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1.  Evaluation of specialists' outreach clinics in general practice in England: process and acceptability to patients, specialists, and general practitioners. 
OBJECTIVES: The wider study aimed to evaluate specialists' outreach clinics in relation to their costs, processes, and effectiveness, including patients' and professionals' attitudes. The data on processes and attitudes are presented here. DESIGN: Self administered questionnaires were drawn up for patients, their general practitioners (GPs) and specialists, and managers in the practice. Information was sought from hospital trusts. The study formed a pilot phase prior to a wider evaluation. SETTING: Nine outreach clinics in general practices in England, each with a hospital outpatient department as a control clinic were studied. SUBJECTS: The specialties included were ear, nose, and throat surgery; rheumatology; and gynaecology. The subjects were the patients who attended either the outreach clinics or hospital outpatients clinics during the study period, the outreach patients' GPs, the outreach patients' and outpatients' specialists, the managers in the practices, and the NHS trusts which employed the specialists. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Process items included waiting lists, waiting times in clinics, number of follow up visits, investigations and procedures performed, treatment, health status, patients' and specialists' travelling times, and patients' and doctors' attitudes to, and satisfaction with, the clinic. RESULTS: There was no difference in the health status of patients in relation to the clinic site (ie, outreach and hospital outpatients' clinics) at baseline, and all but one of the specialists said there were no differences in casemix between their outreach and outpatients' clinics. Patients preferred, and were more satisfied with, care in specialists' outreach clinics in general practice, in comparison with outpatients' clinics. The outreach clinics were rated as more convenient than outpatients' clinics in relation to journey times; those outreach patients in work lost less time away from work than outpatients' clinic patients due to the clinic attendance. Length of time on the waiting list was significantly reduced for gynaecology patients; waiting times in clinics were lower for outreach patients than outpatients across all specialties. In addition, outreach patients were more likely to be first rather than follow up attenders; rheumatology outreach patients were more likely than hospital outpatients to receive therapy. GPs' referrals to hospital outpatients' clinics were greatly reduced by the availability of outreach clinics. Both specialists and GPs saw the main advantages of outreach clinics in relation to the greater convenience and better access to care for patients. Few of the specialists and GPs in the outreach practices held formal training and education sessions in the outreach clinic, although over half of the GPs felt that their skills/expertise had broadened as a result of the outreach clinic. CONCLUSIONS: The processes of care (waiting times, patient satisfaction, convenience to patients, follow up attendances) were better in outreach than in outpatients' clinics. However, waiting lists were only significantly reduced for gynaecology patients, despite both GPs and consultants reporting reduced waiting lists for patients as one of the main advantages of outreach. Whether these improvements merit the increased cost to the specialists (in terms of their increased travelling times and time spent away from their hospital base) and whether the development of what is, in effect, two standards of care between practices with and without outreach can be stemmed and the standard of care raised in all practices (eg, by sharing outreach clinics between GPs in an area) remain the subject of debate. As the data were based on the pilot study, the results should be viewed with some caution, although statistical power was adequate for comparisons of sites if not specialties.
PMCID: PMC1060410  PMID: 9135789
2.  Evaluation of outreach clinics held by specialists in general practice in England 
OBJECTIVES—To measure the processes of care, health benefits and costs of outreach clinics held by hospital specialists in primary care settings.
DESIGN—The study was designed as a case-referent (comparative) study in which the features of 19 outreach clinics (cases) were compared with matched outpatient clinics (controls). The measuring instruments were self administered questionnaires. Patients were followed up at six months to reassess health status. The specialties included in the study were cardiology, ENT, general medicine, general surgery, gynaecology and rheumatology.
SETTING—Specialist outreach clinics in general practice in England, with matched outpatient clinic controls.
SUBJECTS—Consecutive patient attenders in the outreach and outpatient clinics, their specialists, the outreach patients' general practitioners, practice managers and trust accountants. Patients' response rate at baseline: 78% (1420).
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES—Patient satisfaction, doctors' attitudes, processes and health outcomes, costs.
RESULTS—Outreach patients were more satisfied with the processes of their care than outpatients, their access to specialist care was better than that for outpatients and they were more likely to be discharged. Doctors reported that the main advantages of the outreach clinic were improved patient access to specialists and convenience for patients, in comparison with outpatients, and most GPs and specialists felt the outreach clinic was "worthwhile". At six month follow up, the health status of the outreach sample had significantly improved more than that of the outpatients on all eight sub-scales of the HSQ-12, but this was probably because of their better starting point at baseline. The impact of outreach on health outcomes was small. The NHS costs of outreach were significantly higher than outpatients. An increase in outreach clinic size would reduce cost per patient, but would lead to the loss of most of the clinics' benefits.
CONCLUSIONS—While the process of care was of higher quality in outreach than in outpatients, and the efficiency of care was also greater in the latter, the effect on patients' health outcomes was small. Responsiveness to patients' views and preferences is an essential component of good quality service provision. However, the greater cost of outreach raises the issue of whether improvements in the quality and efficiency of health care, without a substantial impact on health outcomes, is money well spent in a publicly funded health service. On the other hand, the real costs of outreach in comparison with outpatients clinics can probably only be truly estimated in a longitudinal study with a resource based costing model derived from documented patient attendances and treatment costs over time in relation to longer term outcome (for example, at a two year end point).

