Background: Fibromyalgia is a functional syndrome. Despite recent findings, there is still considerable uncertainty about its diagnostic process.
Objectives: This study aimed to explore patients' experiences with fibromyalgia during the diagnostic process in primary health care. Moreover, we tried to determine how diagnostic consultation could be improved.
Methods: This study is based on data from patients with fibromyalgia in a primary health care study conducted in Nokia, Finland. Patients with fibromyalgia were identified from electronic medical records. Focus-group participants with fibromyalgia diagnoses were selected using a purposive sampling method to gather a maximum variation sample. Qualitative thematic analysis was used for the coded data from four focus-group discussions in 2018. A description of the coding tree was provided and researchers organised the codes. Finally, all researchers identified themes from the data.
Results: The main unifying entities were the uncertainty and contradictions fibromyalgia patients faced on several occasions. Physicians sometimes offered other diagnoses - like depression - as an explanation for the symptoms, or used repetitive tests to eliminate other possible diagnoses. Furthermore, patients expressed their wishes for a holistic, empathetic, and up-to-date approach to their symptoms.
Conclusion: In our interviews, a good doctor-patient relationship and continuity of care were necessary, as were the physician's attitude and knowledge of fibromyalgia. Our findings also suggest avoiding repeated or unnecessary rule-out tests and the overdiagnosis of psychiatric disorders is necessary.
Keywords: Fibromyalgia; continuity of care; doctor-patient relationship; focus group; qualitative study.