Conditions for gatekeeping when GPs consider patient requests unreasonable: a focus group study
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionFamily Practice. 2022, 39 (1), 125-129. 10.1093/fampra/cmab072
Background Requests from patients that are regarded by GPs as unreasonable are a source of conflict between GPs and patients. This makes gatekeeping challenging, as GPs negotiate a struggle between maintaining the doctor–patient relationship, protecting patients from the harms of medical overuse and acting as stewards of limited health care resources. More knowledge of how GPs can succeed in these difficult consultations is needed. Objective To explore Norwegian GPs’ perceptions of conditions that can promote their ability to act as gatekeepers when facing patient requests which they consider ‘unreasonable’. Methods A qualitative study based on three focus groups with Norwegian GPs conducted in 2019, exploring consultations in which the patient made a seemingly unreasonable request, but the GP was able to navigate the consultation in a clinically appropriate manner. Thematic cross-case analysis of verbatim transcripts from the focus groups was carried out using Systematic Text Condensation. Results The analysis revealed three major themes among the conditions that the GPs considered helpful when faced with an ‘unreasonable’ patient request: (i) professional communication skills; (ii) a long-term perspective; (iii) acknowledgement and support of GPs’ gatekeeping role among peers and from authorities. Conclusion Professional communication skills and relational continuity need to be prioritized for GPs to maintain their role as gatekeepers. However, support for the gatekeeping role within the profession as well as from society is also required.