Japanese primary care physicians' experience in treating their family members: a cross-sectional study

BMC Prim Care. 2022 Sep 16;23(1):240. doi: 10.1186/s12875-022-01848-y.


Background: Guidelines worldwide recommend that physicians should not treat their family members. However, studies in the U.S. have shown that approximately 74-83% of physicians have experience of treating family members. Primary care physicians were more likely to have such experiences than other specialists. In Japan, physicians do not have any guidelines regarding treating family members, and little is known about the experiences of primary care physicians. Therefore, we investigated the experience of treating family members or relatives among primary care physicians in Japan.

Methods: This cross-sectional study used an online questionnaire. We recruited 2,000 physicians who were members of the Japan Primary Care Association using random sampling. Data were collected from February 10 to March 10, 2021. We compare the experiences of treating family members between clinic-based doctors and hospital-based doctors using the chi-square test. We performed logistic regression analysis to adjust for gender, age, presence of a doctor in family, and physician's geographic location (rural or not rural).

Results: A total of 466 physicians (response rate = 23.3%) completed the survey. Of the sample, 79.8% had experience of treating family members or relatives. In the univariate analysis, being a clinic-based physician was associated with experience in treating family members compared to hospital-based physicians (87.6% vs. 74.9%, p = 0.001). Multivariable analysis showed that being a clinic-based physician (odds ratio 2.30, 95% confidence interval 1.31-4.04) and age of 45-64 years (odds ratio 2.93, 95% confidence interval 1.74-4.93) were significantly related to experience treating family. Gender and geographic location were not statistically significant factors.

Conclusions: A high percentage of Japanese primary care physicians, especially those who worked in clinics, reported experience treating family members or relatives. These findings will serve as basic data for future studies regarding the care of families and relatives of physicians in Japan.

Keywords: Family practice; General practice; Physicians; Primary care; Treating family members.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians, Primary Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires