GOOD communication is the most important factor for patients in overall satisfaction with their GP, according to a new study.
Helpful reception staff was the second most important factor, according to the English General Practice Patient Survey.
The findings contrast with the primary care priorities set by the government which focus on measures of access such as the ability to book appointments in advance and continuity of care. The survey found that advance booking was the least important of all six measures of patient experience in relation to satisfaction.
Almost 2,170,000 people registered with more than 8,300 primary care practices responded to the 2009/2010 patient survey. Researchers from the University of Cambridge analysed the data and published the findings in Health Expectations journal.
They measured the relationship with overall satisfaction to a number of measures on a scale of 0 to 1. Doctor communication showed the strongest relationship with overall satisfaction at 0.48, followed by helpfulness of reception staff at 0.22. Quick appointments scored 0.11, phone access 0.09 and advance booking was last at 0.06.
The paper states: “[D]espite being a policy priority for government, measures of access, including the ability to obtain appointments, were poorly related to overall satisfaction.” It also highlights the importance of communication skills education, adding: “Teaching new doctors how to communicate well with their patients is one part of improving physician communication. At least as important may be identifying existing doctors with poor communication skills and developing effective means to improve them.”