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1.  Referring patients to specialists: A structured vignette survey of Australian and British GPs 
Background
In Australia and in the United Kingdom (UK) access to specialists is sanctioned by General Practitioners (GPs). It is important to understand how practitioners determine which patients warrant referral.
Methods
A self-administered structured vignette postal survey of General Practitioners in Western Australia and the United Kingdom. Sixty-four vignettes describing patients with colorectal symptoms were constructed encompassing six clinical details. Nine vignettes, chosen at random, were presented to each individual. Respondents were asked if they would refer the patient to a specialist and how urgently. Logistic regression and parametric tests were used to analyse the data
Results
We received 260 completed questionnaires. 58% of 'cancer vignettes' were selected for 'urgent' referral. 1632/2367 or 69% of all vignettes were selected for referral. After adjusting for clustering the model suggests that 38.4% of the variability is explained by all the clinical variables as well as the age and experience of the respondents. 1012 or 42.8 % of vignettes were referred 'urgently'. After adjusting for clustering the data suggests that 31.3 % of the variability is explained by the model. The age of the respondents, the location of the practice and all the clinical variables were significant in the decision to refer urgently.
Conclusion
GPs' referral decisions for patients with lower bowel symptoms are similar in the two countries. We question the wisdom of streaming referrals from primary care without a strong evidence base and an effective intervention for implementing guidelines. We conclude that implementation must take into account the profile of patients but also the characteristics of GPs and referral policies.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-9-2
PMCID: PMC2262087  PMID: 18194578
2.  Video Consultation Use by Australian General Practitioners: Video Vignette Study 
Background
There is unequal access to health care in Australia, particularly for the one-third of the population living in remote and rural areas. Video consultations delivered via the Internet present an opportunity to provide medical services to those who are underserviced, but this is not currently routine practice in Australia. There are advantages and shortcomings to using video consultations for diagnosis, and general practitioners (GPs) have varying opinions regarding their efficacy.
Objective
The aim of this Internet-based study was to explore the attitudes of Australian GPs toward video consultation by using a range of patient scenarios presenting different clinical problems.
Methods
Overall, 102 GPs were invited to view 6 video vignettes featuring patients presenting with acute and chronic illnesses. For each vignette, they were asked to offer a differential diagnosis and to complete a survey based on the theory of planned behavior documenting their views on the value of a video consultation.
Results
A total of 47 GPs participated in the study. The participants were younger than Australian GPs based on national data, and more likely to be working in a larger practice. Most participants (72%-100%) agreed on the differential diagnosis in all video scenarios. Approximately one-third of the study participants were positive about video consultations, one-third were ambivalent, and one-third were against them. In all, 91% opposed conducting a video consultation for the patient with symptoms of an acute myocardial infarction. Inability to examine the patient was most frequently cited as the reason for not conducting a video consultation. Australian GPs who were favorably inclined toward video consultations were more likely to work in larger practices, and were more established GPs, especially in rural areas. The survey results also suggest that the deployment of video technology will need to focus on follow-up consultations.
Conclusions
Patients with minor self-limiting illnesses and those with medical emergencies are unlikely to be offered access to a GP by video. The process of establishing video consultations as routine practice will need to be endorsed by senior members of the profession and funding organizations. Video consultation techniques will also need to be taught in medical schools.
doi:10.2196/jmir.2638
PMCID: PMC3713911  PMID: 23782753
videoconferencing; general practice; patient appointments; health care
3.  Supporting Patients Treated for Prostate Cancer: A Video Vignette Study With an Email-Based Educational Program in General Practice 
Background
Men who have been treated for prostate cancer in Australia can consult their general practitioner (GP) for advice about symptoms or side effects at any time following treatment. However, there is no evidence that such men are consistently advised by GPs and patients experience substantial unmet need for reassurance and advice.
Objective
The intent of the study was to evaluate a brief, email-based educational program for GPs to manage standardized patients presenting with symptoms or side effects months or years after prostate cancer treatment.
Methods
GPs viewed six pairs of video vignettes of actor-patients depicting men who had been treated for prostate cancer. The actor-patients presented problems that were attributable to the treatment of cancer. In Phase 1, GPs indicated their diagnosis and stated if they would prescribe, refer, or order tests based on that diagnosis. These responses were compared to the management decisions for those vignettes as recommended by a team of experts in prostate cancer. After Phase 1, all the GPs were invited to participate in an email-based education program (Spaced Education) focused on prostate cancer. Participants received feedback and could compare their progress and their performance with other participants in the study. In Phase 2, all GPs, regardless of whether they had completed the program, were invited to view another set of six video vignettes with men presenting similar problems to Phase 1. They again offered a diagnosis and stated if they would prescribe, refer, or order tests based on that diagnosis.
Results
In total, 64 general practitioners participated in the project, 57 GPs participated in Phase 1, and 45 in Phase 2. The Phase 1 education program was completed by 38 of the 57 (59%) participants. There were no significant differences in demographics between those who completed the program and those who did not. Factors determining whether management of cases was consistent with expert opinion were number of sessions worked per week (OR 0.78, 95% CI 0.67-0.90), site of clinical practice (remote practice, OR 2.25, 95% CI 1.01-5.03), number of patients seen per week (150 patients or more per week, OR 10.66, 95% CI 3.40-33.48), and type of case viewed. Completion of the Spaced Education did impact whether patient management was consistent with expert opinion (not completed, OR 0.88, 95% CI 0.5-1.56).
