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Primary Care Attributes, Health Care System Hassles, and Chronic Illness

Parchman, Michael L. MD, MPH*†; Noël, Polly Hitchcock PhD*‡; Lee, Shuko MS*

doi: 10.1097/01.mlr.0000182530.52979.29
Original Article

Background: Patients with a chronic illness are likely to report difficulties in their encounters with the health care system. Although most patients with a chronic illness are managed by primary care clinicians, little is known about how the attributes of primary care might be related to health care system hassles.

Objective: We sought to examine the relationship between attributes of primary care and health care system hassles among veterans with one or more chronic illnesses.

Research Design: This was a cross-sectional mailed survey.

Subjects: We included veterans with one or more chronic illnesses who were cared for in the South Texas Veteran's health care system.

Measures: The Components of Primary Care Instrument was used to measure 4 attributes of primary care: accumulated knowledge of the patient by the clinician, coordination of care, communication, and preference for first contact with their primary care clinician. A 16-item health care systems hassles scale was constructed and demonstrated good face validity and reliability with a Cronbach's alpha of 0.94.

Results: Of the 720 surveys administered by mail, 422 (59%) were returned. Patients with multiple chronic illnesses reported a higher level of hassles than patients with a single chronic illness. After controlling for patient characteristics, primary care communication and coordination of care were inversely associated with patient hassles score: as communication and coordination improved, the reported level of hassles decreased.

Conclusions: Effective delivery of primary care to patients with one or more chronic illnesses may be important in decreasing the level of hassles they experience as they interact with the health care delivery system.

From the *VERDICT Health Services Research Center/South Texas Veterans Health Care System; the †Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio; and the ‡Department of Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

Supported by the Office of Research and Development, Health Services Research and Development Service, Department of Veterans Affairs (Grant #01-110 & HBU #02-197) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (Grant #K08 HS013008-02).

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Reprints: Michael L. Parchman, MD, MPH, Audie Murphy VA Hospital VERDICT (11C6), 7400 Merton Minter Blvd., San Antonio, TX 78229-4404. E-mail:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.