Background GPs are Norwegian patients' first contact point with the healthcare system for most medical problems. However, little is known regarding GPs' expectations towards their patients' healthcare-seeking behaviour, or whether doctors and patients have coinciding expectations of what GPs can do for their patients.
Aim To investigate patients' and GPs’ expectations regarding patients’ healthcare-seeking behaviour in primary care, and to make comparisons between the two.
Design & setting Norwegian data from the Quality and Costs of Primary Care in Europe (QUALICOPC) questionnaire study, with information from GPs and their patients.
Method Binary logistic regression was used to investigate associations between expectations, sex and age of GPs and patients, list size, and geographical location of practice. Results are presented as odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Expectation differences between GPs and patients were analysed using generalised estimating equations (GEEs). Due to multiple testing, Bonferroni correction was used to define significance level at P≤0.002.
Results In total, 198 GPs (39.1% female) and 1529 patients (61.9% female) responded. No associations with sex or age were found for the GPs' expectations regarding patients' healthcare-seeking behaviour. Among patients, fewer males than females expected that most people would see their GP for sprained ankle (OR 0.7, 95% CI = 0.5 to 0.9), finger cut (OR 0.6, 95% CI = 0.4 to 0.7), smoking cessation (OR 0.6, 95% CI = 0.5 to 0.8), or anxiety (OR 0.4, 95% CI = 0.3 to 0.6). Older patients (aged >65 years) found it more important than younger patients to see a doctor in the presence of medical symptoms. GPs had higher expectations than their patients that people in general would see them for deteriorated vision (OR 4.2, 95% CI = 2.5 to 6.9), sexual problems (OR 1.8, 95% CI =1.3 to 2.6), and anxiety (OR 3.0, 95% CI =1.5 to 6.0).
Conclusion For several common health problems, males are less likely than females to believe that people will see their GP. GPs may overestimate to what degree their patients will see them for a number of common medical problems.
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