Can maintaining this relationship help you live longer?

Staying with the same primary doctor or specialist over the long haul may better your health and lengthen your life, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.

Researchers reviewed previous studies that included data on almost 1.5 million patients from around the world. They found that over 80% of the results linked a longer doctor-patient relationship with decreased mortality.

The medical community calls this long-term relationship “continuity of care“. Previous studies have associated continuity of care with better treatment, increased patient satisfaction and decreased hospitalization, the researchers determined.

“Seeing the same patient over time allows the doctor to build a fuller picture of patient health,” says Dr. Donna C. Williams, an Advocate Medical Group family medicine physician on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “We also can also improve trust and communication, which leads to better outcomes. These patients usually stay healthier for longer after office visits.”

Choosing a primary care physician is an important decision. Dr. Williams recommends patients first ask themselves the following questions:

  • Is this doctor’s main location close to my home or office?
  • Are their work hours convenient for my schedule?
  • What do other patients say about this doctor?
  • Is this doctor part of a health care system with the resources I need?
  • Will this doctor be able to refer me to the proper specialists?
  • Does this doctor fully explain the available treatment options?

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