Conclusions
The management of standardized patients by GPs was particularly unlikely to be consistent with expert opinion in the management of impotence and bony metastasis. There was no evidence from this standardized patient study that Spaced Education had an impact on the management of patients in this context. However, the program was not completed by all participants. Practitioners with a greater clinical load were more likely to manage cases as per expert opinion.
doi:10.2196/jmir.3003
PMCID: PMC3961707  PMID: 24571952
medical education; prostate cancer; general practice; email; video
4.  Management of upper respiratory tract infections by telephone. 
Western Journal of Medicine  1994;160(6):529-533.
We surveyed Utah general internists (N = 134) regarding their attitudes toward and practices associated with telephone management of upper respiratory tract infections. The questionnaire contained 3 case vignettes--viral upper respiratory tract infection, streptococcal pharyngitis, and acute infectious epiglottitis--and a series of questions were asked about telephone diagnosis, management preferences (clinic versus telephone), and telephone management practices. The 53 respondents (40%) were able to make important diagnostic distinctions about upper respiratory tract infections from a written vignette. As the likelihood of a complicated or serious condition increased, patients would be appropriately triaged for clinical evaluation. Most internists would make a written record of the telephone conversation. Only 1 internist of the 53 would charge for telephone management.
PMCID: PMC1022554  PMID: 8053174
5.  Gender and power: Nurses and doctors in Canada 
Background
The nurse-doctor relationship is historically one of female nurse deference to male physician authority. We investigated the effects of physicians' sex on female nurses' behaviour.
Methods
Nurses at an urban, university based hospital completed one of two forms of a vignette-based survey in January, 2000. Each survey included four clinical scenarios. In form 1 of the questionnaire the physicians described were female, male, female, and male. In form 2, vignettes were identical but the physician sex was changed to male, female, male, and female. Differences in responses to questions based on the sex of the physician in each vignette were studied
Results
199 self-selected nurses completed the survey. The responses of 177 female respondents and 11 respondents who did not specifiy their sex, and were assumed to be female based on the overall sex ratio of respondents, were analysed. Persistent sex-role stereotypes influenced the relationship between female nurses and physicians. Nurses were more willing to serve and defer to male physicians. They approached female physicians on a more egalitarian basis, were more comfortable communicating with them, yet more hostile toward them.
Conclusion
When nurses and doctors are female, traditional power imbalances in their relationship diminish, suggesting that these imbalances are based as much on gender as on professional hierarchy. The effects of this change on the authority of the medical profession, the role of nurses, and on patient care merit further exploration.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-2-1
PMCID: PMC150379  PMID: 12605720
gender; nurses; professional relationships; physician nurse interactions; collaboration
6.  Mammographers’ Perception of Women’s Breast Cancer Risk 
Objective
To understand mammographers’ perception of individual women’s breast cancer risk.
Materials and Methods
Radiologists interpreting screening mammography examinations completed a mailed survey consisting of questions pertaining to demographic and clinical practice characteristics, as well as 2 vignettes describing different risk profiles of women. Respondents were asked to estimate the probability of a breast cancer diagnosis in the next 5 years for each vignette. Vignette responses were plotted against mean recall rates in actual clinical practice.
Results
The survey was returned by 77% of eligible radiologists. Ninety-three percent of radiologists overestimated risk in the vignette involving a 70-year-old woman; 96% overestimated risk in the vignette involving a 41-year-old woman. Radiologists who more accurately estimated breast cancer risk were younger, worked full-time, were affiliated with an academic medical center, had fellowship training, had fewer than 10 years experience interpreting mammograms, and worked more than 40% of the time in breast imaging. However, only age was statistically significant. No association was found between radiologists’ risk estimate and their recall rate.
Conclusion
U.S. radiologists have a heightened perception of breast cancer risk.
doi:10.1177/0272989X05276857
PMCID: PMC3131742  PMID: 15951455
perception; risk; pretest probability
7.  Influence of patient characteristics on doctors' questioning and lifestyle advice for coronary heart disease: a UK/US video experiment 
Background: Risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD) vary with patient characteristics but we do not know how this influences doctors' questioning and advice giving.
Aims: To find out whether four patient characteristics — age (55 versus 75 years), sex, class, and race — influence primary care doctors' questioning style and advice giving in the United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US).
Design of study: A factorial experiment using video simulation of a patient consulting with CHD symptoms, designed to systematically alter their age, sex, class, and race.
Setting: Surrey, south east London and the West Midlands in the UK, and Massachusetts in the US.
Method: A stratified random sample of 128 general practitioners (GPs) in the UK and 128 primary care doctors in the US were shown video vignettes in their practices of patient consultations, and interviewed about patient management strategies.
Results: Sex and age influence doctors' questioning of patients presenting with CHD. Men are asked more questions overall, particularly about smoking and drinking. Middle-aged patients are asked more about their lifestyle. Advice about smoking is given to more men than women, and to more mid-life than older patients. Women doctors question patients about their lifestyle more often, and give more advice to patients about their diet.
