Background: Patients' evaluations can be used to improve health care and compare general practice in different health systems.
Aim: To identify aspects of general practice that are generally evaluated positively by patients and to compare opinions of patients in different European countries on actual care provision.
Method: An internationally-validated questionnaire was distributed to and completed by patients in 10 European countries. A stratified sample of 36 practices per country, with at least 1080 patients per country, was included. A set of 23 validated questions on evaluations of different aspects of care was used, as well as questions on age, sex, overall health status, and frequency of visiting the GP.
Results: The patient sample included 17,391 patients in 10 different countries; the average response rate was 79% (range = 67% to 89%). In general, patients visiting their general practitioner (GP) were very positive about the care provided. For most of the 23 selected aspects of care more than 80% viewed care as good or excellent; in particular, keeping records confidential, GP listening to patients, time during consultations, and quick services in case of urgent problems were evaluated positively. Patients were relatively negative about organisational aspects of care. The evaluations in different countries were largely similar, with some interesting differences; for instance, service and organisational aspects were evaluated more positively in fee-for-service health systems.
Conclusions: Patients in Europe are positive about general practice but improvements in practice management in some countries are requested. More research is needed to study the complex field of differences in expectations and evaluations between countries with different health systems.