Seeing your go-to GP is a matter of life and death
Patients who see the same doctor over a period of time tend to live longer lives than those who don't
People who see the same doctor over time live longer a major study has found, after analysing patient data from nine countries.
More than 80% of 22 studies reviewed showed the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and the need to prioritise this.
Repeated patient-doctor contact led to fewer deaths, their results showed. This applied across different cultures and to specialists, including psychiatrists and surgeons, and not only family doctors.
Lead author Sir Denis Pereira Gray, of St Leonard’s Practice in Exeter, UK, said: “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’.”
East London professional Gail Kirchmann attributes her recovery from leukaemia, which has a low survival rate, in part to the swift diagnosis of her trusted family doctor last year.
“I went to see my GP because I was feeling weak. There were no real symptoms. If it hadn’t been somebody who knew me, they might not have taken it as seriously as she did,” said Kirchmann.The doctor took her pulse, examined her and sent her for a full work up. “I had the diagnosis the next day and it was a very aggressive leukaemia. If it hadn’t been picked up early, I think I might not have had the result I had,” said Kirchmann, who is in remission now.
Her GP, Dr Kim Murgatroyd, visited Kirchmann in hospital several times while she was getting the 24/7 chemotherapy treatment, managed by her dedicated haematologist.
Murgatroyd said: “Obviously you get to know patients’ history and background, so you understand them better. Trust is also very important and tends to come only with time.
“In Gail’s case, she didn’t come to the doctor for every cough or cold. When she came in not feeling well, I automatically looked for the red flags.”
Co-author Professor Philip Evans, of the University of Exeter Medical School, warned that the “human aspect of medical practice has been neglected” as medical technology and new treatments come to the fore.But the scarcity of doctors, in countries like South Africa, means that access to family doctors is more common among medical aid members than uninsured patients.
However, access to more equitable medical care is proposed in the National Health Insurance bill. The study shows “continuity of care happens when a patient and a doctor see each other repeatedly and get to know each other”.
“This leads to better communication, patient satisfaction, adherence to medical advice and much lower use of hospital services,” said Evans of their findings, published in BMJ Open on Friday.
Next time you’re sick maybe you should do what the doctor ordered, especially if it’s your own doctor.