Patients who attend a private practice vs a university outpatient clinic: how do they differ?

Swiss Med Wkly. 2004 Dec 18;134(49-50):730-7.


Background: Although interpersonal continuity is commonly assumed to be essential for care, some patients prefer to attend a university outpatient clinic where physicians change regularly and interpersonal continuity of care is not ensured.

Objectives: The aim of this exploratory study was to evaluate the differences between patients attending a university outpatient clinic and patients frequenting a private practice, explore their patterns of care-seeking and their understanding of continued care.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of patients attending the university medical outpatient clinic (OC) in Lausanne, Switzerland and ten randomly selected private general practices (PP). Eligible patients were >30 years, Swiss nationals or long term residents, with one or more chronic conditions and attending the same practice for >3 years. They were asked to complete a questionnaire on sociodemographic data, use of medical resources and reasons for choosing and remaining at the same practice. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a randomly selected subset of 26 patients to further explore their preferences.

Results: 329 patient questionnaires were completed, 219 by PP and 110 by OC patients. OC patients tended to be of lower socioeconomic status than PP patients. The main reason for choosing a PP were personal recommendation, while a higher percentage of patients chose the OC because they could obtain a first appointment quickly. A higher percentage of PP patients accorded importance to physician communication skills and trust, whereas a higher percentage of OC patients favoured investigation facilities. Qualitative data suggested that although OC and PP patients reported different reasons for consulting, their expectations on the medical and relationship level were similar.

Conclusion: Our study suggests that the two groups of patients belong to different social backgrounds, have different patterns of care-seeking and attach importance to different aspects of care continuity. However, patients' expectations and perceptions of the physician-patient relationship are similar.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Choice Behavior
  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, University*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Patients / psychology
  • Primary Health Care
  • Private Practice*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland
  • Trust