Keywords: outreach clinics; general practice
PMCID: PMC1731628  PMID: 10715749
3.  A national evaluation of specialists' clinics in primary care settings. 
BACKGROUND: Encouraged by the increased purchasing power of general practitioners (GPs), specialist-run clinics in general practice and community health care settings (known as specialist outreach clinics) have increased rapidly across England. The activities of local commissioning schemes within primary care groups are likely to accelerate this trend. AIM: To evaluate the costs, processes, and benefits of specialists' outreach clinics held in GPs' surgeries, compared with hospital outpatient clinics. DESIGN OF STUDY: A case-referent (comparative) study comparing the characteristics of outreach clinics (cases) with matched outpatient control clinics. SETTING: Thirty-eight outreach clinics, compared with 38 matched outpatient clinics as controls, covering 14 hospital trust areas across England. METHOD: Self-administered questionnaires were given to patients in both clinic settings. These covered processes, satisfaction, personal costs, and health status, with postal follow-up at six months to assess health outcomes. Self-administered questionnaires were also given to the specialists and GPs whose clinics were included in the study (individual patient clinical sheet and an attitude questionnaire), practice managers, and trust accountants (process and costs questionnaire). Evaluation of the costs, processes, and benefits of specialist outreach clinics versus hospital outpatient clinics was carried out by comparing questionnaire responses. RESULTS: In comparison with outpatients, outreach clinic patients spent less time on the waiting lists for appointments to see the specialist, they had shorter waiting times in clinics, fewer follow-up appointments, and were more likely to be completely discharged after the sampled attendance. Outreach patients were more satisfied than outpatients with the range of clinic process items asked about. Most doctors felt that the outreach clinic was 'worthwhile'. While patients' personal costs were lower in outreach than in outpatients clinics, NHS costs were more expensive per patient in outreach. The benefits of outreach clinics on patients' health status at six months' follow-up were relatively small. CONCLUSIONS: Outreach clinics are a means of improving access to specialist services for patients, in addition to improving the efficiency and quality of health care. Most results were similar across specialties and areas. The benefits of the outreach service need to be weighed against their substantially higher NHS costs, in comparison with outpatients clinics. Outreach clinics are unlikely to be financially justifiable for NHS funding given that the impact on patients' health status was small.
PMCID: PMC1313974  PMID: 11458477
4.  Investigation of benefits and costs of an ophthalmic outreach clinic in general practice. 
BACKGROUND: With the advent of general practitioner fundholding, there has been growth in outreach clinics covering many specialties. The benefits and costs of this model of service provision are unclear. AIM: A pilot study aimed to evaluate an outreach model of ophthalmic care in terms of its impact on general practitioners, their use of secondary ophthalmology services, patients' views, and costs. METHOD: A prospective study, from April 1992 to March 1993, of the introduction of an ophthalmic outreach service in 17 general practices in London was undertaken. An ophthalmic outreach team, comprising an ophthalmic medical practitioner and an ophthalmic nurse, held clinics in the practices once a month. Referral rates to Edgware General Hospital ophthalmology outpatient department over one year from the study practices were compared with those from 17 control practices. General practitioners' assessments of the scheme and its impact on their knowledge and practice of ophthalmology were sought through a postal survey of all partners and interviews with one partner in each practice. Patient surveys were conducted using self-administered structured questionnaires. A costings exercise compared the outreach model with the conventional hospital ophthalmology outpatient clinic. RESULTS: Of 1309 patients seen by the outreach team in the study practices, 480 (37%) were referred to the ophthalmology outpatient department. The annual referral rate to this department from control practices was 9.5 per 10,000 registered patients compared with 3.8 per 10,000 registered patients from study practices. A total of 1187 patients were referred to the outpatient department from control practices. An increase in knowledge of ophthalmology was reported by 18 of 47 general practitioners (38%). Nineteen (40%) of 47 general practitioners took advantage of the opportunity for inservice training with the outreach team; they were more likely to change their routine practice for ophthalmic care or referral criteria for patients with cataracts or diabetes than those who did not attend for inservice training. The outreach scheme was popular with patients, for whom ease of access and familiarity of surroundings were major advantages. The cost per patient seen in the outreach clinics (48.09 pounds) was about three times the cost per patient seen in the outpatient department (15.71 pounds). CONCLUSION: The model of ophthalmic outreach care in this pilot study was popular with patients and general practitioners and appeared to act as an effective filter of demand for care in the hospital setting. However, the educational impact of the scheme was limited. Although the unit costs (per patient) of the outreach scheme compared unfavourably with those of conventional outpatient treatment, potential health gains from this more accessible model of care require further exploration.
PMCID: PMC1239466  PMID: 8745862
5.  Specialist outreach clinics in general practice. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1994;308(6936):1083-1086.
OBJECTIVES--To establish the extent and nature of specialist outreach clinics in primary care and to describe specialists' and general practitioners' views on outreach clinics. DESIGN--Telephone interviews with hospital managers. Postal questionnaire surveys of specialists and general practitioners. SETTING--50 hospitals in England and Wales. SUBJECTS--50 hospital managers, all of whom responded. 96 specialists and 88 general practitioners involved in outreach clinics in general practice, of whom 69 (72%) and 46 (52%) respectively completed questionnaires. 122 additional general practitioner fundholders, of whom 72 (59%) completed questionnaires. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Number of specialist outreach clinics; organisation and referral mechanism; waiting times; perceived benefits and problems. RESULTS--28 of the hospitals had a total of 96 outreach clinics, and 32 fundholders identified a further 61 clinics. These clinics covered psychiatry (43), medical specialties (38), and surgical specialties (76). Patients were seen by the consultant in 96% (107) of clinics and general practitioners attended at only six clinics. 61 outreach clinics had shorter waiting times for first outpatient appointment than hospital clinics. The most commonly reported benefits for patients were ease of access and shorter waiting times. CONCLUSIONS--Specialist outreach clinics cover a wide range of specialties and are popular, especially in fundholding practices. These clinics do not seem to have increased the interaction between general practitioners and specialists.
