Study: Keeping the Same Doctor Can Lead to a Longer, Healthier Life

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
July 13, 2018
Keeping the Same Doctor Can Lead to a Longer, Healthier Life

If you’ve been a loyal patient of your primary care physician, here’s some good news: Patients who continuously use the same primary care doctor live longer, according to a recent study published in BMJ Open journal. Results also suggest continuity of care from your primary care doctor is particularly valuable for patients living with a chronic condition or mental health illness.

Researchers from the University of Exeter reviewed 22 studies – a combination of cohorts and cross-sectional studies -- from nine countries with different cultures and health systems. Close to 82 percent of the studies found a link between going to the same doctor for more than two years and fewer deaths when compared to patients who saw different doctors. Researchers chalked up the results to better human interaction, which may be neglected in favor of medical technology.     

“We’ve always recognized the importance of continuity of care – it’s a cornerstone of MDVIP’s program,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “Our smaller practices enable patients to establish a relationship with their PCP and see them every time they come into the office. That’s not always possible at a large practice where patients may have to see whichever provider is available.”

Other studies have found similar results. For instance, The Lancet published a study a few years ago that looked at the connection between continuity of primary care and emergency hospitalizations. Researchers from the University of Bristol randomly selected medical records of people aged 65 years and older from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink. They identified 769 records of patients who had an emergency hospitalization and at least two primary care visits within the last two years, one visit taking place within 30 days of the hospitalization. Results showed a connection between patients who switched primary care doctors and a higher risk of emergency hospitalizations versus patients who consistently saw the same primary care physician.  

Another study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed a correlation between gaps in primary care continuity and unnecessary procedures and treatments. Because the average Medicare recipient sees two primary care physicians and five specialists in four different practices each year, researchers from The Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research wanted to see how fractions in primary care affected their healthcare. They randomly selected 5 percent of Medicare claims from recipients ages 65 and older and applied a continuity of care calculator to the claims data to determine the level of continuity. They found almost 15 percent of recipients received at least one potentially overused procedure during the calendar year.    

“Primary care physicians are supposed to serve as the quarterback of your care. But the key to its success is having a strong relationship with your primary care doctor – someone who knows you, your history and your lifestyle,” says Kaminetsky. “When you switch PCPs or see more than one, you risk losing that connection and ultimately, your continuity of care.”

Not consistently seeing the same primary care doctor? MDVIP has a nationwide network of physicians who have time to develop close, doctor-patient relationships that will help you gain the benefits of seeing the same doctor. Find one near you and begin your partnership in health »

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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