Objective: Efficient patient-physician collaboration is proven to have a direct benefit on health care outcomes through improved compliance, appointment keeping and use of preventive services. The aim of this study was to evaluate the patient-physician agreement on communication during primary care consultations and consider possible discrepancies.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey using self-administered questionnaires was performed in primary care in four European countries (Lithuania, Slovenia, Serbia and Russia). Post-consultation evaluations of doctor-patient communication were made by patients and physicians and were compared with pre-consultation expectations of the patient. Discrepancies in these evaluations were determined for the entire database, and within groups of expectations, using factor analysis.
Results: One thousand three hundred and thirty-two sets of questionnaires were collected by the study team. In this sample, in more than 90% of consultations physicians and patients agreed about meeting patient expectations. Discrepancies were more likely to be identified when the patients were consulting the physician for the first time or had not seen that physician for more than 12 months (up to 26.1%). There is a significantly lower correlation between the physician recognising patient's unmet expectations for all factors if the physician had been working in Primary Care for between 6 and 10 years (8.6%). The results demonstrate that physicians working more than 16 years in practice are less likely to recognise that they have failed to meet the expectations of patients who are seeking reassurance (9%).
Conclusion: Personal continuity of care is associated with a lower discrepancy between the opinions of patients and physicians regarding meeting patient expectations during consultations in primary care. The highest agreement is within first 6 years in practice, which may reflect long-term effects of training.
Practice implications: Primary care physicians should put more emphasis on identifying and addressing patient expectations in primary care consultation, including agreement with patient. Existing discrepancies may be considered to be indicators of potential opportunities to improve physician's performance and overall quality of care.