PMCID: PMC2539960  PMID: 8173432
6.  Experiences of first wave general practice fundholders in South East Thames Regional Health Authority. 
BACKGROUND. The purchasing power given to general practitioner fundholders has important longterm implications. AIM. A study was undertaken to investigate the experiences of a group of fundholders. METHOD. All 15 first wave fundholders in South East Thames Regional Health Authority were sent a questionnaire asking about their experiences towards the end of the first year of fundholding. RESULTS. The practices varied considerably in the degree of changes made. Nine had developed consultant outreach clinics in the surgery and four had made major changes in their use of providers. Advantages mentioned by respondents were the outreach consultant clinics, increased practice facilities, increased provider responsiveness, greater direct access and facilities for investigations, reduced waiting times for outpatient appointments, increased computerization and a new awareness of practice and provider activity. A number of difficulties were also mentioned, including provider resistance and time spent on administration. CONCLUSION. It is important to view these changes in the context of other National Health Service and general practice reforms: practice based innovations are not unique to fundholding and other initiatives could have brought about these changes. In addition, developments such as outreach consultant clinics which may benefit the practice still need to be evaluated in terms of cost effectiveness and health outcomes, as well as their impact on services elsewhere.
PMCID: PMC1238760  PMID: 8312037
7.  Fundholding in the south Thames Region. 
BACKGROUND: The general practice fundholding scheme is now at the forefront of the National Health Service (NHS) reforms and should lead to the more efficient use of services by making general practitioners more aware of the financial consequences of their clinical decisions. However, there is a concern that adverse effects may also occur. AIM: To monitor the changes occurring in a sample of fundholding and non-fundholding practices between 1992 and 1995, including providing care nearer to patients, the mixed economy of care, the efficiency and costs of fundholding, and the commitment of fundholders. METHOD: Fifteen first-wave practices, four second-wave practices, and four non-fundholding practices in the former South East Thames Region took part in the study. Information was collected using interviews, questionnaires, prescribing data, and annual fundholders' income and expenditure accounts. RESULTS: Consultant clinics were set up in 10 different practices in 15 different specialties, and paramedical clinics in 12 different practices. Physiotherapy and mental health clinics constituted over 90% of the paramedical hours. Fundholders had private arrangements with an individual consultant or practitioner for approximately half of the contracted hours in both types of clinics. Fundholders had lower overall prescribing costs than non-fundholders, but the overall costs for prescribing for all groups had risen by about one third over three years. CONCLUSION: While outreach clinics may help to provide for the needs of patients with common conditions, they may lead to the fragmentation of services. The provision of primary care by those who are not NHS employees needs careful consideration. Recent policies for general practice have emphasized its role in disease prevention and in coordination of care for chronic illness. Fundholding also promotes two additional roles, the purchasing of care and the development of in-house facilities. Combining these different functions presents a considerable challenge.
PMCID: PMC1313103  PMID: 9406488
8.  Rural outreach by specialist doctors in Australia: a national cross-sectional study of supply and distribution 
Outreach has been endorsed as an important global strategy to promote universal access to health care but it depends on health workers who are willing to travel. In Australia, rural outreach is commonly provided by specialist doctors who periodically visit the same community over time. However information about the level of participation and the distribution of these services nationally is limited. This paper outlines the proportion of Australian specialist doctors who participate in rural outreach, describes their characteristics and assesses how these characteristics influence remote outreach provision.
We used data from the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) survey, collected between June and November 2008. Weighted logistic regression analyses examined the effect of covariates: sex, age, specialist residential location, rural background, practice arrangements and specialist group on rural outreach. A separate logistic regression analysis studied the effect of covariates on remote outreach compared with other rural outreach.
Of 4,596 specialist doctors, 19% (n = 909) provided outreach; of which, 16% (n = 149) provided remote outreach. Most (75%) outreach providers were metropolitan specialists. In multivariate analysis, outreach was associated with being male (OR 1.38, 1.12 to 1.69), having a rural residence (both inner regional: OR 2.07, 1.68 to 2.54; and outer regional/remote: OR 3.40, 2.38 to 4.87) and working in private consulting rooms (OR 1.24, 1.01 to 1.53). Remote outreach was associated with increasing 5-year age (OR1.17, 1.05 to 1.31) and residing in an outer regional/remote location (OR 10.84, 5.82 to 20.19). Specialists based in inner regional areas were less likely than metropolitan-based specialists to provide remote outreach (OR 0.35, 0.17 to 0.70).
There is a healthy level of interest in rural outreach work, but remote outreach is less common. Whilst most providers are metropolitan-based, rural doctors are more likely to provide outreach services. Remote distribution is influenced differently: inner regional specialists are less likely to provide remote services compared with metropolitan specialists. To benefit from outreach services and ensure adequate remote distribution, we need to promote coordinated delivery of services arising from metropolitan and rural locations according to rural and remote health need.
PMCID: PMC4161914  PMID: 25189854
rural; remote; outreach; visiting; medical; workforce; hub; service planning; policy
9.  Virtual outreach: economic evaluation of joint teleconsultations for patients referred by their general practitioner for a specialist opinion 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2003;327(7406):84.
Objectives To test the hypotheses that, compared with conventional outpatient consultations, joint teleconsultation (virtual outreach) would incur no increased costs to the NHS, reduce costs to patients, and reduce absences from work by patients and their carers.
