Objective: To determine the influence of longitudinal continuity and trust in patients' regular family doctors on patient satisfaction with consultations.
Design: Observational questionnaire study.
Setting: Three family practice centres in the USA and four general practices in the UK.
Subjects: 418 patients in the USA and 650 in the UK who were consulting family doctors.
Main outcome measures: A pre-consultation questionnaire sought information about the patient's experience of continuity and trust in their regular doctor; a post-consultation questionnaire measured satisfaction with the consultation.
Results: 78.8% of patients rated seeing the same doctor every time they had a health problem as important or very important. Trust in the regular doctor, consulting the regular doctor and country were the strongest predictors of satisfaction. Patients who had a high level of trust in their regular doctor and consulted that doctor had the highest levels of satisfaction with their consultations. Among patients with relatively low levels of trust in regular doctor, levels of satisfaction were similar whether or not they consulted their regular doctor.
Conclusions: Consulting the regular doctor, trust and satisfaction with consultations are associated, and patients who consult a doctor they trust report the highest levels of satisfaction with consultations.