Physician Practice Styles and Patient Outcomes: Differences between Family Practice and General Internal Medicine

Klea D Bertakis, Edward J Callahan, L. Jay Helms, Rahman Azari, John A. Bobbins, Jill Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

96 Scopus citations

Abstract

OBJECTIVES. This study compared patient health status, patient satisfaction, and physician practice style between family practice and internal medicine. METHODS. New adult patients (n = 509) were prospectively and randomly assigned to family practice or internal medicine clinics at a university medical center and followed for 1 year of care. Practice styles were characterized by the Davis Observation Code. Self- reported health status (Medical Outcomes Study, Short Form-36) and patient satisfaction also were measured. RESULTS. There were no significantly different changes in self-reported health status or patient satisfaction between family practice and internal medicine physicians during the course of the study. Family practice initial encounters, however, were characterized by a style placing greater relative emphasis on health behavior and counseling, whereas internists used a more technical style. Improved health status scores after treatment were predicted by a practice style emphasis on counseling, whereas improvements in patient satisfaction scores were predicted by a style of care stressing patient activation. Although this is the first known randomized trial studying this issue, the conclusions are limited by a 38% loss of patients from enrollment to care and a loss of 18% at the 1-year follow-up evaluation. CONCLUSIONS. There were significant differences in practice styles between family physicians and internists; however, it was the physician's behavior, not specialty per se, that affected patient outcomes. A practice style emphasizing psychosocial aspects of care was predictive of improvements in patient health status, whereas a practice style emphasizing patient activation was predictive of improvements in patient satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-891
Number of pages13
JournalMedical Care
Volume36
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1998

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Keywords

  • Interactional analysis
  • Patient health outcomes
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Physician practice style
  • Physician-patient relationship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Professions(all)

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