Primary care physicians Johannes Hauswaldt, Eva Hummers-Pradier, and Ulrike Junius-Walker address the question of how frequently different patient groups attend doctor's appointments in this issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2012; 109: 814-20).
Current estimates for Germany are of 18 doctor's appointments per patient per year. However, until now there has been no further information on, for example, age groups or whether frequent contact with doctors is particularly noticeable in particular patient groups.
The authors defined patient groups, such as those with chronic illnesses, those with multiple illnesses, and frequent attenders. They then analyzed anonymized data for a total of 305 896 patients at 155 primary care practices from 1996 to 2006.
Each patient saw his or her primary care physician an average of seven times per year. Contrary to expectations, those with chronic illnesses did not see their doctors more frequently, but they did require special medical services such as detailed consultations and home visits. Frequent attenders seem to be a problematic group in outpatient care. They had an average of 24 doctor-patient contacts per year, although they were not seriously ill.