Patients' Opinions of the Role of Primary Care Physicians and the Organization of Health Care Services
Revital Gross, Hava Tabenkin, Shuli Bramli, Pesach Schvartzman
JDC-Brookdale Institute, Jerusalem; Dept. of Family Medicine, HaEmek Hospital, Afula; Kupat Holim Clalit, Northern District; Institute for Specialization, Ben-Gurion University, Northern Branch; and Dept. of Family Medicine, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Kupat Holim Clalit, Beer Sheba
Patients' opinions of the role of the primary care physician were studied. The study population consisted of Hebrew-speaking members of the Clalit Sick Fund, aged 18+, who visited primary care and specialty clinics. Interviews took place during January-March 1995 in the Emek and Jerusalem, and during August-October 1995 in Beer Sheba. A total of 2,734 interviews were conducted, and the response rate was 88%. 64% of the respondents preferred the primary care physician as the first address for most problems occurring during the day. Multivariate analysis revealed that the variables predicting this preference were: being over age 45, having completed less than 12 years of schooling, being satisfied with the physician, and when a child's illness was involved. Whether the physician was a specialist had only a marginal effect. The findings also show that among those who did go directly to a specialist for the current visit, 49% would still prefer the primary care physician to be the first address for most problems. However, half of the respondents initiated the current visit to the specialty clinic themselves. The findings also showed that a preference for the primary care physician to be the first address had an independent and statistically significant effect on the following aspects of service consumption: taking the initiative to go to a specialist, the intention to return to the primary care physician or to the specialist for continuing care, and the patient's belief that referral to a specialist was needed. The findings of the study may be of assistance to policy-makers on the national level and to sick funds in planning the role of the primary care physician, so that it corresponds, on the one hand, to the needs of the sick funds and the economic constraints in the health system, and on the other, to the preferences of the patient.