Background and objectives: Improving the sensitivity of general practice to patients' needs demands a good understanding of patients' expectations and priorities in care provision. Insight into differences in expectations of patients in different cultures and health care systems may support decision-making on desirable models for care provision in general practice. An international study was conducted to determine priorities of patients in general practice care: which views do patients in different countries have in common and which views differ?
Methods: Written surveys in general practices in the UK, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Israel were performed. Samples of patients from at least 12 practices per country, stratified according to area and type of practice, were included. Patients rated the importance of 38 different aspects of general practice care, selected on the basis of literature analysis, qualitative studies and consensus discussions. Rankings between countries were compared.
Results: A total number of 3540 patients (response rate on average 55%) completed the questionnaire. Patients in different countries had many opinions in common. Aspects that got the highest ranking were: getting enough time during the consultation; quick services in case of emergencies; confidentiality of information on patients; telling patients all they want to know about their illness; making patients feel free to talk about their problems; GPs going to courses regularly; and offering preventive services. However, differences between opinions of patients in different countries were also found for some of the selected aspects. A confounding effect of patients' characteristics may have played a role in these differences.
Discussion: The study provides information on what patients expect of and value in general practice care. It shows that patients in different cultures and health care systems may have different views on some aspects of care, but most of all that they have many views in common, particularly as far as doctor-patient communication and accessibility of services are concerned.