Background: We assessed the role and importance of continuity of care in predicting the perceptions of the physician-patient relationship held by patients with asthma.
Methods: We analyzed the 1997 statewide probability survey of adult Kentucky Medicaid recipients. The participants included 1726 respondents with 2 or more visits to a physician's office, clinic, or emergency department in the previous 12 months. Of these, 404 reported having asthma. The respondents used 5-point single-item scales to rate continuity of care, provider communication, and patient influence over treatment.
Results: Multivariate linear regression analyses were used to assess the contribution of continuity of care to provider communication and patient influence in the presence of control variables. Those variables included age, sex, education, race, number of visits, general health, health improvement, and life satisfaction. For persons with asthma, continuity of care was the only variable that significantly contributed to the provider communication model (P = .01) and the only variable other than life satisfaction that contributed to the patient influence model (P < .05 for each). For patients who did not have asthma, continuity of care was one of several variables contributing significantly (P < .05) to the provider communication and patient influence models.
Conclusions: Particularly for patients with asthma, continuity of care was linked to patient evaluations of their interaction with the physician. Because of this, changes in health care systems that promote discontinuity with individual physicians may be particularly disruptive for patients with chronic diseases.