient’ssatisfaction or in the patient health status.Physician performance is being profiled increasinglyin the United States in order to provide performancedata to the public and to make routinely collected dataavailable to health care purchasers and regulators.3Spain22,27and many other countries are likely to followsuit. The six essential attributes of the PHC that arerelated to outcomes must drive the way we evaluateand organize our services and pay the salaries ofthe professional health care providers if we wish tomaximize the impact of the clinical care provided inprimary care settings. Management policies that usedonly FM services for cost-containment purposes havenot only damaged the image of the family doctor buthave underused a powerful professional who couldcontribute to improving user satisfaction as well asthe overall health of the citizen. Conversely, applyingorganizational models that strengthen the attributeswe have identified would induce progressive improve-ments in health care outcomes.A recent sceptical editorial pointed out that ‘‘ifprimary care has anything at all to do with improvinga person’s health, then its contribution to that end willbe measurable’’28. The present study shows that thisrelevant field of research already exists with respectto FM but, given the available evidence is limited,more research is warranted. Attributes are core valuesof FM, but more evidence linking the intuitively valu-able results to improvements in health care outcomes isneeded so as to demonstrate its value to policymakersand to the paymasters who are a central part of arational health care system.More prospective analytical studies whose designwould help to overcome the mere associations ofvariables are needed if we are to establish a causalityof relationship between FM attributes and outcomes.It is necessary as well to unify the definitions ofFM attributes since variations in the concepts of theattributes as well as in the evaluation of indicatorsmake it difficult to make international comparisonsand also impedes meta-analyses. Definitions ofFM attributes need to be better defined for futurestudies.Policy makers and health care managers need toconduct evidenced-based evaluations of primary careservices and to make the findings known to the publicas well as to the other health care professionals.Performance indicators of family practitioners needto be based on the attributes that have been identifiedas having an association with health outcomes, usersatisfaction and costs; especially those that have animpact on the patient’s health. To facilitate itsimplementation, cost-effective evaluation systemsneed to be developed to assess these dimensions effi-ciently and which can then be applied in monitoringprimary care services. Aspects such as the doctor–patient relationship, consultation time and clinical-care continuity merit special attention.AcknowledgementsThe study was funded, in part, by a grant from theFondo de Investigaciones Sanitarias (FIS #PI021762).Financial help with manuscript preparation was fromthe Fundacı´o Jordi Gol i Gurina. Editorial assistancewas by Dr Peter R. Turner of t-SciMed (Reus, Spain).References1WONCA Europe. The European Definition of General Practice/Family Medicine. WONCA Europe 2002. http://www.woncaeurope.org/Publications.htmPage 8 of 9 Family Practice—an international journal
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