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1.  Physician reported perception in the treatment of high blood pressure does not correspond to practice 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:23.
High blood pressure is a significant health problem world-wide. Physician factors play a significant role in the suboptimal control of hypertension in the United States. We sought to better understand primary care physician's opinions regarding use of hypertension guidelines, patient and physician related barriers to treatment and physician treatment decision making in the management of hypertension as part of a first step in developing research tools and interventions designed to address these issues.
An IRB approved survey pertaining to physician opinion regarding the treatment of hypertension. Items consisted of questions regarding: 1) knowledge of hypertension treatment guidelines; 2) barriers to hypertension control (physician vs. patient); and 3) self-estimation of physician treatment of hypertension. Descriptive Statistics were used to describe results.
All physicians were board certified in family or general internal medicine (n = 28). Practices were located in urban (n = 12), suburban (n = 14) and inner city locations (n = 1). All physicians felt they did a good job of treating hypertension. Most physicians felt the biggest barrier to hypertension control was patient non-compliance. Half of physicians would fail to intensify treatment for hypertension when blood pressure was above recommended levels for all disease states studied (essential hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and renal disease).
Physician ability to assess personal performance in the treatment of hypertension and physician opinion that patient noncompliance is the greatest barrier to optimal hypertension control is contradictory to reported practice behavior. Optimal blood pressure control requires increased physician understanding on the evaluation and management of blood pressure. These data provide crucial formative data to enhance the content validity of physician education efforts currently underway to improve the treatment of blood pressure in the primary care setting.
PMCID: PMC2675522  PMID: 19341474
2.  Designing an implementation strategy to improve interprofessional shared decision making in sciatica: study protocol of the DISC study 
Sciatica is a common condition worldwide that is characterized by radiating leg pain and regularly caused by a herniated disc with nerve root compression. Sciatica patients with persisting leg pain after six to eight weeks were found to have similar clinical outcomes and associated costs after prolonged conservative treatment or surgery at one year follow-up. Guidelines recommend that the team of professionals involved in sciatica care and patients jointly decide about treatment options, so-called interprofessional shared decision making (SDM). However, there are strong indications that SDM for sciatica patients is not integrated in daily practice. We designed a study aiming to explore the barriers and facilitators associated with the everyday embedding of SDM for sciatica patients. All related relevant professionals and patients are involved to develop a tailored strategy to implement SDM for sciatica patients.
The study consists of two phases: identification of barriers and facilitators and development of an implementation strategy. First, barriers and facilitators are explored using semi-structured interviews among eight professionals of each (para)medical discipline involved in sciatica care (general practitioners, physical therapists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, and orthopedic surgeons). In addition, three focus groups will be conducted among patients. Second, the identified barriers and facilitators will be ranked using a questionnaire among a representative Dutch sample of 200 GPs, 200 physical therapists, 200 neurologists, all 124 neurosurgeons, 200 orthopedic surgeons, and 100 patients. A tailored team-based implementation strategy will be developed based on the results of the first phase using the principles of intervention mapping and an expert panel.
Little is known about effective strategies to increase the uptake of SDM. Most implementation strategies only target a single discipline, whereas multiple disciplines are involved in SDM among sciatica patients. The results of this study can be used as an example for implementing SDM in other patient groups receiving multidisciplinary complex care (e.g., elderly) and can be generalized to other countries with similar context, thereby contributing to a worldwide increase of SDM in preference sensitive choices.
PMCID: PMC3465186  PMID: 22704251
Sciatica; Lumbar radicular syndrome; Implementation strategy; Shared decision making; Barriers and facilitators; Decision aid
3.  Barriers to effective diagnosis and management of a bleeding patient with undiagnosed bleeding disorder across multiple specialties: results of a quantitative case-based survey 
Bleeding symptoms commonly seen by multiple physician specialties may belie undiagnosed congenital or acquired bleeding disorders. Acquired hemophilia is a potentially life-threatening cause of unexplained acute bleeding manifested by an abnormal activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) that does not correct with 1:1 mixing with normal plasma.
Practicing physicians (hematology/oncology, emergency medicine, geriatrics, internal medicine, rheumatology, obstetrics and gynecology, critical care medicine, and general surgery) completed an online survey based on a hypothetical case scenario.
Excluding surgeons and obstetrician/gynecologist respondents, 302 physicians (about 50 per specialty) were presented with an older adult woman complaining of recurrent epistaxis. Nearly 90% ordered a complete blood count and coagulation studies (aPTT, prothrombin time [PT]/international normalized ratio [INR]). Despite a prolonged aPTT of 42 seconds, <50% of nonhematologists would repeat the aPTT, and <45% would consult a hematologist; emergency medicine physicians were least likely (10%) and rheumatologists were most likely (43%) to consult. After presentation weeks later with bruising and abdominal/back pain, ≥90% of physicians within each specialty ordered a complete blood count or PT/INR/aPTT. Despite an aPTT of 63 seconds, the majority did not repeat the aPTT. At this point, approximately 75% of internal medicine and geriatric physicians indicated they would consult a hematologist, versus 47% in emergency medicine and 50% in critical care. All participants preferred abdominal computed tomography (80%–84%). After 12 hours of additional observation, 73% to 94% of respondents consulted a hematologist. Complete blood count revealed anemia and an aPTT twice the upper limit of normal; emergency medicine physicians remained least likely to request a consult.
Determining the cause of an abnormal coagulation study result should carry equal weight as looking for the site of bleeding and could be facilitated by consultation with a hematologist. Insight from this survey highlights knowledge and practice gaps that could be the target of focused educational initiatives.
PMCID: PMC3496520  PMID: 23152686
acquired hemophilia; hemorrhage; aPTT; partial thromboplastin time; coagulation disorders
4.  Interactions between Non-Physician Clinicians and Industry: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001561.
In a systematic review of studies of interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry, Quinn Grundy and colleagues found that many of the issues identified for physicians' industry interactions exist for non-physician clinicians.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
With increasing restrictions placed on physician–industry interactions, industry marketing may target other health professionals. Recent health policy developments confer even greater importance on the decision making of non-physician clinicians. The purpose of this systematic review is to examine the types and implications of non-physician clinician–industry interactions in clinical practice.
Methods and Findings
We searched MEDLINE and Web of Science from January 1, 1946, through June 24, 2013, according to PRISMA guidelines. Non-physician clinicians eligible for inclusion were: Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, Physician Assistants, pharmacists, dieticians, and physical or occupational therapists; trainee samples were excluded. Fifteen studies met inclusion criteria. Data were synthesized qualitatively into eight outcome domains: nature and frequency of industry interactions; attitudes toward industry; perceived ethical acceptability of interactions; perceived marketing influence; perceived reliability of industry information; preparation for industry interactions; reactions to industry relations policy; and management of industry interactions. Non-physician clinicians reported interacting with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Clinicians across disciplines met with pharmaceutical representatives regularly and relied on them for practice information. Clinicians frequently received industry “information,” attended sponsored “education,” and acted as distributors for similar materials targeted at patients. Clinicians generally regarded this as an ethical use of industry resources, and felt they could detect “promotion” while benefiting from industry “information.” Free samples were among the most approved and common ways that clinicians interacted with industry. Included studies were observational and of varying methodological rigor; thus, these findings may not be generalizable. This review is, however, the first to our knowledge to provide a descriptive analysis of this literature.
