Sticking with one primary care doctor may help you stay healthy and extend your life, according to a new British study. Researchers reviewed 22 studies from nine countries with different cultures and health systems. Of those, 18 concluded that staying with the same doctor over time significantly reduced early deaths, compared with switching doctors.
"Currently, arranging for a patient to see the doctor of their choice is considered a social convenience," said lead researcher Dr. Denis Pereira Gray. "Now it is clear that it is about improving the quality of medical practice with profound implications for all health systems."
Gray is an emeritus professor at the University of Exeter in England. He is also former president of the Royal College of General Practitioners and former chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.
He said this study is the first systematic review of the relationship between continuity of doctor care and death rates.
Not only can seeing the same primary care doctor prolong life, but the same holds true for specialists such as surgeons and psychiatrists, Gray said.
"Patients talk more freely to doctors they know, and doctors can then understand them better and tailor advice and treatment better," he said.
Although technology has brought advances in medical care, Gray said, "this research shows that human factors like continuity of care remain important and are indeed a matter of life and death."