How primary care is used and perceived
More and more people of different ages and backgrounds are in favour of digital health services and use them more than before. Patients living outside of major cities are less satisfied with their care and the large number of locum doctors is perceived to have a negative impact on continuity. This and much more is shown in a report by researchers at the School of Health and Welfare at Jönköping University.
The researchers have, on behalf of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), studied patients' user patterns and experiences of digital and physical contacts with primary care. This resulted in the report "How do we click with healthcare?"
The report consists of two sub-studies, one of which is a qualitative interview study with 35 patients of different ages and backgrounds from all over Sweden. The second part is a mapping of patients' user patterns based on all regional primary care data in Region Jönköping County and Region Sörmland for the years 2020 - 2022.
“The need for care is increasing faster than available resources, and a transition to care that combines digital and physical care contacts is necessary. Both staff and patients are in the process of learning new ways to have care contacts,” says project manager Felicia Gabrielsson-Järhult.
The interviewees stressed the importance of healthcare being available when they need it and that digitalisation offers flexibility when a physical visit to the healthcare centre is not required. It also emerged that more and more people of different ages and backgrounds are more positive about digital health services and use digital health services more than before. However, people over 80 years old are still more sceptical and use fewer digital health contacts than younger elderly and young people.
Dissatisfied patients turn to private healthcare providers instead
It also emerged that people living outside major cities believe that there are too many locum doctors and that this affects continuity and quality.
"When accessibility and continuity are lacking, it affects the patient's confidence in the regular primary care system and causes patients to turn to private healthcare providers instead," says Felicia Gabrielsson-Järhult.
The interviews also showed that patients saw themselves as responsible for their health, but needed to share responsibility with the healthcare system, for example through follow-ups and feedback on results.
People who seek care are not as impatient as they claim to be
The second sub-study, based on registry data, includes about 7.4 million regional primary care contacts including private digital healthcare providers and 1177 health counselling.
People who simultaneously seek care through different channels have been discussed as a problem in primary care. But the results showed that it was most common for patients to be in contact with the healthcare once per day. The number of days someone contacted the healthcare more than three times on the same day was very small, only 0.03 % in Region Jönköping County and 0.06 % in Region Sörmland. In addition, the number of people who contacted the healthcare many times at frequent intervals was low.
“The development of digital healthcare is so fast that evaluation and research cannot keep up. With our report, we can contribute current knowledge about patients' user patterns and experiences of digital and physical contacts with primary care. The results are intended to be used as a factual basis and support for the development of healthcare," says Felicia Gabrielsson-Järhult.