Whole-person care in general practice: The doctor–patient relationship

As chronic multimorbidity increases internationally, whole-person care (WPC) in general practice has become increasingly important. However, it may not be consistently and effectively implemented. This study sought to define WPC and determine factors influencing its implementation in Australia. Interviews were conducted with 19 Australian GPs and one general practice registrar. In defining WPC, four themes regarding the nature of WPC emerged: (1) treating patients as multidimensional; viewing patients as persons rather than disease entities, (2) length, breadth and depth of scope; delving further to address underlying issues, (3) developing doctor-patient relationship to facilitate knowledge and patients’ trust in the doctor, (4) involving team-based care; general practitioners’ role as the “conductor of the orchestra”. In particular, Australian GPs identified doctor-patient relationships, which includes professional, personal and business-transactional dimensions, as the bedrock to WPC. This study has identified the facets of WPC and highlighted doctor-patient relationship as foundational to WPC. This recognition will further encourage GPs to facilitate doctor-patient relationships to provide high quality WPC, especially in this time of increased multimorbidity.

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