Seeing the same doctor doesn’t just give the comfort of a familiar face – it might save your life.
An analysis reveals that 18 of 22 studies from nine nations with varying health systems found that people who saw the same doctor over time had lower death rates (BMJ Open, doi.org/crmj). The studies used different methods to measure continuity, so it wasn’t possible to get an overall estimate for how big the fall in mortality is. However, one recent study of people with diabetes found that those with a high level of continuity had a death rate half the size of those with low continuity.
The link could be down to people with poor health needing to see different doctors, but the studies tried to account for this. Earlier research showed that people who see the same doctor consistently take up preventative care such as immunisations more often, are more likely to follow medical advice and have fewer unnecessary hospital admissions.
Familiarity may also improve patient-doctor communication.
(The above appeared in print under the headline “Having one doctor is better than many” in the New Scientist. 7 July 2018).
My comment: The current news is that GPs in small practices are finding hard to stay in business. Fewer people are attending surgeries, and reimbursement from insurance companies does not cover expenses. This is a threat to all of us, especially the elderly, who rely on doctors to keep them fit. This is just one aspect of the dysfunctional US health service, which seems to concentrate on profit first and health of the sick second, if that.