Can continuity of medical care be taught?

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The health sciences literature indicates that although continuity often has been shown to be associated with a number of favorable outcomes, the concept is as yet poorly conceptualized and difficult to quantify. In this paper the authors describe an approach to teaching continuity developed at the University of Washington. Beginning in 1973--74 second-year students in an elective family medicine preceptorship were placed with practicing family physicians one-half day per week for a complete academic year. The medical care of a few families was closely followed by each student throughout the period. Required written reports of each student's longitudinal-care experiences were analyzed to identify student-perceived benefits of extended patient contact. Three-fourths of the students over a two-year period were judged to have experienced important aspects of continuity. Results suggest that the teaching program described is a viable means for teaching students to recognize, appreciate, and employ approaches to patient care available only in settings characterized by continuity.

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