Longitudinal continuity of care is associated with high patient satisfaction with physical therapy

Paul Beattie, Marsha Dowda, Christine Turner, Lori Michener, Roger Nelson
Physical Therapy 2005, 85 (10): 1046-52

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Recent literature has suggested that longitudinal continuity (ie, the patient is seen by the same practitioner for the entire course of treatment) may be linked to high degrees of patient satisfaction with medical care. The purpose of this study was to provide preliminary information regarding the association between longitudinal continuity and reports of patient satisfaction with physical therapy outpatient care.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: A sample of 1,502 adult subjects completed the MedRisk Instrument for Measuring Patient Satisfaction With Physical Therapy Care at the time of discharge from outpatient physical therapy. Relationships between satisfaction measures and the presence or absence of longitudinal continuity were assessed by use of binary logistic regression.

RESULTS: Overall, 36.8% of the subjects reported complete satisfaction on the internal subscale (patient-therapist), and 47.9% of the subjects reported complete satisfaction on the external subscale (patient-support staff). Higher percentages of women (40.2% and 51.1% for internal and external subscales, respectively) than of men (31.9% and 43.3% for internal and external subscales, respectively) were completely satisfied with care. Of subjects who reported complete satisfaction on the internal subscale, 71.2% had longitudinal continuity of care, and 28.8% did not. A similar trend was noted for the external subscale (patient-support staff); 66.8% of subjects who reported complete satisfaction had longitudinal continuity, and 33.2% did not. Odds ratios describing the probability of complete satisfaction with care for subjects who had longitudinal continuity and for those who did not were significant and ranged from 2.7 to 3.5.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: Subjects who received their entire course of outpatient physical therapy from only 1 provider were approximately 3 times more likely to report complete satisfaction with care than those who received care from more than 1 provider. These findings suggest that clinicians and managers should make efforts to preserve longitudinal continuity of care as a means of improving patient satisfaction with care.

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