Design Cost consequences study alongside randomised controlled trial.
Setting Two hospitals in London and Shrewsbury and 29 general practices in inner London and Wales.
Participants 3170 patients identified; 2094 eligible for inclusion and willing to participate. 1051 randomised to virtual outreach and 1043 to standard outpatient appointments.
Main outcome measures NHS costs, patient costs, health status (SF-12), time spent attending index consultation, patient satisfaction.
Results Overall six months costs were greater for the virtual outreach consultations (£724 per patient) than for conventional outpatient appointments (£625): difference in means £99 ($162; €138) (95% confidence interval £10 to £187, P=0.03). If the analysis is restricted to resource items deemed “attributable” to the index consultation, six month costs were still greater for virtual outreach: difference in means £108 (£73 to £142, P < 0.0001). In both analyses the index consultation accounted for the excess cost. Savings to patients in terms of costs and time occurred in both centres: difference in mean total patient cost £8 (£5 to £10, P < 0.0001). Loss of productive time was less in the virtual outreach group: difference in mean cost £11 (£10 to £12, P < 0.0001).
Conclusion The main hypothesis that virtual outreach would be cost neutral is rejected, but the hypotheses that costs to patients and losses in productivity would be lower are supported.
PMCID: PMC164917  PMID: 12855528
10.  Distribution of NHS funds between fundholding and non-fundholding practices. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1994;309(6946):30-34.
OBJECTIVES--To estimate the amount spent on specific hospital care by health agencies in 1993-4 and compare it with the resources allocated to patients registered with fundholding practices for the same type of care. To investigate whether fundholding practices and health agencies pay different amounts for inpatient care. DESIGN--Examination of hospital episode statistics, 1991 census data, and family health services authority and health agency records. SETTING--Health agencies and fundholding practices in the former North West Thames Regional Health Authority. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Amount per capita allocated to inpatient and outpatient care for patients registered with fundholding and non-fundholding practices. Average specialty cost per finished consultant episode for health agencies and fundholding practices. RESULTS--The ratio of per capita funding for patients in non-fundholding practices to those in fundholding practices ranged from 59% to 87% for inpatient and day case care and from 36% to 106% for outpatient care. Average specialty costs per episode were similar for fundholding practices and health agencies. CONCLUSIONS--Fundholding practices seem to have been funded more generously than non-fundholding practices in North West Thames.
PMCID: PMC2542615  PMID: 7832840
11.  Cost-effectiveness analysis of clinical specialist outreach as compared to referral system in Ethiopia: an economic evaluation 
In countries with scarce specialized Human resource for health, patients are usually referred. The other alternative has been mobilizing specialists, clinical specialist outreach. This study examines whether clinical specialist outreach is a cost effective way of using scarce health expertise to provide specialist care as compared to provision of such services through referral system in Ethiopia.
A cross-sectional study on four purposively selected regional hospitals and three central referral hospitals was conducted from Feb 4-24, 2009. The perspective of analysis was societal covering analytic horizon and time frame from 1 April 2007 to 31 Dec 2008. Data were collected using interview of specialists, project focal persons, patients and review of records. To ensure the propriety standards of evaluation, Ethical clearance was obtained from Jimma University.
It was found that 532 patients were operated at outreach hospitals in 125 specialist days. The unit cost of surgical procedures was found to be ETB 4,499.43. On the other hand, if the 125 clinical specialist days were spent to serve patients referred from zonal and regional hospitals at central referral hospitals, 438 patients could have been served. And the unit cost of surgical procedures through referral would have been ETB 6,523.27 per patient. This makes clinical specialist outreach 1.45 times more cost effective way of using scarce clinical specialists' time as compared to referral system.
Clinical specialist outreach is a cost effective and cost saving way of spending clinical specialists' time as compared to provision of similar services through referral system.
PMCID: PMC2892431  PMID: 20540766
12.  The delivery of specialist spinal cord injury services in Queensland and the potential for telehealth 
The Queensland Spinal Cord Injuries Service (QSCIS) is a statewide service in Brisbane at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH). The QSCIS assists individuals with a spinal cord injury (SCI) through three services: the Spinal Injuries Unit (SIU), Transitional Rehabilitation Program (TRP) and the Spinal Outreach Team (SPOT). The aim of this study was to undertake a review of ambulatory services provided by the QSCIS (SIU and SPOT) to help identify where telehealth may potentially be useful.
Profiling of patients with SCI in Queensland was achieved using database records containing referral data. Services provided by SIU Outpatient Clinics and the SPOT during a 6-year period (January 2008 – December 2013), were analysed. Using postcodes, we estimated distances between place of residence and Brisbane. We compared the general population of SCI patients with patients managed through SIU Outpatient Clinics and the SPOT.
During the 6-year period, 2073 patients were referred to the QSCIS (and living) at the time of the analysis. 74 % of all patients were male. The median age was 51y (IQR 39y-61y). About two-thirds of all patients lived within 200 km of Brisbane. 24 % of all patients registered with the QSCIS lived further than 200 km away from Brisbane.
7513 appointments were provided in the SIU outpatient clinic. 43,827 occasions of service were reported by the SPOT, including telephone consultations (66 %) and home visits (26 %). 72 outreach clinics were held in selected regional sites for up to 100 patients per year. 13 videoconference appointments reported.
90 % of all patients who attended the SIU outpatient clinic lived within 200 km of Brisbane. About two-thirds of patients who received a service from the SPOT lived within 200 km of Brisbane.
