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Patient experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic: qualitative study in dutch primary care.

Homburg, M.T., Brandenbarg, D., Olde Hartman, T., Ramerman, L., Beugel, G., Rijpkema, C., Verheij, R., Berger, M., Peters, L. Patient experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic: qualitative study in dutch primary care. BJGP Open: 2022
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Background
Changes in primary care provision during the COVID-19 pandemic could have affected patient experience of primary care both positive and negative.

Aim
To assess the experiences of patients of primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Design & setting
A qualitative study of patients from regions with high and low COVID-19 prevalence in the Netherlands.

Method
A qualitative study using a phenomenological framework was performed among purposively sampled patients. Individual semi-structured interviews were performed and transcribed. Data were thematically analysed by means of an inductive approach.

Results
We interviewed 28 patients (13 men and 15 women, age range 27-91 years). After thematic analysis, two main themes emerged: accessibility and continuity of primary care. Changes considered positive during the pandemic regarding accessibility and continuity of primary care included having a quieter practice, having more time for consultations, and the use of remote care for problems with low complexity. However, patients also experienced decreases in both care accessibility and continuity, such as feeling unwelcome, the GP postponing chronic care, or seeing unfamiliar doctors due to care being segregated.

Conclusions
Despite bringing several benefits, patients indicated that the changes to primary care provision during the COVID-19 pandemic could have threatened care accessibility and continuity, which are core values of primary care. These insights can guide primary care provision not only in this and future pandemics but also when implementing permanent changes to care provision in primary care.