Non-physician clinicians' generally positive attitudes toward industry interactions, despite their recognition of issues related to bias, suggest that industry interactions are normalized in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. Industry relations policy should address all disciplines and be implemented consistently in order to mitigate conflicts of interest and address such interactions' potential to affect patient care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Making and selling health care goods (including drugs and devices) and services is big business. To maximize the profits they make for their shareholders, companies involved in health care build relationships with physicians by providing information on new drugs, organizing educational meetings, providing samples of their products, giving gifts, and holding sponsored events. These relationships help to keep physicians informed about new developments in health care but also create the potential for causing harm to patients and health care systems. These relationships may, for example, result in increased prescription rates of new, heavily marketed medications, which are often more expensive than their generic counterparts (similar unbranded drugs) and that are more likely to be recalled for safety reasons than long-established drugs. They may also affect the provision of health care services. Industry is providing an increasingly large proportion of routine health care services in many countries, so relationships built up with physicians have the potential to influence the commissioning of the services that are central to the treatment and well-being of patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
As a result of concerns about the tension between industry's need to make profits and the ethics underlying professional practice, restrictions are increasingly being placed on physician–industry interactions. In the US, for example, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act now requires US manufacturers of drugs, devices, and medical supplies that participate in federal health care programs to disclose all payments and gifts made to physicians and teaching hospitals. However, other health professionals, including those with authority to prescribe drugs such as pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and nurse practitioners are not covered by this legislation or by similar legislation in other settings, even though the restructuring of health care to prioritize primary care and multidisciplinary care models means that “non-physician clinicians” are becoming more numerous and more involved in decision-making and medication management. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers examine the nature and implications of the interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 15 published studies that examined interactions between non-physician clinicians (Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, midwives, pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and dieticians) and industry (corporations that produce health care goods and services). They extracted the data from 16 publications (representing 15 different studies) and synthesized them qualitatively (combined the data and reached word-based, rather than numerical, conclusions) into eight outcome domains, including the nature and frequency of interactions, non-physician clinicians' attitudes toward industry, and the perceived ethical acceptability of interactions. In the research the authors identified, non-physician clinicians reported frequent interactions with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Most non-physician clinicians met industry representatives regularly, received gifts and samples, and attended educational events or received educational materials (some of which they distributed to patients). In these studies, non-physician clinicians generally regarded these interactions positively and felt they were an ethical and appropriate use of industry resources. Only a minority of non-physician clinicians felt that marketing influenced their own practice, although a larger percentage felt that their colleagues would be influenced. A sizeable proportion of non-physician clinicians questioned the reliability of industry information, but most were confident that they could detect biased information and therefore rated this information as reliable, valuable, or useful.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings suggest that non-physician clinicians generally have positive attitudes toward industry interactions but recognize issues related to bias and conflict of interest. Because these findings are based on a small number of studies, most of which were undertaken in the US, they may not be generalizable to other countries. Moreover, they provide no quantitative assessment of the interaction between non-physician clinicians and industry and no information about whether industry interactions affect patient care outcomes. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that industry interactions are normalized (seen as standard) in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. This normalization creates the potential for serious risks to patients and health care systems. The researchers suggest that it may be unrealistic to expect that non-physician clinicians can be taught individually how to interact with industry ethically or how to detect and avert bias, particularly given the ubiquitous nature of marketing and promotional materials. Instead, they suggest, the environment in which non-physician clinicians practice should be structured to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of interactions with industry.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by James S. Yeh and Aaron S. Kesselheim
The American Medical Association provides guidance for physicians on interactions with pharmaceutical industry representatives, information about the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, and a toolkit for preparing Physician Payments Sunshine Act reports
The International Council of Nurses provides some guidance on industry interactions in its position statement on nurse-industry relations
The UK General Medical Council provides guidance on financial and commercial arrangements and conflicts of interest as part of its good medical practice website, which describes what is required of all registered doctors in the UK
Understanding and Responding to Pharmaceutical Promotion: A Practical Guide is a manual prepared by Health Action International and the World Health Organization that schools of medicine and pharmacy can use to train students how to recognize and respond to pharmaceutical promotion.
The Institute of Medicine's Report on Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice recommends steps to identify, limit, and manage conflicts of interest
The University of California, San Francisco, Office of Continuing Medical Education offers a course called Marketing of Medicines
PMCID: PMC3841103  PMID: 24302892
5.  Personalised medicine in Canada: a survey of adoption and practice in oncology, cardiology and family medicine 
BMJ Open  2011;1(1):e000110.
In order to provide baseline data on genetic testing as a key element of personalised medicine (PM), Canadian physicians were surveyed to determine roles, perceptions and experiences in this area. The survey measured attitudes, practice, observed benefits and impacts, and barriers to adoption.
A self-administered survey was provided to Canadian oncologists, cardiologists and family physicians and responses were obtained online, by mail or by fax. The survey was designed to be exploratory. Data were compared across specialties and geography.
The overall response rate was 8.3%. Of the respondents, 43%, 30% and 27% were family physicians, cardiologists and oncologists, respectively. A strong majority of respondents agreed that genetic testing and PM can have a positive impact on their practice; however, only 51% agreed that there is sufficient evidence to order such tests. A low percentage of respondents felt that they were sufficiently informed and confident practicing in this area, although many reported that genetic tests they have ordered have benefited their patients. Half of the respondents agreed that genetic tests that would be useful in their practice are not readily available. A lack of practice guidelines, limited provider knowledge and lack of evidence-based clinical information were cited as the main barriers to practice. Differences across provinces were observed for measures relating to access to testing and the state of practice. Differences across specialties were observed for the state of practice, reported benefits and access to testing.
Canadian physicians recognise the benefits of genetic testing and PM; however, they lack the education, information and support needed to practice effectively in this area. Variability in practice and access to testing across specialties and across Canada was observed. These results support a need for national strategies and resources to facilitate physician knowledge, training and practice in PM.
Article summary
Article focus
Canadian physicians' perceptions and experience relating to genetic testing and personalised medicine (PM).
Practice and impact of genetic testing and PM in Canada and across specialties.
Implications for continued adoption of genetic testing and PM in Canada across specialties.
Key messages
Family physicians, cardiologists and oncologists across Canada are practicing PM and recognise its benefits and potential impacts.
Physicians reported a number of barriers to the adoption of PM that are currently affecting medical practice in Canada.
The practice of and access to genetic testing and PM varies across specialties and provinces, which will have an impact on their continued adoption.
Strengths and limitations of this study
First national survey of physicians on this topic
Allows for a baseline measure of practice for comparison in future studies
Medical discipline specific study
Administration of the survey over the period 26 May to 15 September 2010 may have negatively influenced the response rate.
There may have been differences in respondents based on the medium used to complete the survey (electronic vs paper-based).
The topic of genetic testing and personalised medicine may not have been relevant to all physicians who were sent the survey, which may have negatively affected the response rate.
All survey results were based on physicians' self-reports.
The physician contact information was purchased through a third party and some data were incomplete or inaccurate.
PMCID: PMC3191410  PMID: 22021765
6.  Management of low back pain in general practice – is it of acceptable quality: an observational study among 25 general practices in South Tyrol (Italy) 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:148.
There are several guidelines dealing with the management of low back pain (LBP), but only few studies on the quality of care provided within General Practices as judged against those guidelines.
The objective of this study is to analyse the management of LBP in Italian General Practice and compare it with guideline recommendations.
In this observational study, all patients visiting their General Practitioners (GPs) for treatment of LBP within a 8-week period were monitored for at least four weeks with regard to symptoms and diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Management of LBP was judged by pre-defined quality indicators based on guideline recommendations.
Twenty-five of 114 eligible GPs participated in the study, representing a total of 43,012 registered patients. Of the 475 patients complaining of LBP and monitored for four weeks, 55.8% were diagnosed as having acute lumbar pain, 13.5% chronic lumbar pain, 17.1% acute sciatica, and 12.6% chronic sciatica; 76.0% underwent no technical investigations, 21.7% underwent x-rays, 5.5% MRI and 4% CT scans; 20.4% were referred to secondary care; 93.3% of all patients received some medication. In those receiving a medication, in 88.3% it was an NSAID, in 6.3% Paracetamol, in 10.4% Paracetamol combined with Codeine, and in 9% a muscle relaxants. When physiotherapy was prescribed (17,1%), it was mostly massage. Hardly more than 50% of GPs (partially) followed locally established guidelines, while the remainder seemed not to follow guidelines at all.
Our study reveals gross deviations of GP management of LBP from current guidelines and points to two different types of deviators: those who partially follow guidelines, and those who do not follow them at all. Further research should evaluate whether these two types of deviation are best addressed by different foci of education, i.e. on knowledge versus attitudes, respectively.
PMCID: PMC3850994  PMID: 24090155
Low back pain; General practice; Guideline adherence; Diagnostic imaging
7.  Outcome of invasive treatment modalities on back pain and sciatica: an evidence-based review 
European Spine Journal  2005;15(Suppl 1):S82-S92.
Within the framework of evidence-based medicine high-quality randomised trials and systematic reviews are considered a necessary prerequisite for progress in orthopaedics. This paper summarises the currently available evidence on surgical and other invasive procedures for low back pain. Results of systematic reviews conducted within the framework of the Cochrane Back Review Group were used. Data were gathered from the latest Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2005, Issue 2. The Cochrane reviews were updated using the evidence summary on surgery and other invasive procedures from the COST B13 European Guidelines for the Management of Acute and Chronic Non-Specific Low Back Pain. Facet joint, epidural, trigger point and sclerosant injections have not clearly been shown to be effective and can consequently not be recommended. There is no scientific evidence on the effectiveness of spinal stenosis surgery. Surgical discectomy may be considered for selected patients with sciatica due to lumbar disc prolapses that fail to resolve with the conservative management. Cognitive intervention Combined with exercises is recommended for chronic low back pain, and fusion surgery may be considered only in carefully selected patients after active rehabilitation programmes during 2 years time have failed. Demanding surgical fusion techniques are not better than the traditional posterolateral fusion without internal fixation.