Conclusion: Doctors' questioning strategies are influenced by patients' sex and age, suggesting that doctors may miss smoking- and alcohol-related factors among women and older patients with CHD. Doctors give more advice about smoking to men, despite sex equality in smoking prevalence. Therefore, doctors' information seeking and advice giving do not match known patient risk factors.
PMCID: PMC1326068  PMID: 15353053
coronary heart disease; primary health care; risk factors; smoking
8.  How Does Older Age Influence Oncologists' Cancer Management? 
The Oncologist  2010;15(6):584-592.
The study used a vignette-type survey to assess preferences and influential factors in geriatric cancer management of U.S. practicing oncologists. Advanced patient age was found to deter oncologists from choosing intensive cancer therapy, even if the patient was highly functional and lacked comorbidities.
Background.
Over half of new cancer cases occur in patients aged ≥65 years. Many older patients can benefit from intensive cancer therapies, yet evidence suggests that this population is undertreated.
Methods.
To assess preferences and influential factors in geriatric cancer management, practicing U.S. medical oncologists completed a survey containing four detailed vignettes exploring colon, breast, lung, and prostate cancer treatment. Participants were randomly assigned one of two surveys with vignettes that were identical except for patient age (<65 years or >70 years).
Results.
Physicians in each survey group (n = 200) were demographically similar. Intensive therapy was significantly less likely to be recommended for an older than for a younger, but otherwise identical, patient in two of the scenarios. For a woman with metastatic colon cancer (Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group [ECOG] score, 1) for whom chemotherapy was recommended, nearly all oncologists chose an intensive regimen if the patient's age was 63; but if her age was 85, one fourth of the oncologists chose a less intensive treatment. Likewise, for stage IIA breast cancer (ECOG score, 0), 93% recommended intensive adjuvant treatment for a previously healthy patient aged 63; but only 66% said they would do so if the patient's age was 75. Oncologists commonly identified patient age as an influence on treatment choice, but were even more likely to cite performance status as a determining factor.
Conclusions.
Advanced age can deter oncologists from choosing intensive cancer therapy, even if patients are highly functional and lack comorbidities. Education on tailoring cancer treatment and a greater use of comprehensive geriatric assessment may reduce cancer undertreatment in the geriatric population.
doi:10.1634/theoncologist.2009-0198
PMCID: PMC3227998  PMID: 20495217
Age factors; Antineoplastic agents/therapeutic use; Geriatric assessment; Health care disparities; Quality of health care
9.  Sex and attitude: a randomized vignette study of the management of depression by general practitioners. 
BACKGROUND: The management and detection of depression varies widely, and the causes of variation are incompletely understood. AIMS: To describe and explain general practitioners' (GPs') current practice in the recognition and management of depression in young adults, their attitudes towards depression, and to investigate associations of GP characteristics and patient sex with management. METHOD: All GP principals in the Greater Glasgow Health Board were randomized to receive questionnaires with vignettes describing increasingly severe symptoms of depression in either male or female patients, and asked to indicate which clinical options they would be likely to take. The Depression Attitude Questionnaire was used to elicit GP attitudes. RESULTS: As the severity of vignette symptoms increased, GPs responded by changing their prescribing and referral patterns. For the most severe vignette, the majority of GPs would prescribe drugs (76.4%) and refer the patient for further help (73.7%). Male and female patients were treated differently: GPs were less likely to ask female patients than male patients to attend a follow-up consultation (odds ratio [OR] = 0.55), and female GPs were less likely to refer female patients (OR = 0.33). GPs with a pessimistic view of depression, measured using the 'inevitable course of depression' attitude scale, were less willing to be actively involved in its treatment, being less likely to discuss a non-physical cause of symptoms (OR = 0.77) or to explore social factors in moderately severe cases (OR = 0.68). CONCLUSIONS: Accepting the limitations of the method, GPs appear to respond appropriately to increasingly severe symptoms of depression, although variation in management exists. Educational programmes should be developed with the aim of enhancing GP attitudes towards depression, and the effects on detection and management of depression should be rigorously evaluated.
PMCID: PMC1313311  PMID: 10622010
10.  Variability in treatment advice for elderly patients with aortic stenosis: a nationwide survey in the Netherlands 
Heart  2001;85(2):196-201.
OBJECTIVE—To determine how the decisions of Dutch cardiologists on surgical treatment for aortic stenosis were influenced by the patient's age, cardiac signs and symptoms, and comorbidity; and to identify groups of cardiologists whose responses to these clinical characteristics were similar.
DESIGN—A questionnaire was produced asking cardiologists to indicate on a six point scale whether they would advise cardiac surgery for each of 32 case vignettes describing 10 clinical characteristics.
SETTING—Nationwide postal survey among all 530 cardiologists in the Netherlands.
