Commitment to a regular physician: how long will patients wait to see their own physician for acute illness?

J Fam Pract. 1999 Mar;48(3):202-7.


Background: Continuity of care with a physician is associated with better health outcomes and greater patient satisfaction. Having a "regular doctor" could lead to greater continuity of care, but only if the patient consistently seeks care from this physician. How long will a patient wait for care if their usual physician is not available? Our study explored factors related to a patient's decision to seek care from another professional.

Methods: We analyzed the results of a statewide random digit dialing telephone survey of 658 Kentucky adults. Our study focused on the 466 adults who indicated they usually seek care from the same physician. Respondents were asked about seeing an alternate provider if they had an acute, non-life-threatening condition and their usual physician was not available.

Results: Of the respondents, 48.6% indicated they would seek care from another professional the same day, 41.6% would wait 1 day or more, and 9.8% would not see another professional. Patients with asthma were significantly more likely to wait for care from their regular physician (P <.05), as were patients who usually visited a physician's office instead of a clinic (P <.05). In a multivariate model, seeking alternate care the same day was significantly more likely among patients who were older, nonwhite, and who would seek alternate care at their usual site of care (P <.05).

Conclusions: Maintaining continuity of care with their usual physician is important to patients. Patient and practice characteristics may influence the decision to wait for care in an effort to maintain continuity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease / therapy*
  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kentucky
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Office Visits
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Time Factors