Since one third of all patients registered with the QSCIS live at least 200 km away from Brisbane; it appears that these patients may not be accessing the same services as Brisbane based patients. Telehealth models of care, which promote better engagement with local health service providers (such as general practitioners, nurse practitioners and allied health professionals) could improve equity of access and reduce the need for extensive travel.
PMCID: PMC4727259  PMID: 26810738
13.  Changes in general practice organization: survey of general practitioners' views on the 1990 contract and fundholding. 
BACKGROUND: General practitioners' views on two major changes in the organization of general practice--the 1990 contract for general practitioners and fundholding, introduced in 1991--have not been researched in any great detail. AIM: A study in 1993 sought to investigate the views of general practitioners from group practices and of single-handed general practitioners, in family health services authority areas with different socioeconomic characteristics, on the 1990 contract for general practitioners, fundholding and the effects of these two changes in general practice organization. METHOD: One general practitioner partner from each of 323 group practices in six family health services authority areas of England was invited for interview and 142 single-handed general practitioners in the study areas were sent a postal questionnaire. The interview and questionnaire sought general practitioners' views on the 1990 contract and fundholding, reasons for their opinions, and views on the effects of these reforms on workload and the quality of service. Other information was recorded on fundholding status, workload pressures, outreach clinics, budget surpluses, retirement plans, and opinions on a salaried service. RESULTS: A total of 260 group practice general practitioners (80%) participated in the study and 80 single-handed general practitioners (56%) returned questionnaires, 78 of which could be analysed. Over half of all respondents were opposed or strongly opposed to both the 1990 contract and fundholding. However, despite this opposition, a sizeable minority of group practice practitioners (38%) agreed that the quality of services provided had improved or considerably improved since the 1990 contract. Workload appeared to have increased, with the proportion of respondents who reported being always under pressure increasing from 12% in 1987 to 41% in 1993. All but one respondent considered administration to have increased. Some respondents were considering early retirement. One of the solutions proposed to alleviate problems in inner city general practice, a salaried service, received little support, even from those general practitioners working in areas which might be expected to benefit. CONCLUSION: Dissatisfaction of general practitioners with the National Health Service reforms was expressed in continued opposition, in concerns about workload and levels of administration, and in a desire to retire early. Suitable ways of improving general practitioner morale must be sought.
PMCID: PMC1239538  PMID: 8855016
14.  Prospective study of trends in referral patterns in fundholding and non-fundholding practices in the Oxford region, 1990-4. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1995;311(7014):1205-1208.
OBJECTIVE--To compare outpatient referral patterns in fundholding and non-fundholding practices before and after the NHS reforms in April 1991. DESIGN--Prospective collection of data on general practitioners' referrals to specialist outpatient clinics between June 1990 and January 1994 and detailed comparisons of three phases--October 1990 to March 1991 (phase 1), October 1991 to March 1992 (phase 2), and October 1993 to January 1994 (phase 3). SETTING--10 first wave fundholding practices and six non-fundholding practices in the Oxford region. SUBJECTS--Patients referred to consultant out-patient clinics. RESULTS--NHS referral rates increased in fundholding practices in phase 2 and phase 3 of the study by 8.1/1000 patients a year (95% confidence interval 5.7 to 10.5), an increase of 7.5% from phase 1 (107.3/1000) to phase 3 (115.4/1000). Non-fundholders' rates increased significantly, by 25.3/1000 patients (22.5-28.1), an increase of 26.6% from phase 1 (95.0/1000) to phase 3 (120.3/1000). The fundholders' referral rates to private clinics decreased by 8.8%, whereas those from non-fundholding practices increased by 12.2%. The proportion of referrals going outside district boundaries did not change significantly. Three of the four practices entering the third and fourth wave of fundholding increased their referral rates significantly in the year before becoming fundholders. CONCLUSIONS--No evidence existed that budgetary pressures caused first wave fundholders to reduce referral rates, although the method of budget allocation may have encouraged general practitioners to inflate their referral rates in the preparatory year. Despite investment in new practice based facilities, no evidence yet exists that fundholding encourages a shift away from specialist care.
PMCID: PMC2551123  PMID: 7488902
15.  The management of women with breast symptoms referred to secondary care clinics in Sheffield: implications for improving local services. 
Information was collected about 302 women referred for breast symptoms and seen in surgical outpatient or outreach clinics during one month at two hospitals in Sheffield. Three-quarters of the women (n = 244) were referred to specialist breast clinics, 22% (n = 70) were referred to general surgical clinics and 3% (n = 6) were referred to outreach clinics. The ages of the women ranged from 16 to 85 years with a mean and median age of 45 years. Some 200 women (66%) presented with a lump or lumpiness, 42 women (14%) presented with pain, 29 women (10%) had a skin and/or nipple problem, and the remaining 31 women (10%) were concerned about their family history or reported other symptoms. A total of 23 women (8%) were diagnosed as having cancer, 180 (60%) were diagnosed as having benign breast disease, and 99 (33%) were diagnosed as normal. Of the 23 women with cancer, 22 were over 40 years of age; 21 women presented with a lump, one presented with pain, and one presented with metastatic disease. The time required to reach a final clinical diagnosis varied from the same day as the clinic visit to 35 weeks, with a median time of 3 weeks. Surgeons assessed the appropriateness of GPs' referrals for 257 cases and judged that 122 (47%) could have been managed by a GP. The implications of the findings for the organisation of specialist outpatient clinics are discussed, and a categorisation of women as either urgent or routine cases is suggested.
PMCID: PMC2503270  PMID: 10615190
16.  Safety and usefulness of outreach clinic conducted by pediatric echosonographers 
Annals of Pediatric Cardiology  2012;5(2):165-168.