RESULTS—52% of the cardiologists responded. There was wide variability in the cardiologists' advice for the individual case vignettes. Six groups of cardiologists explained 60% of the variance. The age of the patient was most important for 41% of the cardiologists; among these, 50% had a high and 50% a low inclination to advise surgery. A further 24% were influenced equally by the patient's age and by the severity of the aortic stenosis and its effect on left ventricular function; among these, 62% had a high and 38% a low inclination to advise surgery. Finally, 23% of the cardiologists were mainly influenced by the left ventricular function and 12% by the aortic valve area. The presence of comorbidity always played a minor role.
CONCLUSIONS—There were systematic differences among groups of cardiologists in their inclination to advise aortic valve replacement for elderly patients, as well as in the way their advice was influenced by the patients' characteristics. These results indicate the need for prospective studies to identify the best treatment for elderly patients according to their clinical profile.


Keywords: aortic stenosis; aortic valve replacement; elderly patients; clinical decision making
doi:10.1136/heart.85.2.196
PMCID: PMC1729630  PMID: 11156672
11.  Risk of Disclosure, Perceptions of Risk, and Concerns about Privacy and Confidentiality as Factors in Survey Participation 
Journal of official statistics  2008;24(2):255-275.
This article reports on a web-based vignette experiment investigating how likely subjects would be to participate in surveys varying in topic sensitivity and risk of disclosure. A total of 3,672 participants each responded to a series of eight vignettes, along with a variety of background questions, concerns about confidentiality, trust in various institutions, and the like.
Vignettes were randomly assigned to respondents, such that each respondent was exposed to four levels of disclosure risk for each level of topic sensitivity (high versus low). Half the sample was assigned to receive a confidentiality statement for all eight vignettes, while the other half received no mention of confidentiality in the vignettes. The order of presentation of vignettes was randomized for each respondent.
Respondents were also asked for their subjective perceptions of risk, harm, and social as well as personal benefits for one of the eight vignettes. Adding these questions permits us to examine how objective risk information presented by the researcher relates to the subjective perception of risk by the participant, and to assess the importance of both for their willingness to participate in the surveys described.
Under conditions resembling those of real surveys, objective risk information does not affect willingness to participate. On the other hand, topic sensitivity does have such effects, as do general attitudes toward privacy and survey organizations as well as subjective perceptions of risk, harm, and benefits. We discuss the limitations and implications of these findings.
PMCID: PMC3096944  PMID: 21603156
Disclosure; informed consent; survey participation; privacy; confidentiality
12.  Age and sex interaction in reported help seeking in response to chest pain 
Background
There is a growing literature suggesting that access to cardiology services is affected by age. However, there is a dearth of studies that have considered age and sex in conjunction.
Aim
This study aims to examine the impact of age, and its interaction with sex, on reported healthcare seeking, based on responses to symptom vignettes, in an attempt to standardise symptomatology across all responders.
Design of study
A cross-sectional survey design was utilised.
Setting
Primary care.
Method
A random sample of 911 individuals, stratified by sex, was selected from one practice in the UK. Participants were invited to state how they would react in response to the chest pain symptoms presented. Patterns of response were examined, by age and sex, using χ2 and logistic regression models.
Results
This study identified differences by age and sex in a general practice population in the propensity to seek health care. In particular, men aged 60–69 years and women aged 70 years and over were more likely to report healthcare seeking than younger responders. For example, women aged 70 years and over had over three times greater odds of reporting contact with the GP compared to the reference category. Evidence for an interaction effect between age and sex was observed.
Conclusion
The results suggest that the inequity that has been demonstrated in access to cardiology services by age is not likely to be due to the patient's illness behaviour as, overall, older people are more likely than younger people to be willing to consult their doctors.
doi:10.3399/bjgp08X279670
PMCID: PMC2435666  PMID: 18482485
aged; gender identity; heart; patient acceptance of health care
13.  Complexity of GPs' explanations about mental health problems: development, reliability, and validity of a measure 
Background
How GPs understand mental health problems determines their treatment choices; however, measures describing GPs' thinking about such problems are not currently available.
Aim
To develop a measure of the complexity of GP explanations of common mental health problems and to pilot its reliability and validity.
Design of study
A qualitative development of the measure, followed by inter-rater reliability and validation pilot studies.
Setting
General practices in North London.
Method
Vignettes of simulated consultations with patients with mental health problems were videotaped, and an anchored measure of complexity of psychosocial explanation in response to these vignettes was developed. Six GPs, four psychologists, and two lay people viewed the vignettes. Their responses were rated for complexity, both using the anchored measure and independently by two experts in primary care mental health. In a second reliability and revalidation study, responses of 50 GPs to two vignettes were rated for complexity. The GPs also completed a questionnaire to determine their interest and training in mental health, and they completed the Depression Attitudes Questionnaire.
Results
Inter-rater reliability of the measure of complexity of explanation in both pilot studies was satisfactory (intraclass correlation coefficient = 0.78 and 0.72). The measure correlated with expert opinion as to what constitutes a complex explanation, and the responses of psychologists, GPs, and lay people differed in measured complexity. GPs with higher complexity scores had greater interest, more training in mental health, and more positive attitudes to depression.
