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Multimorbidity and socioeconomic deprivation in primary care consultations

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Stewart W Mercer, Yuefang Zhou, Gerry M Humphris, Alex McConnachie, Andisheh Bakhshi, Annemieke Bikker, Maria Higgins, Paul Little, Bridie Fitzpatrick, Graham C M Watt

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PURPOSE: The influence of multimorbidity on the clinical encounter is poorly understood, especially in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation where burdensome multimorbidity is concentrated. The aim of the current study was to examine the effect of multimorbidity on general practice consultations, in areas of high and low deprivation.

METHODS: We conducted secondary analyses of 659 video-recorded routine consultations involving 25 general practitioners (GPs) in deprived areas and 22 in affluent areas of Scotland. Patients rated the GP's empathy using the Consultation and Relational Empathy (CARE) measure immediately after the consultation. Videos were analyzed using the Measure of Patient-Centered Communication. Multilevel, multi-regression analysis identified differences between the groups.

RESULTS: In affluent areas, patients with multimorbidity received longer consultations than patients without multimorbidity (mean 12.8 minutes vs 9.3, respectively; P= .015), but this was not so in deprived areas (mean 9.9 minutes vs 10.0 respectively; P= .774). In affluent areas, patients with multimorbidity perceived their GP as more empathic (P= .009) than patients without multimorbidity; this difference was not found in deprived areas (P= .344). Video analysis showed that GPs in affluent areas were more attentive to the disease and illness experience in patients with multimorbidity (P< .031) compared with patients without multimorbidity. This was not the case in deprived areas (P= .727).

CONCLUSIONS: In deprived areas, the greater need of patients with multimorbidity is not reflected in the longer consultation length, higher GP patient centeredness, and higher perceived GP empathy found in affluent areas. Action is required to redress this mismatch of need and service provision for patients with multimorbidity if health inequalities are to be narrowed rather than widened by primary care.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-131
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Family Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018

    Research areas

  • Multimorbidity, Primary care, General practice, Consultations, Deprivation

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