PMCID: PMC3454546  PMID: 16320030
Back pain; Sciatica; Invasive treatment; Surgery; Evidence review
8.  Association between sitting and occupational LBP 
European Spine Journal  2006;16(2):283-298.
Low back pain (LBP) has been identified as one of the most costly disorders among the worldwide working population. Sitting has been associated with risk of developing LBP. The purpose of this literature review is to assemble and describe evidence of research on the association between sitting and the presence of LBP. The systematic literature review was restricted to those occupations that require sitting for more than half of working time and where workers have physical co-exposure factors such as whole body vibration (WBV) and/or awkward postures. Twenty-five studies were carefully selected and critically reviewed, and a model was developed to describe the relationships between these factors. Sitting alone was not associated with the risk of developing LBP. However, when the co-exposure factors of WBV and awkward postures were added to the analysis, the risk of LBP increased fourfold. The occupational group that showed the strongest association with LBP was Helicopter Pilots (OR=9.0, 90% CI 4.9–16.4). For all studied occupations, the odds ratio (OR) increased when WBV and/or awkward postures were analyzed as co-exposure factors. WBV while sitting was also independently associated with non-specific LBP and sciatica. Vibration dose, as well as vibration magnitude and duration of exposure, were associated with LBP in all occupations. Exposure duration was associated with LBP to a greater extent than vibration magnitude. However, for the presence of sciatica, this difference was not found. Awkward posture was also independently associated with the presence of LBP and/or sciatica. The risk effect of prolonged sitting increased significantly when the factors of WBV and awkward postures were combined. Sitting by itself does not increase the risk of LBP. However, sitting for more than half a workday, in combination with WBV and/or awkward postures, does increase the likelihood of having LBP and/or sciatica, and it is the combination of those risk factors, which leads to the greatest increase in LBP.
PMCID: PMC2200681  PMID: 16736200
Sitting; LBP; Sciatica; Epidemiology; Review
9.  Influence of Low Back Pain and Prognostic Value of MRI in Sciatica Patients in Relation to Back Pain 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90800.
Patients with sciatica frequently complain about associated back pain. It is not known whether there are prognostic relevant differences in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) findings between sciatica patients with and without disabling back pain.
The study population contained patients with sciatica who underwent a baseline MRI to assess eligibility for a randomized trial designed to compare the efficacy of early surgery with prolonged conservative care for sciatica. Two neuroradiologists and one neurosurgeon independently evaluated all MR images. The MRI readers were blinded to symptom status. The MRI findings were compared between sciatica patients with and without disabling back pain. The presence of disabling back pain at baseline was correlated with perceived recovery at one year.
Of 379 included sciatica patients, 158 (42%) had disabling back pain. Of the patients with both sciatica and disabling back pain 68% did reveal a herniated disc with nerve root compression on MRI, compared to 88% of patients with predominantly sciatica (P<0.001). The existence of disabling back pain in sciatica at baseline was negatively associated with perceived recovery at one year (Odds ratio [OR] 0.32, 95% Confidence Interval 0.18–0.56, P<0.001). Sciatica patients with disabling back pain in absence of nerve root compression on MRI at baseline reported less perceived recovery at one year compared to those with predominantly sciatica and nerve root compression on MRI (50% vs 91%, P<0.001).
Sciatica patients with disabling low back pain reported an unfavorable outcome at one-year follow-up compared to those with predominantly sciatica. If additionally a clear herniated disc with nerve root compression on MRI was absent, the results were even worse.
PMCID: PMC3956604  PMID: 24637890
10.  PRECISE - pregabalin in addition to usual care for sciatica: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial 
Trials  2013;14:213.
Sciatica is a type of neuropathic pain that is characterised by pain radiating into the leg. It is often accompanied by low back pain and neurological deficits in the lower limb. While this condition may cause significant suffering for the individual, the lack of evidence supporting effective treatments for sciatica makes clinical management difficult. Our objectives are to determine the efficacy of pregabalin on reducing leg pain intensity and its cost-effectiveness in patients with sciatica.
PRECISE is a prospectively registered, double-blind, randomised placebo-controlled trial of pregabalin compared to placebo, in addition to usual care. Inclusion criteria include moderate to severe leg pain below the knee with evidence of nerve root/spinal nerve involvement. Participants will be randomised to receive either pregabalin with usual care (n = 102) or placebo with usual care (n = 102) for 8 weeks. The medicine dosage will be titrated up to the participant’s optimal dose, to a maximum 600 mg per day. Follow up consultations will monitor individual progress, tolerability and adverse events. Usual care, if deemed appropriate by the study doctor, may include a referral for physical or manual therapy and/or prescription of analgesic medication. Participants, doctors and researchers collecting participant data will be blinded to treatment allocation. Participants will be assessed at baseline and at weeks 2, 4, 8, 12, 26 and 52. The primary outcome will determine the efficacy of pregabalin in reducing leg pain intensity. Secondary outcomes will include back pain intensity, disability and quality of life. Data analysis will be blinded and by intention-to-treat. A parallel economic evaluation will be conducted from health sector and societal perspectives.
This study will establish the efficacy of pregabalin in reducing leg pain intensity in patients with sciatica and provide important information regarding the effect of pregabalin treatment on disability and quality of life. The impact of this research may allow the future development of a cost-effective conservative treatment strategy for patients with sciatica.
Trial registration, ACTRN 12613000530729
PMCID: PMC3711833  PMID: 23845078
Sciatica; Pregabalin; Neuropathic pain; Randomised control trial
11.  Prognostic factors in non-surgically treated sciatica: A systematic review 
When present sciatica is considered an obstacle to recovery in low back pain patients, yet evidence is limited regarding prognostic factors for persistent disability in this patient group. The aim of this study is to describe and summarise the evidence regarding prognostic factors for sciatica in non-surgically treated cohorts. Understanding the prognostic factors in sciatica and their relative importance may allow the identification of patients with particular risk factors who might benefit from early or specific types of treatment in order to optimise outcome.
A systematic literature search was conducted using Medline, EMBASE and CINAHL electronic databases. Prospective cohort studies describing subjects with sciatica and measuring pain, disability or recovery outcomes were included. Studies of cohorts comprised entirely of surgically treated patients were excluded and mixed surgically and conservatively treated cohorts were included only if the results were analysed separately by treatment group or if the analysis was adjusted for treatment.
Seven adequate or high quality eligible studies were identified. There were conflicting but mainly negative results regarding the influence of baseline pain severity, neurological deficit, nerve root tension signs, duration of symptoms and radiological findings on outcome. A number of factors including age, gender, smoking, previous history of sciatica and heaviness of work do not appear to influence outcome. In contrast to studies of low back pain and purely surgically treated sciatica cohorts, psychological factors were rarely investigated.
At present, the heterogeneity of the available studies makes it difficult to draw firm conclusions about sciatica prognosis, and highlights the need for further research for this group of patients. Large scale prospective studies of high methodological quality, using a well-defined, consistent definition of sciatica and investigating psychosocial factors alongside clinical and radiological findings are recommended to identify prognostic factors in this population.
PMCID: PMC3287121  PMID: 21943339
12.  Significant differences among physician specialties in management recommendations of BRCA1 mutation carriers 
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has published guidelines for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOCS) management. Little data exist on compliance with these guidelines among different physician specialties. We performed an on-line case-based survey by randomly sampling physicians from five specialties, Family Medicine (FM), Obstetrics and Gynecology (OG), General Surgery (GS), Internal Medicine (IM), and Hematology and Oncology (HO). The physicians (n = 225) were asked to provide HBOCS management of healthy women ages 40–42 in the presence of a familial BRCA1 mutation. For women negative for the BRCA1 mutation, 59% of the physicians recommended appropriate surveillance although with significant differences among specialties; P = 0.01. Using an aggregate screening intensity score, physicians clearly recommended more intense screening for mutation positive than negative women (P < 0.0001), but only 16% of physicians followed NCCN guidelines for BRCA1-positive women. Seventy-six percent of all physicians recommended breast MRI with significant variation among specialties ranging from 62% of FM to 89% of OG (P = 0.0020). Similarly, 63% of physicians recommended prophylactic oophorectomy, with 76 and 78% of GS and OG compared to 38% of IM (P < 0.0001) and 57% recommended prophylactic mastectomy ranging from 84% of HO to 32% of FM (P < 0.0001). Independent of specialty, respondents with BRCA testing experience recommended more intense management than those without; P = 0.021. Management recommendations of BRCA1 mutation carriers are not consistent with NCCN guidelines and vary by medical specialty and genetic testing experience. Targeted education of physicians by specialty is needed, so that optimal management is offered to these high-risk women.