Outreach echocardiographic services led by cardiac sonographers may help district level hospitals in the management of patients suspected to have cardiac anomalies. However, the safety and utility of such an approach is not tested.
We retrospectively reviewed our experience of patients seen in the outreach visits by the echocardiographers alone and subsequently reviewed in the pediatric cardiology clinic. Comparison between the diagnosis made by the echocardiographer and the consultant pediatric cardiologist were done. We defined safety as no change in patient management plan between the outreach evaluation and the pediatric cardiology clinic evaluation, and we defined usefulness as being beneficial, serviceable and of practical use.
Two senior echocardiographic technicians did 41 clinic visits and over a period of 17 months, 623 patients were seen. Patients less than 3 months of age constitute 63% of the total patients seen. Normal echocardiographic examinations were found in 342 (55%) of patients. These patients were not seen in our cardiology clinic. Abnormal echocardiographic examinations were found in 281 (45%) of patients. Among the 281 patients with abnormal echos in the outreach visits, 251 patients (89.3%) were seen in the pediatric cardiology clinic. Comparing the results of the outreach clinic evaluation to that of the pediatric cardiology clinic, 73 patients (29%) diagnosed to have a minor CHD turned to have normal echocardiographic examinations. In all patients seen in both the outreach clinics and the pediatric tertiary cardiac clinics there was no change in patient's management plan.
Outreach clinic conducted by pediatric echo sonographers could be useful and safe. It may help in reducing unnecessary visits to pediatric cardiology clinics, provide parental reassurance, and help in narrowing the differential diagnosis in critically ill patient unable to be transferred to tertiary cardiac centers provided it is done by experienced echosonographers.
PMCID: PMC3487206  PMID: 23129907
Congenital heart disease; echosonographers; outreach clinic; pediatric echocardiography
17.  The Application of Telemedicine in Orthopedic Surgery in Singapore: A Pilot Study on a Secure, Mobile Telehealth Application and Messaging Platform 
JMIR mHealth and uHealth  2014;2(2):e28.
The application of telemedicine has been described for its use in medical training and education, management of stroke patients, urologic surgeries, pediatric laparoscopic surgeries, clinical outreach, and the field of orthopedics. However, the usefulness of a secure, mobile telehealth application, and messaging platform has not been well described.
A pilot study was conducted to implement a health insurance portability and accountability act (HIPAA) compliant form of communication between doctors in an orthopedic clinical setting and determine their reactions to MyDoc, a secure, mobile telehealth application, and messaging platform.
By replacing current methods of communication through various mobile applications and text messaging services with MyDoc over a six week period, we gained feedback and determined user satisfaction with this innovative system from questionnaires handed to the program director, program coordinator, one trauma consultant, all orthopedic residents, and six non-orthopedic residents at the National University Hospital in Singapore.
Almost everyone who completed the questionnaire strongly agreed that MyDoc should replace current systems of peer to peer communication in the hospital. The majority also felt that the quality of images, videos, and sound were excellent. Almost everyone agreed that they could communicate easily with each other and would feel comfortable doing so routinely. The majority felt that virtual consults through MyDoc should be made available to inpatients as well as outpatients to potentially lessen clinic loads and provide a secure manner in which patients can communicate with their primary teams any time convenient to both. It was also agreed by most that the potential of telerounding had advantages, especially on weekends as a supplement to normal rounds.
Potential uses of MyDoc in an orthopedic clinical setting include HIPAA-compliant peer to peer communication, clinical outreach in the setting of trauma, supervision in the operating room or watching procedures being performed remotely, providing both patient and parent reassurance in pediatric orthopedic patients, and finally in the setting of outpatient clinics. With our pilot study having excellent results in terms of acceptance and satisfaction, the integration of a secure, mobile telehealth application, and messaging platform, not only in the orthopedic department but also the hospital in general, has an exciting and limitless potential. More so in this era where downsizing hospital costs is beneficial, doing so may also be mandatory in order to comply with the soon to be introduced personal data protection act.
PMCID: PMC4114459  PMID: 25100283
MyDoc; personal data protection; secure messaging; telehealth; telemedicine
18.  Can primary care groups learn how to manage demand from fundholders? A study of fundholders in Nottingham. 
BACKGROUND: Primary care groups (PCGs) will commission care for their patients and may be increasingly required to manage clearly defined resources. Existing general practice fundholders already operate in this environment, but can PCGs learn from the experience of fundholders in managing demand? AIM: To explore how general practice fundholders manage demand for hospital and community health services, and for prescribing. METHOD: A general practitioner (GP), and a fundholding manager from each of 26 practices were invited to take part. Questionnaires were developed, with structured and semi-structured components, and piloted in three practices. Interviews were conducted between October 1996 and February 1997 by the same interviewer (MDT). RESULTS: All practices stated that they were monitoring their waiting lists and giving priority to patients whose problems had become worse, but eight of the 23 GPs felt that they were unable to manage demand. Eight of the 15 fundholders who had developed in-house services actively managed the waiting list for these clinics. All fundholders had identified areas of unmet demand. Widely differing methods for increasing supply to meet demand were identified, and are described. Formularies were used by 12 out of the 23 fundholders. Guidelines were only considered useful by eight of the 23 practices; fundholders from later waves were less likely to find guidelines useful than fundholders from earlier waves (odds ratio [OR] = 0.11; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0 to 0.96). Private specialist surgery was less likely to be accessed by later wave fundholders using the fund than by early wave fundholders (OR = 0.10; 95% CI = 0.09 to 0.97). CONCLUSION: Fundholders in Nottingham had not developed consistent approaches to managing demand within limited resources. Given the apparent diversity of attitudes and practices, the larger PCGs will require strong support to develop the intended commissioning function.