Conclusion
Results suggest that the complexity of GPs' psychosocial explanations about common mental health problems can be reliably and validly assessed by this new standardised measure.
doi:10.3399/bjgp08X299281
PMCID: PMC2418991  PMID: 18505616
doctor–patient relations; mental health; physician, primary health care
14.  How does the self-reported clinical management of patients with low back pain relate to the attitudes and beliefs of health care practitioners? A survey of UK general practitioners and physiotherapists 
Pain  2008;135(1-2):187-195.
Guidelines for the management of low back pain (LBP) have existed for many years, but adherence to these by health care practitioners (HCPs) remains suboptimal. The aim of this study was to measure the attitudes, beliefs and reported clinical behaviour of UK physiotherapists (PTs) and general practitioners (GPs) about LBP and to explore the associations between these. A cross-sectional postal survey of GPs (n = 2000) and PTs (n = 2000) was conducted that included the Pain Attitudes and Beliefs Scale (PABT.PT), and a vignette of a patient with non-specific LBP (NSLBP) with questions asking about recommendations for work, activity and bedrest. Data from 1022 respondents (442 GPs and 580 PTs) who had recently treated patients with LBP were analysed. Although the majority of HCPs reported providing advice for the vignette patient that was broadly in line with guideline recommendations, 28% reported they would advise this patient to remain off work. Work advice was significantly related to the PABS.PT scores with higher biomedical (F1,986 = 77.5, p < 0.0001) and lower behavioural (F1,981 = 31.9, p < 0.001) scores associated with advice to remain off work. We have demonstrated that the attitudes and reported practice behaviour of UK GPs and PTs for patients with NSLBP are diverse. Many HCPs held the belief that LBP necessitates some avoidance of activities and work. The attitudes and beliefs of these HCPs were associated with their self-reported clinical behaviour regarding advice about work. Future studies need to investigate whether approaches aimed at modifying these HCP factors can lead to improved patient outcomes.
doi:10.1016/j.pain.2007.11.010
PMCID: PMC2258319  PMID: 18206309
Attitudes and beliefs; Health care practitioners; Practice behaviour; Low back pain; Survey
15.  Reported management of patients with sore throat in Australian general practice. 
BACKGROUND. Sore throat is one of the commonest presenting symptoms in general practice in Australia, and results in the prescription of an antibiotic in 50-90% of cases, despite the finding of bacterial throat infection in around 30% of cases or fewer. AIM. This study set out to examine whether inaccurate knowledge about the pathophysiological features and management of sore throat helps to explain the high level of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for sore throat by general practitioners. METHOD. A questionnaire with four case vignettes of sore throat presentations was sent to 400 randomly selected general practitioners, practising in Victoria, Australia. Of 367 eligible respondents, 284 responded (77%). RESULTS. Of the respondents 97% reported that they would prescribe an antibiotic for the case of tonsillitis, 70% for the case of possible glandular fever, 29% for the child with probable viral sore throat and 9% for the adult with probable viral infection. There were no differences in prescribing rates between general practitioners of different sex, practice location, practice type or qualification. Overall, 25% of the antibiotics which formed the respondents' first choice were inappropriate broad-spectrum antibiotics. CONCLUSION. General practitioners are generally accurate in their assessment of the features of sore throats, but less accurate in their knowledge of appropriate antibiotics.
PMCID: PMC1239049  PMID: 7748648
16.  An Evaluation of Vignettes for Predicting Variation in the Quality of Preventive Care 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2004;19(10):1013-1018.
OBJECTIVE
Clinical vignettes offer an inexpensive and convenient alternative to the benchmark method of chart audits for assessing quality of care. We examined whether vignettes accurately measure and predict variation in the quality of preventive care.
DESIGN
We developed scoring criteria based on national guidelines for 11 prevention items, categorized as vaccine, vascular-related, cancer screening, and personal behaviors. Three measurement methods were used to ascertain the quality of care provided by clinicians seeing trained actors (standardized patients; SPs) presenting with common outpatient conditions: 1) the abstracted medical record from an SP visit; 2) SP reports of physician practice during those visits; and 3) physician responses to matching computerized case scenarios (clinical vignettes).
SETTING
Three university-affiliated (including 2 VA) and one community general internal medicine clinics.
PATIENTS/PARTICIPANTS
Seventy-one randomly selected physicians from among eligible general internal medicine residents and attending physicians.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS
Physicians saw 480 SPs (120 at each site) and completed 480 vignettes. We calculated the proportion of prevention items for each visit reported or recorded by the 3 measurement methods. We developed a multiple regression model to determine whether site, training level, or clinical condition predicted prevention performance for each measurement method. We found that overall prevention scores ranged from 57% (SP) to 54% (vignettes) to 46% (chart abstraction). Vignettes matched or exceeded SP scores for 3 prevention categories (vaccine, vascular-related, and personal behavior). Prevention quality varied by site (from 40% to 67%) and was predicted similarly by vignettes and SPs.
CONCLUSIONS
Vignettes can measure and predict prevention performance. Vignettes may be a less costly way to assess prevention performance that also controls for patient case-mix.
PMCID: PMC1492573  PMID: 15482553
compliance; preventive care guidelines; physician practice; clinical vignettes; quality of care
17.  Depersonalised doctors: a cross-sectional study of 564 doctors, 760 consultations and 1876 patient reports in UK general practice 
BMJ Open  2012;2(1):e000274.