PMCID: PMC3155891  PMID: 21465171
BRCA1; BRCA; Surveillance; Guidelines; Physicians
13.  Variations among Primary Care Physicians in Exercise Advice, Imaging, and Analgesics for Musculoskeletal Pain: Results from a Factorial Experiment 
Arthritis care & research  2014;66(1):147-156.
To examine whether medical decisions regarding evaluation and management of musculoskeletal pain conditions varied systematically by characteristics of the patient or provider.
We conducted a balanced factorial experiment among primary care physicians in the U.S. Physicians (N=192) viewed two videos of different patients (actors) presenting with pain: (1) undiagnosed sciatica symptoms or (2) diagnosed knee osteoarthritis. Systematic variations in patient gender, socioeconomic status (SES), race, physician gender and experience (<20 vs. ≥20 years in practice) permitted estimation of unconfounded effects. Analysis of variance was used to evaluate associations between patient or provider attributes and clinical decisions. Quality of decisions was defined based on the current recommendations of the ACR, American Pain Society, and clinical expert consensus.
Despite current recommendations, under one-third of physicians would provide exercise advice (30.2% for osteoarthritis, 32.8% for sciatica). Physicians with fewer years in practice were more likely to provide advice on lifestyle changes, particularly exercise (P<0.01), and to prescribe NSAIDs for pain relief, both of which were appropriate and consistent with current recommendations for care. Newer physicians ordered fewer tests, particularly basic laboratory investigations or urinalysis. Test ordering decreased as organizational emphasis on business or profits increased. Patient factors and physician gender had no consistent effects on pain evaluation or treatment.
Physician education on disease management recommendations regarding exercise and analgesics, and implementation of quality measures may be useful, particularly for physicians with more years in practice.
PMCID: PMC4067704  PMID: 24376249
14.  Implementing the 2009 Institute of Medicine recommendations on resident physician work hours, supervision, and safety 
Long working hours and sleep deprivation have been a facet of physician training in the US since the advent of the modern residency system. However, the scientific evidence linking fatigue with deficits in human performance, accidents and errors in industries from aeronautics to medicine, nuclear power, and transportation has mounted over the last 40 years. This evidence has also spawned regulations to help ensure public safety across safety-sensitive industries, with the notable exception of medicine.
In late 2007, at the behest of the US Congress, the Institute of Medicine embarked on a year-long examination of the scientific evidence linking resident physician sleep deprivation with clinical performance deficits and medical errors. The Institute of Medicine’s report, entitled “Resident duty hours: Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety”, published in January 2009, recommended new limits on resident physician work hours and workload, increased supervision, a heightened focus on resident physician safety, training in structured handovers and quality improvement, more rigorous external oversight of work hours and other aspects of residency training, and the identification of expanded funding sources necessary to implement the recommended reforms successfully and protect the public and resident physicians themselves from preventable harm.
Given that resident physicians comprise almost a quarter of all physicians who work in hospitals, and that taxpayers, through Medicare and Medicaid, fund graduate medical education, the public has a deep investment in physician training. Patients expect to receive safe, high-quality care in the nation’s teaching hospitals. Because it is their safety that is at issue, their voices should be central in policy decisions affecting patient safety. It is likewise important to integrate the perspectives of resident physicians, policy makers, and other constituencies in designing new policies. However, since its release, discussion of the Institute of Medicine report has been largely confined to the medical education community, led by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
To begin gathering these perspectives and developing a plan to implement safer work hours for resident physicians, a conference entitled “Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety: What will it take to implement the Institute of Medicine recommendations?” was held at Harvard Medical School on June 17–18, 2010. This White Paper is a product of a diverse group of 26 representative stakeholders bringing relevant new information and innovative practices to bear on a critical patient safety problem. Given that our conference included experts from across disciplines with diverse perspectives and interests, not every recommendation was endorsed by each invited conference participant. However, every recommendation made here was endorsed by the majority of the group, and many were endorsed unanimously. Conference members participated in the process, reviewed the final product, and provided input before publication. Participants provided their individual perspectives, which do not necessarily represent the formal views of any organization.
In September 2010 the ACGME issued new rules to go into effect on July 1, 2011. Unfortunately, they stop considerably short of the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations and those endorsed by this conference. In particular, the ACGME only applied the limitation of 16 hours to first-year resident physicans. Thus, it is clear that policymakers, hospital administrators, and residency program directors who wish to implement safer health care systems must go far beyond what the ACGME will require. We hope this White Paper will serve as a guide and provide encouragement for that effort.
Resident physician workload and supervision
By the end of training, a resident physician should be able to practice independently. Yet much of resident physicians’ time is dominated by tasks with little educational value. The caseload can be so great that inadequate reflective time is left for learning based on clinical experiences. In addition, supervision is often vaguely defined and discontinuous. Medical malpractice data indicate that resident physicians are frequently named in lawsuits, most often for lack of supervision. The recommendations are: The ACGME should adjust resident physicians workload requirements to optimize educational value. Resident physicians as well as faculty should be involved in work redesign that eliminates nonessential and noneducational activity from resident physician dutiesMechanisms should be developed for identifying in real time when a resident physician’s workload is excessive, and processes developed to activate additional providersTeamwork should be actively encouraged in delivery of patient care. Historically, much of medical training has focused on individual knowledge, skills, and responsibility. As health care delivery has become more complex, it will be essential to train resident and attending physicians in effective teamwork that emphasizes collective responsibility for patient care and recognizes the signs, both individual and systemic, of a schedule and working conditions that are too demanding to be safeHospitals should embrace the opportunities that resident physician training redesign offers. Hospitals should recognize and act on the potential benefits of work redesign, eg, increased efficiency, reduced costs, improved quality of care, and resident physician and attending job satisfactionAttending physicians should supervise all hospital admissions. Resident physicians should directly discuss all admissions with attending physicians. Attending physicians should be both cognizant of and have input into the care patients are to receive upon admission to the hospitalInhouse supervision should be required for all critical care services, including emergency rooms, intensive care units, and trauma services. Resident physicians should not be left unsupervised to care for critically ill patients. In settings in which the acuity is high, physicians who have completed residency should provide direct supervision for resident physicians. Supervising physicians should always be physically in the hospital for supervision of resident physicians who care for critically ill patientsThe ACGME should explicitly define “good” supervision by specialty and by year of training. Explicit requirements for intensity and level of training for supervision of specific clinical scenarios should be providedCenters for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should use graduate medical education funding to provide incentives to programs with proven, effective levels of supervision. Although this action would require federal legislation, reimbursement rules would help to ensure that hospitals pay attention to the importance of good supervision and require it from their training programs
Resident physician work hours
Although the IOM “Sleep, supervision and safety” report provides a comprehensive review and discussion of all aspects of graduate medical education training, the report’s focal point is its recommendations regarding the hours that resident physicians are currently required to work. A considerable body of scientific evidence, much of it cited by the Institute of Medicine report, describes deteriorating performance in fatigued humans, as well as specific studies on resident physician fatigue and preventable medical errors.
