Background: Knowledge of the extent to which patient characteristics are systematically associated with variation in patient evaluations will enable us to adjust for differences between practice populations and thereby compare GPs. Whether this is appropriate depends on the purpose for which the patient evaluation was conducted. Associations between evaluations and patient characteristics may reflect gaps in the quality of care or may be due to inherent characteristics of the patients. This study aimed to determine such associations in a setting with a comprehensive list system and gate-keeping.
Methods: A nationwide Danish patient evaluation survey among voluntarily participating GPs using the EUROPEP questionnaire, which produced 28,260 patient evaluations (response rate 77.3%) of 365 GPs. In our analyses we compared the prevalence of positive evaluations in groups of patients.
Results: We found a positive GP assessment to be strongly associated with increasing patient age and increasing frequency of attendance. Patients reporting a chronic condition were more positive, whereas a low self-rated health was strongly associated with less positive scores also after adjustment. The association between patient gender and assessment was weak and inconsistent and depended on the focus. We found no association either with the patients' educational level or with the duration of listing with the GP even after adjusting for patient characteristics.
Conclusion: Adjustment for patient differences may produce a more fair comparison between GPs, but may also blur the assessment of GPs' ability to meet the needs of the populations actually served. On the other hand, adjusted results will enable us to describe the significance of specific patient characteristics to patients' experience of care.