Open Access Research article

Family medicine model in Turkey: a qualitative assessment from the perspectives of primary care workers

Zeliha Asli Öcek1*, Meltem Çiçeklioğlu1, Ummahan Yücel2 and Raziye Özdemir3

Author Affiliations

1 Ege University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health, 35100 Izmir, Turkey

2 Ege University Izmir Atatürk School of Health, Department of Midwifery, Izmir, Turkey

3 Karabuk University School of Health, Department of Midwifery, Karabuk, Turkey

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BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:38  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-38

Published: 27 February 2014

Abstract

Background

A person-list-based family medicine model was introduced in Turkey during health care reforms. This study aimed to explore from primary care workers’ perspectives whether this model could achieve the cardinal functions of primary care and have an integrative position in the health care system.

Methods

Four groups of primary care workers were included in this exploratory-descriptive study. The first two groups were family physicians (FP) (n = 51) and their ancillary personnel (n = 22). The other two groups were physicians (n = 44) and midwives/nurses (n = 11) working in community health centres. Participants were selected for maximum variation and 102 in-depth interviews and six focus groups were conducted using a semi-structured form.

Results

Data analysis yielded five themes: accessibility, first-contact care, longitudinality, comprehensiveness, and coordination. Most participants stated that many people are not registered with any FP and that the majority of these belong to the most disadvantaged groups in society. FPs reported that 40-60% of patients on their lists have never received a service from them and the majority of those who use their services do not use FPs as the first point of contact. According to most participants, the list-based system improved the longitudinality of the relationship between FPs and patients. However, based on other statements, this improvement only applies to one quarter of the population. Whereas there was an improvement limited to a quantitative increase in services (immunisation, monitoring of pregnant women and infants) included in the performance-based contracting system, participants stated that services not among the performance targets, such as family planning, postpartum follow-ups, and chronic disease management, could be neglected. FPs admitted not being able to keep informed of services their patients had received at other health institutions. Half of the participants stated that the list-based system removed the possibility of evaluating the community as a whole.

Conclusions

According to our findings, FPs have a limited role as the first point of contact and in giving longitudinal, comprehensive, and coordinated care. The family medicine model in Turkey is unable to provide a suitable structure to integrate health care services.

Keywords:
Family physician; Family medicine; Primary care; Health care reform; Integration