Patient experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative study in Dutch primary care

Maarten Homburg, Daan Brandenbarg, Tim Olde Hartman, Lotte Ramerman, Gina Beugel, Corinne Rijpkema, Robert Verheij, Marjolein Berger, Lilian Peters

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BACKGROUND: Changes in primary care provision during the COVID-19 pandemic could have affected patient experience of primary care both positively and negatively.

AIM: To assess the experiences of patients in primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DESIGN & SETTING: A qualitative study of patients from regions with high and low COVID-19 prevalence in the Netherlands.

METHOD: A qualitative study using a phenomenological framework was performed among purposively sampled patients. Individual semi-structured interviews were performed and transcribed. Data were thematically analysed by means of an inductive approach.

RESULTS: Twenty-eight patients were interviewed (13 men and 15 women, aged 27-91 years). After thematic analysis, two main themes emerged: accessibility and continuity of primary care. Changes considered positive during the pandemic regarding accessibility and continuity of primary care included having a quieter practice, having more time for consultations, and the use of remote care for problems with low complexity. However, patients also experienced decreases in both care accessibility and continuity, such as feeling unwelcome, the GP postponing chronic care, seeing unfamiliar doctors, and care being segregated.

CONCLUSION: Despite bringing several benefits, patients indicated that the changes to primary care provision during the COVID-19 pandemic could have threatened care accessibility and continuity, which are core values of primary care. These insights can guide primary care provision not only in this and future pandemics, but also when implementing permanent changes to care provision in primary care.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBJGP open
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29-Nov-2022

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