The question before this conference was what work redesign and cultural changes are needed to reform work hours as recommended by the Institute of Medicine’s evidence-based report? Extensive scientific data demonstrate that shifts exceeding 12–16 hours without sleep are unsafe. Several principles should be followed in efforts to reduce consecutive hours below this level and achieve safer work schedules. The recommendations are: Limit resident physician work hours to 12–16 hour maximum shiftsA minimum of 10 hours off duty should be scheduled between shiftsResident physician input into work redesign should be actively solicitedSchedules should be designed that adhere to principles of sleep and circadian science; this includes careful consideration of the effects of multiple consecutive night shifts, and provision of adequate time off after night work, as specified in the IOM reportResident physicians should not be scheduled up to the maximum permissible limits; emergencies frequently occur that require resident physicians to stay longer than their scheduled shifts, and this should be anticipated in scheduling resident physicians’ work shiftsHospitals should anticipate the need for iterative improvement as new schedules are initiated; be prepared to learn from the initial phase-in, and change the plan as neededAs resident physician work hours are redesigned, attending physicians should also be considered; a potential consequence of resident physician work hour reduction and increased supervisory requirements may be an increase in work for attending physicians; this should be carefully monitored, and adjustments to attending physician work schedules made as needed to prevent unsafe work hours or working conditions for this group“Home call” should be brought under the overall limits of working hours; work load and hours should be monitored in each residency program to ensure that resident physicians and fellows on home call are getting sufficient sleepMedicare funding for graduate medical education in each hospital should be linked with adherence to the Institute of Medicine limits on resident physician work hours
Moonlighting by resident physicians
The Institute of Medicine report recommended including external as well as internal moonlighting in working hour limits. The recommendation is: All moonlighting work hours should be included in the ACGME working hour limits and actively monitored. Hospitals should formalize a moonlighting policy and establish systems for actively monitoring resident physician moonlighting
Safety of resident physicians
The “Sleep, supervision and safety” report also addresses fatigue-related harm done to resident physicians themselves. The report focuses on two main sources of physical injury to resident physicians impaired by fatigue, ie, needle-stick exposure to blood-borne pathogens and motor vehicle crashes. Providing safe transportation home for resident physicians is a logistical and financial challenge for hospitals. Educating physicians at all levels on the dangers of fatigue is clearly required to change driving behavior so that safe hospital-funded transport home is used effectively. Fatigue-related injury prevention (including not driving while drowsy) should be taught in medical school and during residency, and reinforced with attending physicians; hospitals and residency programs must be informed that resident physicians’ ability to judge their own level of impairment is impaired when they are sleep deprived; hence, leaving decisions about the capacity to drive to impaired resident physicians is not recommendedHospitals should provide transportation to all resident physicians who report feeling too tired to drive safely; in addition, although consecutive work should not exceed 16 hours, hospitals should provide transportation for all resident physicians who, because of unforeseen reasons or emergencies, work for longer than consecutive 24 hours; transportation under these circumstances should be automatically provided to house staff, and should not rely on self-identification or request
Training in effective handovers and quality improvement
Handover practice for resident physicians, attendings, and other health care providers has long been identified as a weak link in patient safety throughout health care settings. Policies to improve handovers of care must be tailored to fit the appropriate clinical scenario, recognizing that information overload can also be a problem. At the heart of improving handovers is the organizational effort to improve quality, an effort in which resident physicians have typically been insufficiently engaged. The recommendations are: Hospitals should train attending and resident physicians in effective handovers of careHospitals should create uniform processes for handovers that are tailored to meet each clinical setting; all handovers should be done verbally and face-to-face, but should also utilize written toolsWhen possible, hospitals should integrate hand-over tools into their electronic medical records (EMR) systems; these systems should be standardized to the extent possible across residency programs in a hospital, but may be tailored to the needs of specific programs and services; federal government should help subsidize adoption of electronic medical records by hospitals to improve signoutWhen feasible, handovers should be a team effort including nurses, patients, and familiesHospitals should include residents in their quality improvement and patient safety efforts; the ACGME should specify in their core competency requirements that resident physicians work on quality improvement projects; likewise, the Joint Commission should require that resident physicians be included in quality improvement and patient safety programs at teaching hospitals; hospital administrators and residency program directors should create opportunities for resident physicians to become involved in ongoing quality improvement projects and root cause analysis teams; feedback on successful quality improvement interventions should be shared with resident physicians and broadly disseminatedQuality improvement/patient safety concepts should be integral to the medical school curriculum; medical school deans should elevate the topics of patient safety, quality improvement, and teamwork; these concepts should be integrated throughout the medical school curriculum and reinforced throughout residency; mastery of these concepts by medical students should be tested on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) stepsFederal government should support involvement of resident physicians in quality improvement efforts; initiatives to improve quality by including resident physicians in quality improvement projects should be financially supported by the Department of Health and Human Services
Monitoring and oversight of the ACGME
While the ACGME is a key stakeholder in residency training, external voices are essential to ensure that public interests are heard in the development and monitoring of standards. Consequently, the Institute of Medicine report recommended external oversight and monitoring through the Joint Commission and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The recommendations are: Make comprehensive fatigue management a Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goal; fatigue is a safety concern not only for resident physicians, but also for nurses, attending physicians, and other health care workers; the Joint Commission should seek to ensure that all health care workers, not just resident physicians, are working as safely as possibleFederal government, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, should encourage development of comprehensive fatigue management programs which all health systems would eventually be required to implementMake ACGME compliance with working hours a “ condition of participation” for reimbursement of direct and indirect graduate medical education costs; financial incentives will greatly increase the adoption of and compliance with ACGME standards
Future financial support for implementation
The Institute of Medicine’s report estimates that $1.7 billion (in 2008 dollars) would be needed to implement its recommendations. Twenty-five percent of that amount ($376 million) will be required just to bring hospitals into compliance with the existing 2003 ACGME rules. Downstream savings to the health care system could potentially result from safer care, but these benefits typically do not accrue to hospitals and residency programs, who have been asked historically to bear the burden of residency reform costs. The recommendations are: The Institute of Medicine should convene a panel of stakeholders, including private and public funders of health care and graduate medical education, to lay down the concrete steps necessary to identify and allocate the resources needed to implement the recommendations contained in the IOM “Resident duty hours: Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety” report. Conference participants suggested several approaches to engage public and private support for this initiativeEfforts to find additional funding to implement the Institute of Medicine recommendations should focus more broadly on patient safety and health care delivery reform; policy efforts focused narrowly upon resident physician work hours are less likely to succeed than broad patient safety initiatives that include residency redesign as a key componentHospitals should view the Institute of Medicine recommendations as an opportunity to begin resident physician work redesign projects as the core of a business model that embraces safety and ultimately saves resourcesBoth the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should take the Institute of Medicine recommendations into consideration when promulgating rules for innovation grantsThe National Health Care Workforce Commission should consider the Institute of Medicine recommendations when analyzing the nation’s physician workforce needs
Recommendations for future research
Conference participants concurred that convening the stakeholders and agreeing on a research agenda was key. Some observed that some sectors within the medical education community have been reluctant to act on the data. Several logical funders for future research were identified. But above all agencies, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the only stakeholder that funds graduate medical education upstream and will reap savings downstream if preventable medical errors are reduced as a result of reform of resident physician work hours.
PMCID: PMC3630963  PMID: 23616719
resident; hospital; working hours; safety
15.  Differential prescribing of opioid analgesics according to physician specialty for Medicaid patients with chronic noncancer pain diagnoses 
Opioid analgesics have the potential to considerably increase the quality of life of individuals experiencing chronic pain; however, they are also associated with the potential for significant side effects. Physicians’ opioid-prescribing practices may be influenced by various factors; however, to date, there is little research investigating the effect of practitioner specialty on opioid prescriptions. Accordingly, the authors of this study assessed this aspect of opioid prescribing using a database of Medicaid claims in North Carolina, USA, over a one-year period.
Despite >20 years of studies investigating the characteristics of patients seeking or receiving opioid analgesics, research characterizing factors associated with physicians’ opioid prescribing practices has been inconclusive, and the role of practitioner specialty in opioid prescribing practices remains largely unknown.
To examine the relationships between physicians’ and other providers’ primary specialties and their opioid prescribing practices among patients with chronic noncancer pain (CNCP).
Prescriptions for opioids filled by 81,459 Medicaid patients with CNCP in North Carolina (USA), 18 to 64 years of age, enrolled at any point during a one-year study period were examined. χ2 statistics were used to examine bivariate differences in prescribing practices according to specialty. For multivariable analyses, maximum-likelihood logistic regression models were used to examine the effect of specialty on prescribing practices, controlling for patients’ pain diagnoses and demographic characteristics.
Of prescriptions filled by patients with CNCP, who constituted 6.4% of the total sample of 1.28 million individuals, 12.0% were for opioids. General practitioner/family medicine specialists and internists were least likely to prescribe opioids, and orthopedists were most likely. Across specialties, men were more likely to receive opioids than women, as were white individuals relative to other races/ethnicities. In multivariate analyses, all specialties except internal medicine had higher odds of prescribing an opioid than general practitioners: orthopedists, OR 7.1 (95% CI 6.7 to 7.5); dentists, OR 3.5 (95% CI 3.3 to 3.6); and emergency medicine physicians, OR 2.7 (95% CI 2.6 to 2.8).
Significant differences in opioid prescribing practices across prescriber specialties may be reflective of differing norms concerning the appropriateness of opioids for the control of chronic pain. If so, sharing these norms across specialties may improve the care of patients with CNCP.
PMCID: PMC4158932  PMID: 24809067
Chronic noncancer pain; Medicaid; Medical specialties; Opioids; Prescribing patterns
16.  The nexus of evidence, context, and patient preferences in primary care: postal survey of Canadian family physicians 
BMC Family Practice  2003;4:13.
Evidence-based medicine is gaining prominence in primary care. This study sought to examine the relationships among family physicians' attitudes toward EBM, contextual factors, and clinical decision-making and to investigate the factors that contribute to 'contrary to evidence' clinical decisions.
A postal survey mailed to a random sample of Canadian family physicians, stratified by age, gender, and practice setting. The main outcome measures were respondents' attitudes toward evidence-based medicine and preferred treatment option in four simulated clinical scenarios with wording randomly varied.