Objectives
The objectives of this study were to assess burnout in a sample of general practitioners (GPs), to determine factors associated with depersonalisation and to investigate its impact on doctors' consultations with patients.
Design
Cross-sectional, postal survey of GPs using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). Patient survey and tape-recording of consultations for a subsample of respondents stratified by their MBI scores, gender and duration of General Medical Council registration.
Setting
UK general practice.
Participants
GPs within NHS Essex.
Primary and secondary outcome measures
Scores on MBI subscales (depersonalisation, emotional exhaustion, personal accomplishment); scores on Doctors' Interpersonal Skills Questionnaire and patient-centredness scores attributed to tape-recorded consultations by independent observers.
Results
In the postal survey, 564/789 (71%) GPs completed the MBI. High levels of emotional exhaustion (261/564 doctors, 46%) and depersonalisation (237 doctors, 42%) and low levels of personal accomplishment (190 doctors, 34%) were reported. Depersonalisation scores were related to characteristics of the doctor and the practice. Male doctors reported significantly higher (p<0.001) depersonalisation than female doctors. Doctors registered with the General Medical Council under 20 years had significantly higher (p=0.005) depersonalisation scores than those registered for longer. Doctors in group practices had significantly higher (p=0.001) depersonalisation scores than single-handed practitioners. Thirty-eight doctors agreed to complete the patient survey (n=1876 patients) and audio-record consultations (n=760 consultations). Depersonalised doctors were significantly more likely (p=0.03) to consult with patients who reported seeing their ‘usual doctor’. There were no significant associations between doctors' depersonalisation and their patient-rated interpersonal skills or observed patient-centredness.
Conclusions
This is the largest number of doctors completing the MBI with the highest levels of depersonalisation reported. Despite experiencing substantial depersonalisation, doctors' feelings of burnout were not detected by patients or independent observers. Such levels of burnout are, however, worrying and imply a need for action by doctors themselves, their medical colleagues, professional bodies, healthcare organisations and the Department of Health.
Article summary
Article focus
A cross-sectional survey was designed to assess levels of burnout in a census sample of GPs in Essex, UK, and to determine which doctor- or practice-related variables predicted higher levels of burnout.
In the substudy, patients rated the interpersonal skills of their doctor and independent observers assessed the degree of patient-centredness in a sample of the doctors' audio-taped consultations.
Key messages
High levels of burnout were reported in the census survey—46% doctors reported emotional exhaustion, 42% reported depersonalisation and 34% reported low levels of personal accomplishment.
Doctors' depersonalisation scores could be predicted by a range of variables relating to the individual doctor and their practice, but higher depersonalisation scores were not associated with poorer patient ratings of the doctors' interpersonal skills or a reduction in the patient-centredness of their consultations.
While the professional practice and patient-centredness of consultations of the GPs in this study were not affected by feelings of burnout, there is a need to offer help and support for doctors who are experiencing this.
Strengths and limitations of this study
A high response rate (71%) was achieved in the census sample of GPs completing the MBI and a subsample of 38 doctors who satisfied the predetermined sample stratification consented to further assessment (patient survey and audio-taping of consultations).
The study was, however, limited to one county in the UK and thus cannot be extrapolated to other parts of the UK.
There was a differential response rate by the gender of the participant. Male doctors who were registered with the General Medical Council for >20 years were less likely to respond to the survey than their female counterparts.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000274
PMCID: PMC3274717  PMID: 22300669
18.  Do patients wish to be involved in decision making in the consultation? A cross sectional survey with video vignettes 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2000;321(7265):867-871.
Objective
To determine patients' preferences for a shared or directed style of consultation in the decision making part of the general practice consultation.
Design
Structured interview, with video vignettes of acted consultations.
Setting
5 practices in Lothian, Scotland.
Participants
410 patients (adults and adults accompanying children) attending surgery appointments.
Main outcome measures
Preference for shared or directed form of video vignette for five different presenting conditions.
Results
Patients varied in their preference for involvement in decision making in the consultation. Under multiple regression analysis, patients' preference was found to be independently predicted by the problem viewed (patients presented with physical problems preferred a directed approach), patients' age (patients aged 61 or older were more likely to prefer the directed approach), social class (social classes I and II were more likely to prefer the shared approach), and smoking status (smokers more likely to prefer the shared approach). Those patients who were able to answer (or who thought their doctor's style similar to those in the vignettes) were more likely to describe their own doctor's style as similar to their preferred style. No major association in preference was found with sex, frequency of attendance, or perceived chronic ill health.
Conclusion
Patients may vary in their desire for involvement in decision making in consultations. Although this variation seems to depend on the presenting problem, age, social class, and smoking status, these associations are not absolute, with large minorities in each group. Doctors need the skills, knowledge of their patients, and the time to determine on which occasions, with which illnesses, and at which level their patients wish to be involved in decision making.
PMCID: PMC27496  PMID: 11021866
19.  General Practitioner Management of Shoulder Pain in Comparison with Rheumatologist Expectation of Care and Best Evidence: An Australian National Survey 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61243.
Objectives
To determine whether current care for common shoulder problems in Australian general practice is in keeping with rheumatologist expectations and the best available evidence.
