Illness behaviour and patient satisfaction as correlates of self-referral in Japan

Yingqiu Guo, Toshihide Kuroki, Seiji Yamashiro, Shunzo Koizumi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Background. Patients who frequently change physicians without letters of referral are common, and this has become a source of concern among primary care doctors in Japan. Previous studies have shown a correlation between psychiatric disorders and patient dissatisfaction and the utilization of medical resources. Abnormal illness behaviours such as hypochondria and inappropriate treatment seeking have been associated with various psychiatric disorders. The relationship between illness behaviour and self-referral in Japan has yet to be fully explored. Objectives. Our aim was to describe the characteristic illness behaviour and satisfaction level of self-referred patients in the general medicine clinic of Saga Medical School Hospital. Methods. Using the Japanese version of the Illness Behaviour Questionnaire (J-IBQ), we examined the illness behaviour of 277 self-referred patients visiting the clinic. Patient satisfaction with previous medical care was examined with the use of our original Patient Satisfaction Questionnaire. The results were compared with those for physician-referred patients. Results. Self-referred patients differed significantly from original-visit patients on the GH (general hypochondriasis), DC (disease conviction), AD (affect disturbance) and I (irritability) scales and from physician-referred patients on the GH and DC scales. In comparison with physician-referred patients, self-referred patients showed significant dissatisfaction with their most recent medical visit elsewhere. Dissatisfaction toward the medical staff, especially the doctors, was stronger than that toward the medical environment, waiting time or the on-site medical equipment. Conclusions. It is important to give patients appropriate overall support, not only physical but also emotional, when they first visit a general physician for medical advice. The J-IBQ may be a useful instrument for primary identification of self-referral patients with probable somatization syndromes. Open doctor-doctor and patient-doctor communication is necessary to increase patient satisfaction, which may be helpful to minimize the self-referral phenomenon in Japan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-332
Number of pages7
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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