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1.  Public Health Aspects of the Family Medicine Concepts in South Eastern Europe 
Materia Socio-Medica  2014;26(4):277-286.
Family medicine as a part of the primary health care is devoted to provide continuous and comprehensive health care to the individuals and families regardless of age, gender, types of diseases and affected system or part of the body. Special emphasis in such holistic approach is given to the prevention of diseases and health promotion. Family Medicine is the first step/link between doctors and patients within patients care as well as regular inspections/examinations and follow-up of the health status of healthy people. Most countries aspire to join the European Union and therefore adopting new regulations that are applied in the European Union.
The aim of this study is to present the role and importance of family medicine, or where family medicine is today in 21 Century from the beginning of development in these countries. The study is designed as a descriptive epidemiological study with data from 10 countries of the former Communist bloc, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, just about half of them are members of the EU. We examined the following variables: socio-organizational indicators, health and educational indicators and health indicators. The data used refer to 2002 and as a source of data are used official data from reference WebPages of family medicine doctors associations, WONCA website (EURACT, EQuiP, EGPRN), WebPages of Bureau of Statistics of the countries where the research was conducted as well as the Ministries of Health.
Results indicates that the failures and shortcomings of health care organizations in Southeast Europe. Lack of money hinders the implementation of health care reform in all mentioned countries, the most of them that is more oriented to Bismarck financing system. Problems in the political, legal and economic levels are obstacles for efficient a problem reconstructing health care system toward family medicine and primary prevention interventions. The population is not enough educated for complicated enforcement for and prevention of diseases that have a heavy burden on the budget. Health insurance and payment of health services is often a problem, because the patients must be treated regardless of their insurance coverage and financial situation. The decrease in production and economic growth, as well as low gross national income in the countries with economic crisis, lead to the inability of treatment for a large number of the population. Such situation a system leads to additional debts and loans to healthcare system. Measures implemented for provision of acute curative care largely did not lead to improvements in the health status of the population. Educational and preventive measures, as well as higher standards for quality and accessibility of health care services for entire population in each country, especially those struggling are bound to joining the European Union and their implementation must start. The most A large number of medical institutions are is inefficient in health education and health promotion and must work to educate patients and families and increase the quality of preventive health services. Modernization of health care delivery and joining the European Union by increasing overall economic stability of countries is one of the primary goals of all countries in Southeast Europe.
PMCID: PMC4214812  PMID: 25395894
primary health care; modernization; education; health care objectives; financing; payment for health care services
2.  WHO Essential Medicines Policies and Use in Developing and Transitional Countries: An Analysis of Reported Policy Implementation and Medicines Use Surveys 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001724.
Kathleen Holloway and David Henry evaluate whether countries that report having implemented WHO essential medicines policies have higher quality use of medicines.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Suboptimal medicine use is a global public health problem. For 35 years the World Health Organization (WHO) has promoted essential medicines policies to improve quality use of medicines (QUM), but evidence of their effectiveness is lacking, and uptake by countries remains low. Our objective was to determine whether WHO essential medicines policies are associated with better QUM.
Methods and Findings
We compared results from independently conducted medicines use surveys in countries that did versus did not report implementation of WHO essential medicines policies. We extracted survey data on ten validated QUM indicators and 36 self-reported policy implementation variables from WHO databases for 2002–2008. We calculated the average difference (as percent) for the QUM indicators between countries reporting versus not reporting implementation of specific policies. Policies associated with positive effects were included in a regression of a composite QUM score on total numbers of implemented policies. Data were available for 56 countries. Twenty-seven policies were associated with better use of at least two percentage points. Eighteen policies were associated with significantly better use (unadjusted p<0.05), of which four were associated with positive differences of 10% or more: undergraduate training of doctors in standard treatment guidelines, undergraduate training of nurses in standard treatment guidelines, the ministry of health having a unit promoting rational use of medicines, and provision of essential medicines free at point of care to all patients. In regression analyses national wealth was positively associated with the composite QUM score and the number of policies reported as being implemented in that country. There was a positive correlation between the number of policies (out of the 27 policies with an effect size of 2% or more) that countries reported implementing and the composite QUM score (r = 0.39, 95% CI 0.14 to 0.59, p = 0.003). This correlation weakened but remained significant after inclusion of national wealth in multiple linear regression analyses. Multiple policies were more strongly associated with the QUM score in the 28 countries with gross national income per capita below the median value (US$2,333) (r = 0.43, 95% CI 0.06 to 0.69, p = 0.023) than in the 28 countries with values above the median (r = 0.22, 95% CI −0.15 to 0.56, p = 0.261). The main limitations of the study are the reliance on self-report of policy implementation and measures of medicine use from small surveys. While the data can be used to explore the association of essential medicines policies with medicine use, they cannot be used to compare or benchmark individual country performance.