Methods
We performed a mailed survey of a random sample of 3500 Australian GPs and an online survey of all 270 rheumatologists in Australia in June 2009. Each survey included four vignettes (first presentation of shoulder pain due to rotator cuff tendinopathy, acute rotator cuff tear in a 45 year-old labourer and early and later presentation of adhesive capsulitis). For each vignette, GPs were asked to indicate their management, rheumatologists were asked to indicate appropriate primary care, and we determined best available evidence from relevant Cochrane and other systematic reviews and published guidelines.
Results
Data were available for at least one vignette for 614/3500 (17.5%) GPs and 64 (23.8%) rheumatologists. For first presentation of rotator cuff tendinopathy, 69% and 82% of GPs and 50% and 56% rheumatologists would order a shoulder X-ray and ultrasound respectively (between group comparisons P = 0.004 and P<0001). Only 66% GPs and 60% rheumatologists would refer to an orthopaedic surgeon for the acute rotator cuff tear. For adhesive capsulitis, significantly more rheumatologists recommended treatments of known benefit (e.g. glucocorticoid injection (56% versus 14%, P<0.0001), short course of oral glucocorticoids (36% versus 6%, p<0.0001) and arthrographic distension of the glenohumeral joint (41% versus 19%, P<0.0001).
Conclusions
There is a mismatch between the stated management of common shoulder problems encountered in primary care by GPs, rheumatologist expectations of GP care and the available evidence.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061243
PMCID: PMC3628939  PMID: 23613818
20.  Prescribing practices and attitudes toward giving children antibiotics. 
Canadian Family Physician  2001;47:521-527.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether overprescribing is common in treatment of pediatric upper respiratory infections and to examine factors that influence prescribing antibiotics for children. DESIGN: A random, stratified sample of practising family physicians was surveyed with a mailed questionnaire. Initial nonresponders were mailed a second questionnaire. SETTING: British Columbia. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 608 general and family physicians. Response rate was 64%; 392/612 surveys were completed. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Physicians' self-reported prescribing practices and knowledge of and attitudes toward using antibiotics for children's upper respiratory tract infections. RESULTS: Relative to treatment guidelines developed for the study, most physicians responded appropriately to the cough (94%) and lobar pneumonia (99.1%) vignettes. More than half the physicians (56.5%) reported they would immediately prescribe antibiotics for tympanic membrane dysfunction, and 79.4% indicated they would prescribe antibiotics for pharyngitis without obtaining a laboratory culture. Approximately 25% of physicians in the study did not believe that prior antibiotic use increased personal risk for acquiring drug-resistant infection, and 23.1% did not believe that antibiotic use was an important factor in promoting resistance in their communities. CONCLUSION: Education in current treatment of pediatric upper respiratory tract illnesses and antimicrobial drug resistance is required. The high response to the questionnaire (64%) and the many requests from physicians to receive the project's educational materials (45%) indicate a high level of interest in this subject.
PMCID: PMC2018393  PMID: 11281085
21.  Mental Health Literacy of Depression: Gender Differences and Attitudinal Antecedents in a Representative British Sample 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49779.
Background
Poor mental health literacy and negative attitudes toward individuals with mental health disorders may impede optimal help-seeking for symptoms of mental ill-health. The present study examined the ability to recognize cases of depression as a function of respondent and target gender, as well as individual psychological differences in attitudes toward persons with depression.
Methods
In a representative British general population survey, the ability to correctly recognize vignettes of depression was assessed among 1,218 adults. Respondents also rated the vignettes along a number of attitudinal dimensions and completed measures of attitudes toward seeking psychological help, psychiatric skepticism, and anti-scientific attitudes.
Results
There were significant differences in the ability to correctly identify cases of depression as a function of respondent and target gender. Respondents were more likely to indicate that a male vignette did not suffer from a mental health disorder compared to a female vignette, and women were more likely than men to indicate that the male vignette suffered from a mental health disorder. Attitudes toward persons with depression were associated with attitudes toward seeking psychological help, psychiatric skepticism, and anti-scientific attitudes.
Conclusion
Initiatives that consider the impact of gender stereotypes as well as individual differences may enhance mental health literacy, which in turn is associated with improved help-seeking behaviors for symptoms of mental ill-health.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049779
PMCID: PMC3498187  PMID: 23166769
22.  Can physicians’ judgments of futility be accepted by patients?: A comparative survey of Japanese physicians and laypeople 
BMC Medical Ethics  2012;13:7.
Back ground
Empirical surveys about medical futility are scarce relative to its theoretical assumptions. We aimed to evaluate the difference of attitudes between laypeople and physicians towards the issue.
Methods
A questionnaire survey was designed. Japanese laypeople (via Internet) and physicians with various specialties (via paper-and-pencil questionnaire) were asked about whether they would provide potentially futile treatments for end-of-life patients in vignettes, important factors for judging a certain treatment futile, and threshold of quantitative futility which reflects the numerical probability that an act will produce the desired physiological effect. Also, the physicians were asked about their practical frequency and important reasons for futile treatments.
