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Sticking With One Doctor Can Improve Longevity

Continuity of care results in greater patient satisfaction and fewer emergency room visits

An illustration of a man aging from youth to older age with the same doctor listening to his heart through a stethoscope.
Chris Gash, AARP

When it comes to medical care, variety is not the spice of life. In fact, seeing the same doctor over several years may increase your chance of living longer, according to a review of studies by researchers in Exeter, England. 

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Previous research has shown that continuous care results in greater patient satisfaction, fewer emergency room visits and better adherence to medication. “This is the first systematic review showing that continuity of care is associated with reduced deaths as well,” says lead study author Denis Pereira Gray, a retired general practitioner. Researchers didn’t identify the length of time in continuous care that would most benefit a patient. The median time spent with one physician for all those studied was two years, extending up to as long as 17 years. Those who switched doctors tended to suffer the consequences: “In one case, mortality actually doubled when people did not have continuity of care,” Gray says. “We think this is a human effect: This is about two human beings influencing each other.” 

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While the physician shortage in the U.S. makes finding one perfect doctor difficult, Gray says, “The best thing is to have a generalist doctor who knows you as a person and understands why you are getting illnesses and how you react to them, and then see specialists when you need them.”

    

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