WHO essential medicines policies are associated with improved QUM, particularly in low-income countries.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The widespread availability of effective medicines, particularly those used to treat infectious diseases, has been largely responsible for a doubling in the average global life expectancy over the past century. However, the suboptimal use (overuse and underuse) of medicines is an ongoing global public health problem. The unnecessary use of medicines (for example, the use of antibiotics for sore throats caused by viruses) needlessly consumes scarce resources and has undesirable effects such as encouraging the emergence of antibiotic resistance. Conversely, underuse deprives people of the undisputed benefits of many medicines. Since 1977, to help optimize medicine use, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advocated the concept of “essential medicines” and has developed policies to promote the quality use of medicines (QUM). Essential medicines are drugs that satisfy the priority needs of the human population and that should always be available to communities in adequate amounts of assured quality, in the appropriate dosage forms, and at an affordable price. Policies designed to promote QUM include recommendations that medicines should be free at the point of care and that all health care professionals should be educated about the WHO list of essential medicines (which is revised every two years) throughout their careers.
Why Was This Study Done?
Surveys of WHO member countries undertaken in 2003 and 2007 suggest that the implementation of WHO policies designed to promote QUM is patchy. Moreover, little is known about whether these policies are effective, particularly in middle- and low-income countries. For most of these countries, it is not known whether any of the policies affect validated QUM indicators such as the percentage of patients prescribed antibiotics (a lower percentage indicates better use of medicines) or the percentage of patients treated in compliance with national treatment guidelines (a higher percentage indicates better use of medicines). Here, the researchers analyze data from policy implementation questionnaires and medicine use surveys to determine whether implementation of WHO essential medicines policies is associated with improved QUM in low- and middle-income countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers extracted data on ten validated QUM indicators and on implementation of 36 policy variables from WHO databases for 2002–2008 and compared the average differences for the QUM indicators between low- and middle-income countries that did versus did not report implementation of specific WHO policies for QUM. Among 56 countries for which data were available, 27 policies were associated with improved QUM. Four policies were particularly effective, namely, doctors' undergraduate training in standard treatment guidelines, nurses' undergraduate training in standard treatment guidelines, the existence of a ministry of health department promoting the rational use of medicines, and the provision of essential medicines free to all patients at point of care. The researchers also analyzed correlations between how many of the 27 effective policies were implemented in a country and a composite QUM score. As national wealth increased, both the composite QUM score of a country and the reported number of policies implemented by the country increased. There was also a positive correlation between the numbers of policies that countries reported implementing and their composite QUM score. Finally, the implementation of multiple policies was more strongly associated with the composite QUM score in countries with a gross national income per capita below the average for the study countries than in countries with a gross national income above the average.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that between 2002 and 2008, the reported implementation of WHO essential medicines policies was associated with better QUM across low- and middle-income countries. These findings also reveal a positive correlation between the number of policies that countries report implementing and their QUM. Notably, this correlation was strongest in the countries with the lowest per capita national wealth levels, which underscores the importance of essential medicines policies in low-income countries. Because of the nature of the data available to the researchers, these findings do not show that the implementation of WHO policies actually causes improvements in QUM. Moreover, the age of the data, the reliance on self-report of policy implementation, and the small sample sizes of the medicine use surveys may all have introduced some inaccuracies into these findings. Nevertheless, overall, these findings suggest that WHO should continue to develop its medicine policies and to collect data on medicine use as part of its core functions.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides information about essential medicines; its latest lists of essential medicines are available on the Internet; information about WHO policies to improve the quality use of medicines is also available (in several languages)
The International Network for the Rational Use of Drugs designs, tests, and disseminates effective strategies to improve the way drugs are prescribed, dispensed, and used, particularly in resource-poor countries
The website helps health care professionals, researchers, and policy makers obtain and discuss current information on essential drugs, policy, program activities, education, and training (available in several languages); the website is run by Satellife, which aims to use technology to connect health workers in resource-limited countries to each other and to up-to-date clinical and public health content
PMCID: PMC4165598  PMID: 25226527
3.  Family medicine model in Turkey: a qualitative assessment from the perspectives of primary care workers 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:38.
