March 10, 2008 -- Patients value thoroughness over timeliness or friendliness when it comes to evaluating the doctor-patient relationship.
A new survey of more than 1,000 patients in the U.K. shows patients place the highest value in the thoroughness of their visit to a primary care doctor. Thoroughness was followed by these attributes:
- Seeing a doctor who knows them well
- Seeing a doctor with a warm and friendly manner
- Having a shorter waiting time for an appointment
- Having flexibility in selecting appointment times
Unlike the U.S., the U.K. has a socialized health care system. But researchers say the findings are universal and should help guide new medical policies involving patient care.
What Patients Want
In the study, researchers at the University of Manchester surveyed 1,193 patients from six family practices in England. The patients were asked to place a value on attributes of primary care consultations, such as ease of access, choice of appointment times, continuity of care, technical quality of care, and bedside manner.
Overall, patients were willing to pay the most for a thorough physical examination ($40.87). The next most valued attribute was seeing a doctor who knew them well ($12.18), followed by seeing a doctor with a friendly manner ($8.50), having a shorter waiting times to get in to see the doctor ($7.22), and having a choice of appointment times ($6.71). Patients in the U.K. do not routinely pay for health care, such as office visits.
The survey showed that what patients valued most also varied depending on their reasons for seeking medical care. For example, those with an urgent medical condition were willing to pay more for shorter waiting times, while those with an ambiguous physical or psychological issue valued seeing a doctor who knew them well most.
However, a thorough examination was always the most important attribute relative to the others regardless of the medical scenario.
Researchers say the findings should provide health policy makers with a clearer idea of patients' priorities. The results appear in the Annals of Family Medicine.