Continuity of care in primary care
Let’s stick to one general practitioner(GP)
By Dr Brighton Chireka
Continuity of care contributes importantly to patient experience, whether it’s continuity of a relationship, by seeing the same GP, or management continuity, that coordinates an individual’s care across the wider health care system.
In Zimbabwe general practice is private unlike in the United Kingdom where it is covered by the government. This means that patients can registered with any general practitioner (GP) regardless of location . In this system patients can registered with several GPs and can even visit two doctors in a day to get ” second opinion”. GPs are the gatekeepers of any society such that a country with a well coordinated primary care will result in better health care for its population. The Zimbabwean system allows patients to pick and choose GPs without any hassles but this can come at a price to the patient.
Continuity of care
Continuity of care is very important and for it to work patients must stick to one GP. This builds a good relationship with one doctor and avoids unnecessary tests to be carried out and the patient will not have to repeat their medical history all the time. In Zimbabwe GPs do not easily transfer the patient’s medical notes to each other as the patient moves from one GP to another. Patients are also partly to blame as at times they do not mention that they have been seeing another doctor. This means that the new doctor will start afresh even requesting tests that may have been done by the previous doctor. This is costly and may delay the diagnosis of serious health problems such as cancer. We know that delay in cancer diagnosis is of great concern as the success of treatment depends on early detection.
We have to do our part to make sure that we benefit from the care we get from our doctors.
I would encourage every person in Zimbabwe to register with a local GP and try to stick to that particular doctor. If they decide to change the doctor they should inform their GP and request that their medical notes be transferred to the new doctor. Patients may have to carry the notes themselves as there is no proper system of transferring medical notes from one GP to another. Medical notes in primary care are still in paper form and I hope that soon the profession will move to electronic records in keeping with the rest of the world.
Doctors can run late at times and it’s not a reason to change your doctor.
In conclusion I would say sticking with one GP does not take away your autonomy . You can change the doctor if you are not happy with the relationship or if you relocate to another area but make sure that your medical notes follow you to your new doctor. The medical notes are yours so your doctor should give you if you request them . You may have to pay for photocopying the records as your doctor cannot pay for those costs. The take away home message is the need for continuity of care by sticking to the same doctor. Feel free to share with me your experiences in trying to stick to one doctor or when you tried to change doctors .
Here is a list of doctors in Zimbabwe
This article was compiled by Dr. Brighton Chireka who is a GP and a Health Commissioner in South Kent Coast in the United Kingdom. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org and can read more of his work on his blog at DR CHIREKA’S BLOG
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Dr Chireka has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. Views expressed here are personal.
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