A person-list-based family medicine model was introduced in Turkey during health care reforms. This study aimed to explore from primary care workers’ perspectives whether this model could achieve the cardinal functions of primary care and have an integrative position in the health care system.
Four groups of primary care workers were included in this exploratory-descriptive study. The first two groups were family physicians (FP) (n = 51) and their ancillary personnel (n = 22). The other two groups were physicians (n = 44) and midwives/nurses (n = 11) working in community health centres. Participants were selected for maximum variation and 102 in-depth interviews and six focus groups were conducted using a semi-structured form.
Data analysis yielded five themes: accessibility, first-contact care, longitudinality, comprehensiveness, and coordination. Most participants stated that many people are not registered with any FP and that the majority of these belong to the most disadvantaged groups in society. FPs reported that 40-60% of patients on their lists have never received a service from them and the majority of those who use their services do not use FPs as the first point of contact. According to most participants, the list-based system improved the longitudinality of the relationship between FPs and patients. However, based on other statements, this improvement only applies to one quarter of the population. Whereas there was an improvement limited to a quantitative increase in services (immunisation, monitoring of pregnant women and infants) included in the performance-based contracting system, participants stated that services not among the performance targets, such as family planning, postpartum follow-ups, and chronic disease management, could be neglected. FPs admitted not being able to keep informed of services their patients had received at other health institutions. Half of the participants stated that the list-based system removed the possibility of evaluating the community as a whole.
According to our findings, FPs have a limited role as the first point of contact and in giving longitudinal, comprehensive, and coordinated care. The family medicine model in Turkey is unable to provide a suitable structure to integrate health care services.
PMCID: PMC3942270  PMID: 24571275
Family physician; Family medicine; Primary care; Health care reform; Integration
4.  Iraqi primary care system in Kurdistan region: providers’ perspectives on problems and opportunities for improvement 
As part of a comprehensive study on the primary health care system in Iraq, we sought to explore primary care providers’ perspectives about the main problems influencing the provision of primary care services and opportunities to improve the system.
A qualitative study based on four focus groups involving 40 primary care providers from 12 primary health care centres was conducted in Erbil governorate in the Iraqi Kurdistan region between July and October 2010. A topic guide was used to lead discussions and covered questions on positive aspects of and current problems with the primary care system in addition to the priority needs for its improvement. The discussions were fully transcribed and the qualitative data was analyzed by content analysis, followed by a thematic analysis.
Problems facing the primary care system included inappropriate health service delivery (irrational use of health services, irrational treatment, poor referral system, poor infrastructure and poor hygiene), health workforce challenges (high number of specialists, uneven distribution of the health workforce, rapid turnover, lack of training and educational opportunities and discrepancies in the salary system), shortage in resources (shortage and low quality of medical supplies and shortage in financing), poor information technology and poor leadership/governance. The greatest emphasis was placed on poor organization of health services delivery, particularly the irrational use of health services and the related overcrowding and overload on primary care providers and health facilities. Suggestions for improving the system included application of a family medicine approach and ensuring effective planning and monitoring.
This study has provided a comprehensive understanding of the factors that negatively affect the primary care system in Iraq’s Kurdistan region from the perspective of primary care providers. From their experience, primary care providers have a role in informing the community and policy makers about the main problems affecting this system, though improvements to the health care system must be taken up at the national level and involve other key stakeholders.
PMCID: PMC3492068  PMID: 23016849
Primary care; Care providers; Focus group; Service delivery; Kurdistan region
5.  A Multifaceted Intervention to Implement Guidelines and Improve Admission Paediatric Care in Kenyan District Hospitals: A Cluster Randomised Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1001018.
