Continuity of Care, Definition of

Continuity of care is concerned with quality of care over time. It is the process by which the patient and his/her physician-led care team are cooperatively involved in ongoing health care management toward the shared goal of high quality, cost-effective medical care.

Continuity of care is a hallmark and primary objective of family medicine and is consistent with quality patient care provided through a patient-centered medical home. The continuity of care inherent in family medicine helps family physicians gain their patients’ confidence and enables family physicians to be more effective patient advocates. It also facilitates the family physician's role as a cost-effective coordinator of the patient's health services by making early recognition of problems possible. Continuity of care is rooted in a long-term patient-physician partnership in which the physician knows the patient’s history from experience and can integrate new information and decisions from a whole-person perspective efficiently without extensive investigation or record review.

Continuity of care is facilitated by a physician-led, team-based approach to health care. It reduces fragmentation of care and thus improves patient safety and quality of care. Thus, the American Academy of Family Physicians supports the role of family physicians in providing continuity of care to their patients in all settings, both directly and by coordination of care with other health care professionals.

(1983) (2015 COD)