Open Access Research article

Characteristics of general practice care: What do senior citizens value? A qualitative study

P(Ine) GJ Berkelmans*, Annette J Berendsen, Peter FM Verhaak and Klaas van der Meer

Author Affiliations

Department of General Practice, University Medical Centre Groningen, University of Groningen, Antonius Deusinglaan 1, 9713 AV Groningen, The Netherlands

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BMC Geriatrics 2010, 10:80  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-10-80

Published: 2 November 2010



In view of the increasing number of senior citizens in our society who are likely to consult their GP with age-related health problems, it is important to identify and understand the preferences of this group in relation to the non-medical attributes of GP care. The aim of this study is to improve our understanding about preferences of this group of patients in relation to non-medical attributes of primary health care. This may help to develop strategies to improve the quality of care that senior citizens receive from their GP.


Semi-structured interviews (N = 13) with senior citizens (65-91 years) in a judgement sample were recorded and transcribed verbatim. The analysis was conducted according to qualitative research methodology and the frame work method.


Continuity of care providers, i.e. GP and practice nurses, GPs' expertise, trust, free choice of GP and a kind open attitude were highly valued. Accessibility by phone did not meet the expectations of the interviewees. The interviewees had difficulties with the GP out-of-office hours services. Spontaneous home visits were appreciated by some, but rejected by others. They preferred to receive verbal information rather than collecting information from leaflets. Distance to the practice and continuity of caregiver seemed to conflict for respondents.


Preferences change in the process of ageing and growing health problems. GPs and their co-workers should be also aware of the changing needs of the elderly regarding non-medical attributes of GP care. Meeting their needs regarding non-medical attributes of primary health care is important to improve the quality of care.