PMCID: PMC1313395  PMID: 10736907
19.  Fundholders' referral patterns and perceptions of service quality in hospital provision of elective general surgery. 
BACKGROUND. The introduction of fundholding established an internal market in public sector health care, involving purchasers and providers contracting for the supply of health care. AIM. This study set out to examine fundholders' hospital referral patterns, and to evaluate the quality of the service provided to patients undergoing elective general surgery, as perceived by fundholding general practitioners. METHOD. A questionnaire was posted to the senior partners of all fundholding practices in the Trent Regional Health Authority area. This questionnaire requested assessments of the importance of 13 specified aspects of service quality and the quality of provision by general practitioners' most frequently-used hospitals. Five-point scales were employed in each case. Respondents were asked to provide additional details about their practice. RESULTS. A 67% response rate was achieved. Confidence in the consultant's ability, short waiting times and informative feedback from the providers emerged as the most important elements in referral decisions, while the cost of treatment and patient convenience received lower importance ratings. In terms of how well their providers were seen to perform, fundholders ranked confidence in the consultant and patient convenience highest, and style of hospital management lowest. The majority of referrals seemed to be local. CONCLUSION. Judged in terms of fundholders' perceptions, sizeable variations in service quality between hospital providers of general surgery are evident.
PMCID: PMC1239078  PMID: 7748666
20.  Fundholding in northern region: the first year. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1993;306(6874):375-378.
OBJECTIVE--To describe the experiences of 10 fundholding practices in the Northern region during 1991-2 and to elicit subjective assessments of the impact of their change in status on practice management and patient care. DESIGN--Semistructured interviews were conducted with clinicians and practice managers; other staff in the practices were asked to fill in questionnaires. Questions were asked about the preparatory year, the impact of fundholding on clinical practice and practice management, perceptions of the costs and benefits of fundholding, and views about the future of the scheme. SETTING--10 of the 28 first wave fundholding practices in the Northern region, March-July 1992. RESULTS--Two interviews were conducted in nine practices and one interview in the tenth practice. Replies to the questionnaire were received from 35 general practitioners (73%) and 89 (58%) nonmedical staff. Practices sought independence in applying for fundholding status and found the preparatory year challenging and time consuming. General practitioners thought that the greatest change had occurred in relationships with consultants and the least change in relationships with patients. Most respondents thought that fundholding had changed the way they worked. The perceived benefits of fundholding were mentioned more often than the perceived costs. CONCLUSIONS--The results offer some encouragement to the proponents of fundholding, but more longitudinal studies are needed to evaluate the misgivings of critics of the scheme. Fundholders are uncertain about their ability to make savings year after year, particularly in an increasingly cost contained environment.
PMCID: PMC1676438  PMID: 8461685
21.  Increasing workload and changing referral patterns in paediatric cardiology outreach clinics: implications for consultant staffing 
Heart  1998;79(3):223-224.
Objective—To assess the workload of, and referral patterns to, paediatric cardiology outreach clinics to provide data for future planning.
Design—Descriptive study of outpatient attendance during 1991 and 1996.
Setting—Five district general hospitals with unchanged local demographics and referral patterns during the study period.
Methods—Postal, telephone, and on site survey of clinic records and case notes.
Results—The number of outpatients increased by 61%, with a consequent increase in the number of clinics held and patients seen in each clinic. The number of patients aged between 10 and 15 years doubled.
Conclusion—These data confirm the impression that demands for paediatric cardiology services are increasing. The increased need for attendance at outreach clinics has inevitable consequences for the clinical, teaching, and research activities of specialists in tertiary centres. An increase in the number of paediatric cardiologists, or development of local expertise (general paediatricians with an interest in cardiology), will be required. Furthermore, the increasingly large cohort of older teenagers and young adults with congenital heart disease underscores the need for the development of specialist facilities.

 Keywords: paediatric clinics;  workload;  congenital heart disease
PMCID: PMC1728623  PMID: 9602652
22.  Changes in patient satisfaction and experience in primary and secondary care: the effect of general practice fundholding. 
BACKGROUND: The contributions of patients' opinions to the evaluation of health care is widely acknowledged. This study investigates whether the patients of a fundholding practice perceived any changes in the services offered. AIM: To examine the effect of general practice fundholding on patient satisfaction with both primary and secondary care services. METHOD: In April 1992, questionnaires were sent to 180 patients in each of four second-wave fundholding practices and four non-fundholding practices in the former South East Thames region. This took place before any changes were made in the practices as a result of fundholding. Repeat questionnaires were sent 30 months later. RESULTS: The overall response rate was 70% in 1992 and 66% in 1994/1995. Satisfaction levels were generally high for primary care services and changed little over time. There was no evidence to suggest that fundholding GPs were less inclined to prescribe or refer to secondary care services. Waiting times for the first appointment with a consultant in secondary care had reduced between 1992 and 1994 for patients referred from the fundholding practices. However, there were no differences in the time patients had to wait for subsequent treatments or further investigations. One-fifth of the fundholding patients referred to secondary care were seen by the specialist in their doctor's surgery, and those seen in this setting preferred it. CONCLUSION: Patients perceived no major differences in primary care services over the period between the two surveys. There was some evidence of preferential treatment for patients of fundholding practices, but only in waiting times for the first appointment with the secondary care specialist.
