Research abstract:

Bodily conditions that are difficult to identify, explain and treat with the aid of medical knowledge and technology appear to be particularly challenging to medical encounters. Patients are often dissatisfied with the help they receive, and they often experience that their medical needs are not met.

To explore factors facilitating patient satisfaction among patients with a medically unexplained condition, we ask: what is the importance of individual versus relational factors in facilitating patient satisfaction in clinical encounters between general practitioners (GPs) and women with medically unexplained long-term fatigue?

We approach this question through a statistical analysis of survey data collected from a net sample of 431 women recruited through a patient organisation for people suffering from myalgic encephalomyelitis in 2013.

Participants were asked about their experiences with general practitioners in the Norwegian national health system in two different phases: shortly after illness onset, and current regular general practitioner last 12 months. The questions evolved around themes concerning shared understanding and decision making, being taken seriously, being paid due respect and being treated as an equal partner.

Through descriptive statistics and multivariable logistic regression analyses, we explored how their experiences were related to individual and relational factors, respectively. Free-text comments from the questionnaires were used while interpreting the results.

The analysis illuminates that relational aspects in medical encounters between GPs and ME patients, especially continuity, congruence in doctor–patient views and being seen by a specialist, are important catalysts of patient satisfaction. The probability of being satisfied with the initial investigation was more than six times higher in women who were referred to specialists, compared to those who were not.

We conclude that continuity of care and experiences of being in a partnership that operates on a common ground – a shared understanding of the patient’s illness – foster patient satisfaction among women with medically unexplained long-term fatigue.

Factors facilitating patient satisfaction among women with medically unexplained long-term fatigue: a relational perspective, by Olaug S Lian, Anne Helen Hansen in Health (London) May 14, 2015

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