Frequent attenders in primary health care: a mixed-methods study of patient and staff perspectives

Rachel Sharabani*, Ilya Kagan, Stefan Cojocaru

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Aims and Objective: To understand the frequent attendance phenomenon from the perspective of patients and healthcare professionals and how it can be reduced. Background: Frequent attenders (FAs) are characterised by the consumption of a disproportionate number of medical consultations and a high number of visits per year to primary care physicians (PCP). Although FAs constitute about 10% of all primary clinic attendees, they are responsible for ~40–50% of clinic visits, affecting the efficiency, accessibility and quality of health services provided to other patients. Design: Mixed methods (STROBE Statement: Data S1; COREQ checklist: Data S2). Methods: Eighteen FAs were interviewed in a qualitative approach. PCPs and nurses (n = 184) completed a cross-sectional survey. Results: FAs are driven by their personal, emotional and mental state. FAs viewed clinics as a source for information and resolving medical problems. They perceived PCPs as authoritative and knowledgeable, and nurses as treatment managers and mediators between PCPs and patients. In contrast, FAs evoked more negative emotions than positive ones among medical staff. PCPs and nurses attributed frequent visits to FAs' personal and emotional states. A model based on the findings was constructed to provide a framework for grasping frequent attendance from a sociological perspective and for planning and managing it. Conclusions: The accessibility and availability of health services at primary clinics, and collaboration and trust in medical staff facilitate the frequent attendance phenomenon. Relevance to Clinical Practice: The frequent attendance phenomenon should be proactively prevented, even before patients become FA, using the model constructed, which serves as a foundation for introducing an intervention program to identify and prevent frequent attendance. PCPs and nurses working in primary care clinics should be made aware of the FA phenomenon and should be educated and given tools to deal with it within the clinic. The process should be facilitated by organisational support. Patient or Public Contribution: There was no patient or public contribution to the design or conduct of the study, analysis or interpretation of the data, or in the preparation of the manuscript.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7135-7146
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Volume32
Issue number19-20
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • frequent attenders
  • general practitioners
  • nurse
  • preventive model
  • primary health care

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