Canadian family physicians report positive attitudes toward EBM, believe that EBM improves patient care, and agree that research findings are useful in the day-to-day management of patients. The scenario study showed that physicians were strongly influenced by a patient demanding/requesting either a screening test (adjusted Odds Ratio [OR] 5.15, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.9 to 9.2 for demand mammogram; adjusted OR 3.11, 95% CI 1.7 to 5.6 for request mammogram) or a diagnostic test (adjusted OR 3.95, 95% CI 2.1 to 7.5 for demand lumbar spine x-ray; adjusted OR 2.08, 95% CI 1.1 to 4.1 for request x-ray). This relationship did not hold for the treatment scenario (prescribing antibiotics for acute bronchitis) where hours of practice (adjusted OR 3.5, 95% CI 1.1 to 11.7 for 50+ hours practice; adjusted OR 1.79, 95% CI 1.0 to 3.2 for 20–49 hours practice) and type of practice (adjusted OR 2.22, 95% CI 1.3 to 3.7 for solo practice) were significant. 80% of respondents reported teaching breast self-examination with female physicians twice as likely as males (adjusted OR 2.11, 95% CI 1.2 to 3.8).
Canadian family physicians are favourably disposed to the precepts of evidence-based medicine; however, patient expectations and practice characteristics can influence physicians such that decisions are taken that are broadly contrary to evidence. Recently revised models of EBM emphasizing the importance of patient preferences and the clinical context appear to reflect more accurately the clinical reality of primary care physicians.
PMCID: PMC212556  PMID: 14505494
17.  A Novel Tool for the Assessment of Pain: Validation in Low Back Pain 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(4):e1000047.
Joachim Scholz and colleagues develop and validate an assessment tool that distinguishes between radicular and axial low back pain.
Adequate pain assessment is critical for evaluating the efficacy of analgesic treatment in clinical practice and during the development of new therapies. Yet the currently used scores of global pain intensity fail to reflect the diversity of pain manifestations and the complexity of underlying biological mechanisms. We have developed a tool for a standardized assessment of pain-related symptoms and signs that differentiates pain phenotypes independent of etiology.
Methods and Findings
Using a structured interview (16 questions) and a standardized bedside examination (23 tests), we prospectively assessed symptoms and signs in 130 patients with peripheral neuropathic pain caused by diabetic polyneuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, or radicular low back pain (LBP), and in 57 patients with non-neuropathic (axial) LBP. A hierarchical cluster analysis revealed distinct association patterns of symptoms and signs (pain subtypes) that characterized six subgroups of patients with neuropathic pain and two subgroups of patients with non-neuropathic pain. Using a classification tree analysis, we identified the most discriminatory assessment items for the identification of pain subtypes. We combined these six interview questions and ten physical tests in a pain assessment tool that we named Standardized Evaluation of Pain (StEP). We validated StEP for the distinction between radicular and axial LBP in an independent group of 137 patients. StEP identified patients with radicular pain with high sensitivity (92%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 83%–97%) and specificity (97%; 95% CI 89%–100%). The diagnostic accuracy of StEP exceeded that of a dedicated screening tool for neuropathic pain and spinal magnetic resonance imaging. In addition, we were able to reproduce subtypes of radicular and axial LBP, underscoring the utility of StEP for discerning distinct constellations of symptoms and signs.
We present a novel method of identifying pain subtypes that we believe reflect underlying pain mechanisms. We demonstrate that this new approach to pain assessment helps separate radicular from axial back pain. Beyond diagnostic utility, a standardized differentiation of pain subtypes that is independent of disease etiology may offer a unique opportunity to improve targeted analgesic treatment.
Editors' Summary
Pain, although unpleasant, is essential for survival. Whenever the body is damaged, nerve cells detecting the injury send an electrical message via the spinal cord to the brain and, as a result, action is taken to prevent further damage. Usually pain is short-lived, but sometimes it continues for weeks, months, or years. Long-lasting (chronic) pain can be caused by an ongoing, often inflammatory condition (for example, arthritis) or by damage to the nervous system itself—experts call this “neuropathic” pain. Damage to the brain or spinal cord causes central neuropathic pain; damage to the nerves that convey information from distant parts of the body to the spinal cord causes peripheral neuropathic pain. One example of peripheral neuropathic pain is “radicular” low back pain (also called sciatica). This is pain that radiates from the back into the legs. By contrast, axial back pain (the most common type of low back pain) is confined to the lower back and is non-neuropathic.
Why Was This Study Done?
Chronic pain is very common—nearly 10% of American adults have frequent back pain, for example—and there are many treatments for it, including rest, regulated exercise (physical therapy), pain-killing drugs (analgesics), and surgery. However, the best treatment for any individual depends on the exact nature of their pain, so it is important to assess their pain carefully before starting treatment. This is usually done by scoring overall pain intensity, but this assessment does not reflect the characteristics of the pain (for example, whether it occurs spontaneously or in response to external stimuli) or the complex biological processes involved in pain generation. An assessment designed to take such factors into account might improve treatment outcomes and could be useful in the development of new therapies. In this study, the researchers develop and test a new, standardized tool for the assessment of chronic pain that, by examining many symptoms and signs, aims to distinguish between pain subtypes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
One hundred thirty patients with several types of peripheral neuropathic pain and 57 patients with non-neuropathic (axial) low back pain completed a structured interview of 16 questions and a standardized bedside examination of 23 tests. Patients were asked, for example, to choose words that described their pain from a list provided by the researchers and to grade the intensity of particular aspects of their pain from zero (no pain) to ten (the maximum imaginable pain). Bedside tests included measurements of responses to light touch, pinprick, and vibration—chronic pain often alters responses to harmless stimuli. Using “hierarchical cluster analysis,” the researchers identified six subgroups of patients with neuropathic pain and two subgroups of patients with non-neuropathic pain based on the patterns of symptoms and signs revealed by the interviews and physical tests. They then used “classification tree analysis” to identify the six questions and ten physical tests that discriminated best between pain subtypes and combined these items into a tool for a Standardized Evaluation of Pain (StEP). Finally, the researchers asked whether StEP, which took 10–15 minutes, could identify patients with radicular back pain and discriminate them from those with axial back pain in an independent group of 137 patients with chronic low back pain. StEP, they report, accurately diagnosed these two conditions and was well accepted by the patients.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that a standardized assessment of pain-related signs and symptoms can provide a simple, quick diagnostic procedure that distinguishes between radicular (neuropathic) and axial (non-neuropathic) low back pain. This distinction is crucial because these types of back pain are best treated in different ways. In addition, the findings suggest that it might be possible to identify additional pain subtypes using StEP. Because these subtypes may represent conditions in which different pain mechanisms are acting, classifying patients in this way might eventually enable physicians to tailor treatments for chronic pain to the specific needs of individual patients rather than, as at present, largely guessing which of the available treatments is likely to work best.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Giorgio Cruccu and and Andrea Truini
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides a primer on pain in English and Spanish
In its 2006 report on the health status of the US, the National Center for Health Statistics provides a special feature on the epidemiology of pain, including back pain
The Pain Treatment Topics Web site is a resource, sponsored partly by associations and manufacturers, that provides information on all aspects of pain and its treatment for health care professionals and their patients
Medline Plus provides a brief description of pain and of back pain and links to further information on both topics (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia also has a page on low back pain (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2661253  PMID: 19360087
18.  Relation of Physician Specialty and HIV/AIDS Experience to Choice of Guideline-Recommended Antiretroviral Therapy 
Controversy exists regarding who should provide care for those with HIV/AIDS. While previous studies have found an association between physician HIV experience and patient outcomes, less is known about the relationship of physician specialty to HIV/AIDS outcomes or quality of care.
To examine the relationship between choice of appropriate antiretroviral therapy (ART) to physician specialty and HIV/AIDS experience.
Self-administered physician survey.
Random sample of 2,478 internal medicine (IM) and infectious disease (ID) physicians.
Choice of guideline-recommended ART.
Two patients with HIV disease, differing only by CD4+ count and HIV RNA load, were presented. Respondents were asked whether ART was indicated, and if so, what ART regimen they would choose. Respondents' ART choices were categorized as “recommended” or not by Department of Health and Human Services guidelines. Respondents' HIV/AIDS experience was categorized as moderate to high (MOD/HI) or none to low (NO/LO). For Case 1, 72.9% of responding physicians chose recommended ART. Recommended ART was more likely (P < .01) to be chosen by ID physicians (88.2%) than by IM physicians (57.1%). Physicians with MOD/HI experience were also more likely (P < .01) to choose recommended ART than those with NO/LO experience. Finally, choice of ART was examined using logistic regression: specialty and HIV experience were found to be independent predictors of choosing recommended ART (for ID physicians, odds ratio [OR], 4.66; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 3.15 to 6.90; and for MOD/HI experience, OR, 2.05; 95% CI, 1.33 to 3.16). Results for Case 2 were similar. When the analysis was repeated excluding physicians who indicated they would refer the HIV “patient,” specialty and HIV experience were not significant predictors of choosing recommended ART.
