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Keywords:

  • Patient satisfaction;
  • Chronic illness;
  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • Diabetes mellitus;
  • Primary care

Abstract

Objective

To determine whether primary care provided by generalists versus subspecialists resulted in different levels of patient satisfaction among persons with chronic illness.

Methods

A survey containing the Primary Care Provider Questionnaire and the Health Status Questionnaire (HSQ) was mailed to 2 population-based cohorts of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or diabetes mellitus (DM). All subjects were at least 35 years old and Rochester, Minnesota residents. Descriptive statistics, Spearman correlation coefficients, and multiple regression models were used to describe and compare the determinants of patient satisfaction.

Results

A total of 86 people (74% female) with RA and 208 people (56% male) with DM responded to the survey. Age range was 41–95 years and median disease duration was 8.7 years (RA) and 13.0 years (DM). Most patients described their health as fair or good. After adjusting for sex differences, RA patients were more likely than DM patients to report having a specialist as their primary care doctor. RA patients, whether reporting seeing a specialist or a generalist, had comparable HSQ physical health, mental health, social functioning, vitality, and bodily pain scores. DM patients seeing a specialist had more bodily pain and poorer physical functioning than those seeing a generalist. Across both chronic illnesses and physician specialties, median scores for patient satisfaction ranged from 17–18 for overall satisfaction (maximum 20); 30–33 for interpersonal skills (maximum 35); 23–26 for technical quality (maximum 30); and 20 for access to care (maximum 25). Multiple linear regression models revealed that 6.8–7.3% of the variation in satisfaction could be explained by HSQ scores, patient demographics, and physician specialty.

Conclusion

Both RA and DM patients were highly satisfied with their care, regardless of the specialty of the provider. Physician specialty, patient demographics, and HSQ scores explained only a small proportion in the variation in satisfaction. These findings point to the need for additional research to further elucidate the determinants of patient satisfaction.