Patients benefit from deep relationships with GPs

16 Jan 2024

Research from The University of Queensland has shed further light on the nature of ‘deep’ relationships between general practitioners and their patients, showing that these relationships intertwine professional and interpersonal aspects, and tend to come to the fore when general practitioners go ‘above and beyond’ for patients experiencing difficulty.

Dr Hayley Thomas from UQ’s Medical School said the study was conducted to better understand connections between GPs and their patients, in the current healthcare landscape in Australia.

“We wanted to understand what deep GP-patient relationships look like in modern Australia, given the changes to our healthcare systems and needs,” Dr Thomas said.

“We found that these relationships are professional, with doctors displaying clinical acumen, doctor-patient collaboration and a responsibility to put the patient first.

“On the other hand, we also found that there’s an element of human connection in these relationships which make patients feel that their GP knows and cares about them as people. 

“Deep relationships are underpinned by trust and they tend to come to the fore when GPs go above and beyond for patients who are experiencing health or personal crises, or prolonged challenges.”

The study indicates the importance of cultivating deep relationships between GPs and patients during times of patient hardship.

“Our findings, paired with previous research, suggest that deep GP-patient relationships are fostered by and promote interpersonal continuity, which is associated with improved health outcomes,” Dr Thomas said.

“Previous research has indicated that these include reduced mortality, greater satisfaction, increased concordance with treatment, lower hospitalisation and ED use, greater service efficiency, and increased likelihood of GPs recognising patients’ psychosocial problems.

“This is a strong argument for preserving and investing in training and health systems that foster such relationships, even within a changing healthcare climate which displays increasing commercialisation and corporatisation of medicine.

“We have also found that these relationships provide joy and vocational satisfaction among GPs, although they may also stretch their capacity for self-care.”

The study included interviews from five GPs and thirteen patients. 

The findings are published in BMC Primary Care.

Media: UQ Medicine Communications,, +61 436 368 746.