Guideline-recommended ART appears to be less likely to be chosen by generalists and physicians with less HIV/AIDS experience, although many of these physicians report they would refer these patients in clinical practice. These results lend support to current recommendations for routine expert consultant input in the management of those with HIV/AIDS.
PMCID: PMC1495224  PMID: 11422632
HIV/AIDS; physician specialty; antiretroviral therapy
19.  Minimally invasive surgical procedures for the treatment of lumbar disc herniation 
In up to 30% of patients undergoing lumbar disc surgery for herniated or protruded discs outcomes are judged unfavourable. Over the last decades this problem has stimulated the development of a number of minimally-invasive operative procedures. The aim is to relieve pressure from compromised nerve roots by mechanically removing, dissolving or evaporating disc material while leaving bony structures and surrounding tissues as intact as possible. In Germany, there is hardly any utilisation data for these new procedures – data files from the statutory health insurances demonstrate that about 5% of all lumbar disc surgeries are performed using minimally-invasive techniques. Their real proportion is thought to be much higher because many procedures are offered by private hospitals and surgeries and are paid by private health insurers or patients themselves. So far no comprehensive assessment comparing efficacy, safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery to standard procedures (microdiscectomy, open discectomy) which could serve as a basis for coverage decisions, has been published in Germany.
Against this background the aim of the following assessment is:
Based on published scientific literature assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery compared to standard procedures. To identify and critically appraise studies comparing costs and cost-effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures to that of standard procedures. If necessary identify research and evaluation needs and point out regulative needs within the German health care system. The assessment focusses on procedures that are used in elective lumbar disc surgery as alternative treatment options to microdiscectomy or open discectomy. Chemonucleolysis, percutaneous manual discectomy, automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy, laserdiscectomy and endoscopic procedures accessing the disc by a posterolateral or posterior approach are included.
In order to assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures as well as their economic implications systematic reviews of the literature are performed. A comprehensive search strategy is composed to search 23 electronic databases, among them MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library. Methodological quality of systematic reviews, HTA reports and primary research is assessed using checklists of the German Scientific Working Group for Health Technology Assessment. Quality and transparency of cost analyses are documented using the quality and transparency catalogues of the working group. Study results are summarised in a qualitative manner. Due to the limited number and the low methodological quality of the studies it is not possible to conduct metaanalyses. In addition to the results of controlled trials results of recent case series are introduced and discussed.
The evidence-base to assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery procedures is rather limited:
Percutaneous manual discectomy: Six case series (four after 1998)Automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy: Two RCT (one discontinued), twelve case series (one after 1998)Chemonucleolysis: Five RCT, five non-randomised controlled trials, eleven case seriesPercutaneous laserdiscectomy: One non-randomised controlled trial, 13 case series (eight after 1998)Endoscopic procedures: Three RCT, 21 case series (17 after 1998)
There are two economic analyses each retrieved for chemonucleolysis and automated percutaneous discectomy as well as one cost-minimisation analysis comparing costs of an endoscopic procedure to costs for open discectomy.
Among all minimally-invasive procedures chemonucleolysis is the only of which efficacy may be judged on the basis of results from high quality randomised controlled trials (RCT). Study results suggest that the procedure maybe (cost)effectively used as an intermediate therapeutical option between conservative and operative management of small lumbar disc herniations or protrusions causing sciatica. Two RCT comparing transforaminal endoscopic procedures with microdiscectomy in patients with sciatica and small non-sequestered disc herniations show comparable short and medium term overall success rates. Concerning speed of recovery and return to work a trend towards more favourable results for the endoscopic procedures is noted. It is doubtful though, whether these results from the eleven and five years old studies are still valid for the more advanced procedures used today. The only RCT comparing the results of automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy to those of microdiscectomy showed clearly superior results of microdiscectomy. Furthermore, success rates of automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy reported in the RCT (29%) differ extremely from success rates reported in case series (between 56% and 92%).
The literature search retrieves no controlled trials to assess efficacy and/or effectiveness of laser-discectomy, percutaneous manual discectomy or endoscopic procedures using a posterior approach in comparison to the standard procedures. Results from recent case series permit no assessment of efficacy, especially not in comparison to standard procedures. Due to highly selected patients, modi-fications of operative procedures, highly specialised surgical units and poorly standardised outcome assessment results of case series are highly variable, their generalisability is low.
The results of the five economical analyses are, due to conceptual and methodological problems, of no value for decision-making in the context of the German health care system.
Aside from low methodological study quality three conceptual problems complicate the interpretation of results.
Continuous further development of technologies leads to a diversity of procedures in use which prohibits generalisation of study results. However, diversity is noted not only for minimally-invasive procedures but also for the standard techniques against which the new developments are to be compared. The second problem refers to the heterogeneity of study populations. For most studies one common inclusion criterion was "persisting sciatica after a course of conservative treatment of variable duration". Differences among study populations are noted concerning results of imaging studies. Even within every group of minimally-invasive procedure, studies define their own in- and exclusion criteria which differ concerning degree of dislocation and sequestration of disc material. There is the non-standardised assessment of outcomes which are performed postoperatively after variable periods of time. Most studies report results in a dichotomous way as success or failure while the classification of a result is performed using a variety of different assessment instruments or procedures. Very often the global subjective judgement of results by patients or surgeons is reported. There are no scientific discussions whether these judgements are generalisable or comparable, especially among studies that are conducted under differing socio-cultural conditions. Taking into account the weak evidence-base for efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures it is not surprising that so far there are no dependable economic analyses.
Conclusions that can be drawn from the results of the present assessment refer in detail to the specified minimally-invasive procedures of lumbar disc surgery but they may also be considered exemplary for other fields where optimisation of results is attempted by technological development and widening of indications (e.g. total hip replacement).
Compared to standard technologies (open discectomy, microdiscectomy) and with the exception of chemonucleolysis, the developmental status of all other minimally-invasive procedures assessed must be termed experimental. To date there is no dependable evidence-base to recommend their use in routine clinical practice. To create such a dependable evidence-base further research in two directions is needed: a) The studies need to include adequate patient populations, use realistic controls (e.g. standard operative procedures or continued conservative care) and use standardised measurements of meaningful outcomes after adequate periods of time. b) Studies that are able to report effectiveness of the procedures under everyday practice conditions and furthermore have the potential to detect rare adverse effects are needed. In Sweden this type of data is yielded by national quality registries. On the one hand their data are used for quality improvement measures and on the other hand they allow comprehensive scientific evaluations. Since the year of 2000 a continuous rise in utilisation of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery is observed among statutory health insurers. Examples from other areas of innovative surgical technologies (e.g. robot assisted total hip replacement) indicate that the rise will probably continue - especially because there are no legal barriers to hinder introduction of innovative treatments into routine hospital care. Upon request by payers or providers the "Gemeinsamer Bundesausschuss" may assess a treatments benefit, its necessity and cost-effectiveness as a prerequisite for coverage by the statutory health insurance. In the case of minimally-invasive disc surgery it would be advisable to examine the legal framework for covering procedures only if they are provided under evaluation conditions. While in Germany coverage under evaluation conditions is established practice in ambulatory health care only (“Modellvorhaben") examples from other European countries (Great Britain, Switzerland) demonstrate that it is also feasible for hospital based interventions. In order to assure patient protection and at the same time not hinder the further development of new and promising technologies provision under evaluation conditions could also be realised in the private health care market - although in this sector coverage is not by law linked to benefit, necessity and cost-effectiveness of an intervention.
PMCID: PMC3011322  PMID: 21289928
20.  Management of Low-Back Pain in Family Practice: A Critical Review 
Canadian Family Physician  1986;32:1855-1861.
There is a profusion of both orthodox and unorthodox treatments for low-back pain, many of which have been inadequately evaluated. Conflicting claims exist for nearly all of these treatments. To assess the evidence supporting these commonly used conservative therapies in family practice, a set of methodological criteria for evaluating the validity and usefulness of the results was applied to original articles which described trials of bed rest, exercises, manipulation, drug therapy, advice/education, and other therapies such as traction, corsets and transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TNS). Guidelines for managing acute back pain and acute back pain with sciatica are indicated. Key questions and certain physical signs which suggest a functional overlay in a patient with chronic back pain are also outlined.
PMCID: PMC2328172  PMID: 21267291
low-back pain; rehabilitation; chronic back pain
21.  Family physicians managing tuberculosis. Qualitative study of overcoming barriers. 
Canadian Family Physician  1997;43:649-655.
