Open Access Open Badges Research article

Family physician enabling attitudes: a qualitative study of patient perceptions

Catherine Hudon12*, Denise St-Cyr Tribble3, Gina Bravo4, William Hogg5, Mireille Lambert2 and Marie-Eve Poitras2

Author Affiliations

1 Département de médecine de famille et de médecine d’urgence, Université de Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada

2 Centre de santé et de services sociaux de Chicoutimi, Québec, Canada

3 École des sciences infirmières, Université de Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada

4 Département des sciences de la santé communautaire, Université de Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada

5 Department of Family Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada

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BMC Family Practice 2013, 14:8  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-14-8

Published: 10 January 2013



Family physicians frequently interact with people affected by chronic diseases, placing them in a privileged position to enable patients to gain control over and improve their health. Soliciting patients’ perceptions about how their family physician can help them in this process is an essential step to promoting enabling attitudes among these health professionals. In this study, we aimed to identify family physician enabling attitudes and behaviours from the perspective of patients with chronic diseases.


We conducted a descriptive qualitative study with 30 patients, 35 to 75 years of age presenting at least one common chronic disease, recruited in primary care clinics in two regions of Quebec, Canada. Data were collected through in-depth interviews and were analyzed using thematic analysis.


Family physician involvement in a partnership was perceived by participants as the main attribute of enablement. Promoting patient interests in the health care system was also important. Participants considered that having their situation taken into account maximized the impact of their physician’s interventions and allowed the legitimization of their feelings. They found their family physician to be in a good position to acknowledge and promote their expertise, and to help them maintain hope.


From the patient’s perspective, their partnership with their family physician is the most important aspect of enablement.

Power (psychology); Enablement; Patient-centred care; Family practice; Primary health care; Chronic disease