PMCID: PMC1313313  PMID: 10622012
23.  Modifying dyspepsia management in primary care: a cluster randomised controlled trial of educational outreach compared with passive guideline dissemination. 
BACKGROUND: Quality improvement initiatives in health services rely upon the effective introduction of clinical practice guidelines. However, even well constructed guidelines have little effect unless supported by dissemination and implementation strategies. AIM: To test the effectiveness of 'educational outreach' as a strategy for facilitating the uptake of dyspepsia management guidelines in primary care. DESIGN OF STUDY: A pragmatic, cluster-randomised controlled trial of guideline introduction, comparing educational outreach with postal guideline dissemination alone. SETTING: One-hundred and fourteen general practices (233 general practitioners) in the Salford and Trafford Health authority catchment area in the northwest of England. METHOD: All practices received guidelines by post in July 1997. The intervention group practices began to receive educational outreach three months later. This consisted of practice-based seminars with hospital specialists at which guideline recommendations were appraised, and implementation plans formulated. Seminars were followed up with 'reinforcement' visits after a further 12 weeks. Outcome measures were: (a) the appropriateness of referral for; and (b) findings at, open access upper gastrointestinal endoscopy; (c) costs of GP prescriptions for acid-suppressing drugs, and (d) the use of laboratory-based serological tests for Helicobacter pylori. Data were collected for seven months before and/or after the intervention and analysed by intention-to-treat. RESULTS: (a) The proportion of appropriate referrals was higher in the intervention group in the six-month post-intervention period (practice medians: control = 50.0%, intervention = 63.9%, P < 0.05); (b) the proportion of major findings at endoscopy did not alter significantly; (c) there was a greater rise in overall expenditure on acid-suppressing drugs in the intervention as compared with the control group (+8% versus +2%, P = 0.005); and (d) the median testing rate per practice for H pylori in the post-intervention period was significantly greater in the intervention group (four versus O, P < 0.001). CONCLUSION: This study suggests that educational outreach may be more effective than passive guideline dissemination in changing clinical behaviour. It also demonstrates that unpredictable and unanticipated outcomes may emerge.
PMCID: PMC1314507  PMID: 12817353
24.  Insights from a national survey into why substance abuse treatment units add prevention and outreach services 
Previous studies have found that even limited prevention-related interventions can affect health behaviors such as substance use and risky sex. Substance abuse treatment providers are ideal candidates to provide these services, but typically have little or no financial incentive to do so. The purpose of this study was therefore to explore why some substance abuse treatment units have added new prevention and outreach services. Based on an ecological framework of organizational strategy, three categories of predictors were tested: (1) environmental, (2) unit-level, and (3) unit leadership.
A lagged cross-sectional logistic model of 450 outpatient substance abuse treatment units revealed that local per capita income, mental health center affiliation, and clinical supervisors' graduate degrees were positively associated with likelihood of adding prevention-related education and outreach services. Managed care contracts and methadone treatment were negatively associated with addition of these services. No hospital-affiliated agencies added prevention and outreach services during the study period.
Findings supported the study's ecological perspective on organizational strategy, with factors at environmental, unit, and unit leadership levels associated with additions of prevention and outreach services. Among the significant predictors, ties to managed care payers and unit leadership graduate education emerge as potential leverage points for public policy. In the current sample, units with managed care contracts were less likely to add prevention and outreach services. This is not surprising, given managed care's emphasis on cost control. However, the association with this payment source suggests that public managed care programs might affects prevention and outreach differently through revised incentives. Specifically, government payers could explicitly compensate substance abuse treatment units in managed care contracts for prevention and outreach. The effects of supervisor graduate education on likelihood of adding new prevention and outreach programs suggests that leaders' education can affect organizational strategy. Foundation and government officials may encourage prevention and outreach by funding curricular enhancements to graduate degree programs demonstrating the importance of public goods.
Overall, these findings suggest that both money and professional education affect substance abuse treatment unit additions of prevention and outreach services, as well as other factors less amenable to policy intervention.
PMCID: PMC1562404  PMID: 16887037
25.  Outreach and improved access to specialist services for indigenous people in remote Australia: the requirements for sustainability 
Design: A process evaluation of a specialist outreach service, using health service utilisation data and interviews with health professionals and patients.
Setting: The Top End of Australia's Northern Territory, where Darwin is the capital city and the major base for hospital and specialist services. In the rural and remote areas outside Darwin there are many small, predominantly indigenous communities, which are greatly disadvantaged by a severe burden of disease and limited access to medical care.
Participants: Seventeen remote health practitioners, five specialists undertaking outreach, five regional health administrators, and three patients from remote communities.
Main results: The barriers faced by many remote indigenous people in accessing specialist and hospital care are substantial. Outreach delivery of specialist services has overcome some of the barriers relating to distance, communication, and cultural inappropriateness of services and has enabled an over fourfold increase in the number of consultations with people from remote communities. Key issues affecting sustainability include: an adequate specialist base; an unmet demand from primary care; integration with, accountability to and capacity building for a multidisciplinary framework centred in primary care; good communication; visits that are regular and predictable; funding and coordination that recognises responsibilities to both hospitals and the primary care sector; and regular evaluation.
Conclusions: In a setting where there is a disadvantaged population with inadequate access to medical care, specialist outreach from a regional centre can provide a more equitable means of service delivery than hospital based services alone. A sustainable outreach service that is organised appropriately, responsive to local community needs, and has an adequate regional specialist base can effectively integrate with and support primary health care processes. Poorly planned and conducted outreach, however, can draw resources away and detract from primary health care.
PMCID: PMC1732203  PMID: 12080159

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