Results
1134 laypeople and 401 (80%) physicians responded. In all vignettes, the laypeople were more affirmative in providing treatments in question significantly. As the factors for judging futility, medical information and quality of life (QOL) of the patient were rather stressed by the physicians. Treatment wish of the family of the patient and psychological impact on patient side due to the treatment were rather stressed by laypeople. There were wide variations in the threshold of judging quantitative futility in both groups. 88.3% of the physicians had practical experience of providing futile treatment. Important reasons for it were communication problem with patient side and lack of systems regarding futility or foregoing such treatment.
Conclusion
Laypeople are more supportive of providing potentially futile treatments than physicians. The difference is explained by the importance of medical information, the patient family’s influence to decision-making and QOL of the patient. The threshold of qualitative futility is suggested to be arbitrary.
doi:10.1186/1472-6939-13-7
PMCID: PMC3461460  PMID: 22520744
23.  Surveillance of Patients With Breast Cancer After Curative-Intent Primary Treatment: Current Practice Patterns 
Journal of Oncology Practice  2011;8(2):79-83.
The intensity of post-treatment surveillance performed by ASCO members caring for patients with breast cancer varies markedly despite evidence from well-designed, adequately powered randomized controlled trials.
Purpose:
To determine how physicians monitor their patients after initial curative-intent treatment for breast carcinoma.
Methods:
A custom-designed survey instrument with four idealized patient vignettes (TNM stages 0 to III) was e-mailed to the 3,245 members of ASCO who had identified themselves as having breast cancer as a major focus of their practice. Respondents were asked how they use 12 specific follow-up modalities during post-treatment years 1 to 5 for each vignette. Mean, median, standard deviation, and range of the intensity of use for each modality were calculated for the four vignettes.
Results:
Of the 3,245 ASCO members surveyed, 1,012 (31%) responded. Of these, 915 (90%) were evaluable and were included in our analysis. Office visit, mammogram, complete blood count, and liver function tests were the most commonly recommended surveillance modalities. There was marked variation in surveillance intensity. For example, office visit was recommended 4.1 ± 2.2 times (mean ± SD) in year 1 after curative treatment of a patient with stage III breast cancer. Similar variation was observed for all modalities.
Conclusions:
The intensity of post-treatment surveillance performed by ASCO members caring for patients with breast cancer varies markedly despite evidence from well-designed, adequately powered randomized controlled trials. Many modalities not recommended by ASCO guidelines are used routinely, which constitutes evidence of overuse. The lack of consensus is likely due to multiple factors and constitutes an appealing target for interventions to rationalize surveillance.
doi:10.1200/JOP.2011.000289
PMCID: PMC3457833  PMID: 23077433
24.  Defining ‘Treatment as Usual’ for Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome: A Survey of Community Practitioners 
Schizophrenia and related disorders are often preceded by a period of attenuated psychosis-type symptoms, referred to as the “Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome.” Research suggests that many individuals experiencing attenuated symptoms seek and receive mental health services. The type of services and specific strategies employed, however, is as yet unknown.
Objective
The current study explores ‘treatment as usual’ for individuals with Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome through a national survey (N=303) of clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and general practitioners.
Methods
Practitioners responded to vignettes representing cases with full, attenuated, and no psychotic symptoms, and were asked to select interventions they believed would be helpful and harmful for each character.
Results
Responses suggested that practitioners treat Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome similarly to full-threshold psychosis.
Conclusions
Further development and dissemination of practice guidelines may be helpful to providers encountering this patient population.
doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201200045
PMCID: PMC3733093  PMID: 23203362
25.  Doctors as patients: postal survey examining consultants and general practitioners adherence to guidelines 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1999;319(7210):605-608.
Objectives
To examine the adherence by senior NHS medical staff to the BMA guidelines on the ethical responsibilities of doctors towards themselves and their families.
Design
Postal semistructured questionnaire.
Setting
Four randomly selected NHS trusts and three local medical committees in South Thames region.
Subjects
Consultants and principals in general practice.
Main outcome measures
Personal use of health services.
Results
The response rate was 64% (724) for general practitioners and 72% (427) for consultants after three mailings. Most (1106, 96%) respondents were registered with a general practitioner, although little use was made of their services. 159 (26%) general practitioners were registered with a general practitioner in their own practice and 80 (11%) admitted to looking after members of their family. 73 (24%) consultants would never see their general practitioner before obtaining consultant advice. Most consultants and general practitioners admitted to prescribing for themselves and their family. Responses to vignettes for different health problems indicated a general reluctance to take time off, but there were differences between consultants and general practitioners and by sex. Views on improvements needed included the possibility of a “doctor’s doctor,” access to out of area secondary care, an occupational health service for general practitioners, and regular health check ups.
Conclusion
The guidelines are largely not being followed, perhaps because of the difficulties of obtaining access to general practitioners outside working hours. The occupational health service should be expanded and a general practitioner service for NHS staff piloted.
Key messagesSenior doctors are not following the BMA guidelines on looking after their own and their families’ healthThey seem very reluctant to consult their general practitioner They prefer to self treat, carry on working, and consult informallyPotential barriers to access should be removed in order to improve their health
PMCID: PMC28211  PMID: 10473473

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