Resident physician perspectives on outpatient continuity of care

J Grad Med Educ. 2013 Dec;5(4):668-73. doi: 10.4300/JGME-05-04-40.


Background: The outpatient continuity clinic is an essential component of internal medicine residency programs, yet continuity of patient care in these clinics is suboptimal. Reasons for this discontinuity have been inadequately explored.

Objective: We sought to assess perceived factors contributing to discontinuity in trainee ambulatory clinics.

Methods: The study encompassed 112 internal medicine residents at a large academic medical center in the Midwest. We conducted 2 hours of facilitated discussion with 18 small groups of residents. Residents were asked to reflect on factors that pose barriers to continuity in their ambulatory practice and potential mechanisms to reduce these barriers. Resident comments were transcribed and inductive analysis was performed to develop themes. We used these themes to derive recommendations for improving continuity of care in a resident ambulatory clinic.

Results: Key themes included an imbalance of clinic scheduling that favors access for patients with acute symptoms over continuity, clinic triage scripts that deemphasize continuity, inadequate communication among residents and faculty regarding shared patients, residents' inefficient use of nonphysician care resources, and a lack of shared values between patients and providers regarding continuity of care.

Conclusions: The results offer important information that may be applied in iterative program changes to enhance continuity of care in resident clinics.