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Patient Connectedness Predicts Level of Primary Care

Improved care is observed with patient-physician connection compared to practice connection

TUESDAY, Mar. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Patient-physician connectedness is associated with a greater likelihood of receiving guideline-consistent care, according to a report published in the Mar. 3 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Steven J. Atlas, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues used a validated algorithm to measure the connectedness of 155,590 patients to either one of 181 physicians, or one of 13 practices in which they received most of their care, and its association with performance measures such as cancer screenings, control of blood sugar in diabetics, and control of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in patients with coronary artery disease.

The researchers found that 59.3 percent of patients were connected to a specific physician, 34.5 percent were only connected to a specific practice, and 6.2 percent were not connected to a physician or practice. They also found that physician-connected patients were more likely than practice-connected patients to receive guideline-consistent care such as mammography screenings (78.1 percent versus 65.9 percent) and achieve adjusted hemoglobin A1C rates (90.3 percent versus 74.9 percent).

"Atlas and colleagues have taken an important step by proposing a way to measure a central feature of primary care," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "In applying it, they show that a strong patient-physician connectedness can be a stronger predictor of patients receiving appropriate preventive care than system supports, such as nurse reminders. Their measure, which requires only administrative data, deserves wider testing."

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