OBJECTIVE: To identify the types of non-clinical barriers family physicians face in the management of TB, and to suggest strategies for overcoming these barriers. DESIGN: Qualitative study based on focus group discussions with family physicians and specialists in different types of practices. SETTING: Private practices, community health centres, and family practice units in hospitals. PARTICIPANTS: Family physicians and specialists working in different practice settings. METHOD: At least one specialist participated in each focus group in order to understand possible differences in non-clinical barriers to TB management between family physicians and specialists. MAIN FINDINGS: Physicians can identify many types of non-clinical obstacles to TB management. Some obstacles appear to be directly related to the organization of family practice medicine, while others stem from the type of patient population seen or the stigma associated with TB. Some physicians question whether or not patient "noncompliance" is in fact a barrier to TB management. Many family physicians believe that they have readily available to them the expert opinion needed to manage TB effectively. CONCLUSIONS: Some specific interventions, such as changes in TB guidelines, could overcome some of the obstacles identified. Differences among family physicians in the organization and nature of their practice, and in their understanding of their role in TB management, however, should be taken into account in developing interventions because such differences could influence both the need for, and receptivity to, any changes.
PMCID: PMC2255495  PMID: 9111981
22.  The Prognosis of Acute Low Back Pain in Primary Care in the U.S. A 2-Year Prospective Cohort Study 
Spine  2012;37(8):678-684.
Study Design
Prospective cohort study
to assess the prognosis of patients presenting with acute low back pain (LBP) in a primary care setting in the U.S.
Summary of Background Data
Practice guidelines for acute LBP based on return-to-work outcomes underestimate the development of chronic pain in the primary care setting. Due to differences in inclusion criteria, chronic pain definitions and national health systems, prognostic cohort studies have reported a wide range of results limiting interpretation and generalization. Current data from carefully designed prognostic studies of acute LBP are lacking for the U.S. primary care system.
Members of a large health service organization were enrolled after seeking medical care for acute LBP, with or without sciatica, of up to 30 days duration, with no prior episode in the past 12 months and no history of spine surgery. We conducted phone interviews at baseline, six months and two years. Based on receiver operating characteristic analyses, a combination of global perceived recovery with pain intensity was used as primary outcome for chronic pain. Recurrence and multiple secondary outcomes were assessed to allow for comparison with other studies.
605 patients had an average pain intensity of 5.6 (numeric rating scale 0–10) and disability of 15.8 (Roland Morris scale 0–24). Eight percent had declared sick leave between pain onset and baseline interview. 13% of 521 patients (86% follow-up) suffered from chronic pain at six months and 19% of 443 patients at 2 years. At six months, 54% had experienced at least one LBP recurrence, and 47% in the subsequent 18 months.
The prognosis of strictly-defined acute LBP, with or without sciatica, is less favorable than commonly stated in practice guidelines based on failure to return to work. Broad initiatives to develop new means for the primary and secondary prevention of recurrent and chronic LBP are urgently needed.
PMCID: PMC3335773  PMID: 22504516
Low Back Pain; Prognosis; Acute Pain; Chronic Pain
23.  Clinical testing patterns and cost implications of variation in the evaluation of chronic kidney disease among U.S. physicians 
Clinical practice guidelines were established to improve the diagnosis and management of chronic kidney disease (CKD), but the extent, determinants, and cost implications of guideline adherence and variation in adherence have not been evaluated.
Study Design
Cross-sectional survey
Settings & Participants
Nationally representative sample of 301 U.S. primary care physicians and nephrologists
Provider and patient characteristics
Outcomes & Measurements
Guideline adherence was assessed as present if physicians recommended at least 5 of 6 clinical tests prescribed by the National Kidney Foundation-Kidney Disease Outcomes and Quality Initiative (KDOQI) guidelines for a hypothetical patient with newly identified CKD. We also assessed patterns and cost of additional non-recommended tests for the initial clinical evaluation of CKD.
Most of the 86 family medicine, 89 internal medicine, and 126 nephrology physicians practiced greater than 10 years (54%), were in non-academic practices (76%), spent greater than 80% of their time performing clinical duties (78%), and correctly estimated kidney function (73%). Overall, 35% of participants were guideline adherent. Compared to nephrologists, internal medicine and family physicians had lower odds of adherence for all recommended testing (Odds Ratio (OR) [95% CI]:0.6[0.3–1.1] and 0.3[0.1–0.6], respectively). Participants practicing greater than 10 years had lower odds of ordering all recommended testing compared to participants practicing less than 10 years (OR[95% CI]: 0.5[0.3–0.9]). Eighty-five percent of participants recommended additional tests, which resulted in a 23% increased total per patient cost of the clinical evaluation.
Recommendations for a hypothetical case scenario may differ from that of actual patients.
Adherence to the recommended clinical testing for the diagnosis and management of CKD was poor and additional testing was associated with substantially increased cost of the clinical evaluation. Improved clarity, dissemination, and uptake of existing guidelines are needed to improve quality and decrease costs of care for patients with CKD.
PMCID: PMC2714476  PMID: 19371991
chronic kidney disease; primary care providers; guidelines; KDOQI; cost
24.  Physician career satisfaction within specialties 
Specialty-specific data on career satisfaction may be useful for understanding physician workforce trends and for counseling medical students about career options.
We analyzed cross-sectional data from 6,590 physicians (response rate, 53%) in Round 4 (2004-2005) of the Community Tracking Study Physician Survey. The dependent variable ranged from +1 to -1 and measured satisfaction and dissatisfaction with career. Forty-two specialties were analyzed with survey-adjusted linear regressions
After adjusting for physician, practice, and community characteristics, the following specialties had significantly higher satisfaction levels than family medicine: pediatric emergency medicine (regression coefficient = 0.349); geriatric medicine (0.323); other pediatric subspecialties (0.270); neonatal/prenatal medicine (0.266); internal medicine and pediatrics (combined practice) (0.250); pediatrics (0.250); dermatology (0.249);and child and adolescent psychiatry (0.203). The following specialties had significantly lower satisfaction levels than family medicine: neurological surgery (-0.707); pulmonary critical care medicine (-0.273); nephrology (-0.206); and obstetrics and gynecology (-0.188). We also found satisfaction was significantly and positively related to income and employment in a medical school but negatively associated with more than 50 work-hours per-week, being a full-owner of the practice, greater reliance on managed care revenue, and uncontrollable lifestyle. We observed no statistically significant gender differences and no differences between African-Americans and whites.
Career satisfaction varied across specialties. A number of stakeholders will likely be interested in these findings including physicians in specialties that rank high and low and students contemplating specialty. Our findings regarding "less satisfied" specialties should elicit concern from residency directors and policy makers since they appear to be in critical areas of medicine.
PMCID: PMC2754441  PMID: 19758454
25.  Screening mammography beliefs and recommendations: a web-based survey of primary care physicians 
The appropriateness and cost-effectiveness of screening mammography (SM) for women younger than 50 and older than 74 years is debated in the clinical research community, among health care providers, and by the American public. This study explored primary care physicians' (PCPs) perceptions of the influence of clinical practice guidelines for SM; the recommendations for SM in response to hypothetical case scenarios; and the factors associated with perceived SM effectiveness and recommendations in the US from June to December 2009 before the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently revised guidelines.
A nationally representative sample of 11,922 PCPs was surveyed using a web-based questionnaire. The response rate was 5.7% (684); (41%) 271 family physicians (FP), (36%) 232 general internal medicine physicians (IM), (23%) 150 obstetrician-gynaecologists (OBG), and (0.2%) 31 others. Cross-sectional analysis examined PCPs perceived effectiveness of SM, and recommendation for SM in response to hypothetical case scenarios. PCPs responses were measured using 4-5 point adjectival scales. Differences in perceived effectiveness and recommendations for SM were examined after adjusting for PCPs specialty, race/ethnicity, and the US region.
Compared to IM and FP, OBG considered SM more effective in reducing breast cancer mortality among women aged 40-49 years (p = 0.003). Physicians consistently recommended mammography to women aged 50-69 years with no differences by specialty (p = 0.11). However, 94% of OBG "always recommended" SM to younger and 86% of older women compared to 81% and 67% for IM and 84% and 59% for FP respectively (p = < .001). In ordinal regression analysis, OBG specialty was a significant predictor for perceived higher SM effectiveness and recommendations for younger and older women. In evaluating hypothetical scenarios, overall PCPs would recommend SM for the 80 year woman with CHF with a significant variation by specialty (38% of OBG, 18% of FP, 17% of IM; p = < .001).
A majority of physicians, especially OBG, favour aggressive breast cancer screening for women from 40 through 79 years of age, including women with short life expectancy. Policy interventions should focus on educating providers to provide tailored recommendations for mammography based on individualized cancer risk, health status, and preferences.
PMCID: PMC3293074  PMID: 22309456

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