Philip Ayieko and colleagues report the outcomes of a cluster-randomized trial carried out in eight Kenyan district hospitals evaluating the effects of a complex intervention involving improved training and supervision for clinicians. They found a higher performance of hospitals assigned to the complex intervention on a variety of process of care measures, as compared to those receiving the control intervention.
In developing countries referral of severely ill children from primary care to district hospitals is common, but hospital care is often of poor quality. However, strategies to change multiple paediatric care practices in rural hospitals have rarely been evaluated.
Methods and Findings
This cluster randomized trial was conducted in eight rural Kenyan district hospitals, four of which were randomly assigned to a full intervention aimed at improving quality of clinical care (evidence-based guidelines, training, job aides, local facilitation, supervision, and face-to-face feedback; n = 4) and the remaining four to control intervention (guidelines, didactic training, job aides, and written feedback; n = 4). Prespecified structure, process, and outcome indicators were measured at baseline and during three and five 6-monthly surveys in control and intervention hospitals, respectively. Primary outcomes were process of care measures, assessed at 18 months postbaseline.
In both groups performance improved from baseline. Completion of admission assessment tasks was higher in intervention sites at 18 months (mean = 0.94 versus 0.65, adjusted difference 0.54 [95% confidence interval 0.05–0.29]). Uptake of guideline recommended therapeutic practices was also higher within intervention hospitals: adoption of once daily gentamicin (89.2% versus 74.4%; 17.1% [8.04%–26.1%]); loading dose quinine (91.9% versus 66.7%, 26.3% [−3.66% to 56.3%]); and adequate prescriptions of intravenous fluids for severe dehydration (67.2% versus 40.6%; 29.9% [10.9%–48.9%]). The proportion of children receiving inappropriate doses of drugs in intervention hospitals was lower (quinine dose >40 mg/kg/day; 1.0% versus 7.5%; −6.5% [−12.9% to 0.20%]), and inadequate gentamicin dose (2.2% versus 9.0%; −6.8% [−11.9% to −1.6%]).
Specific efforts are needed to improve hospital care in developing countries. A full, multifaceted intervention was associated with greater changes in practice spanning multiple, high mortality conditions in rural Kenyan hospitals than a partial intervention, providing one model for bridging the evidence to practice gap and improving admission care in similar settings.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN42996612
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
In 2008, nearly 10 million children died in early childhood. Nearly all these deaths were in low- and middle-income countries—half were in Africa. In Kenya, for example, 74 out every 1,000 children born died before they reached their fifth birthday. About half of all childhood (pediatric) deaths in developing countries are caused by pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria. Deaths from these common diseases could be prevented if all sick children had access to quality health care in the community (“primary” health care provided by health centers, pharmacists, family doctors, and traditional healers) and in district hospitals (“secondary” health care). Unfortunately, primary health care facilities in developing countries often lack essential diagnostic capabilities and drugs, and pediatric hospital care is frequently inadequate with many deaths occurring soon after admission. Consequently, in 1996, as part of global efforts to reduce childhood illnesses and deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) introduced the Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI) strategy. This approach to child health focuses on the well-being of the whole child and aims to improve the case management skills of health care staff at all levels, health systems, and family and community health practices.
Why Was This Study Done?
The implementation of IMCI has been evaluated at the primary health care level, but its implementation in district hospitals has not been evaluated. So, for example, interventions designed to encourage the routine use of WHO disease-specific guidelines in rural pediatric hospitals have not been tested. In this cluster randomized trial, the researchers develop and test a multifaceted intervention designed to improve the implementation of treatment guidelines and admission pediatric care in district hospitals in Kenya. In a cluster randomized trial, groups of patients rather than individual patients are randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions and the outcomes in different “clusters” of patients are compared. In this trial, each cluster is a district hospital.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly assigned eight Kenyan district hospitals to the “full” or “control” intervention, interventions that differed in intensity but that both included more strategies to promote implementation of best practice than are usually applied in Kenyan rural hospitals. The full intervention included provision of clinical practice guidelines and training in their use, six-monthly survey-based hospital assessments followed by face-to-face feedback of survey findings, 5.5 days training for health care workers, provision of job aids such as structured pediatric admission records, external supervision, and the identification of a local facilitator to promote guideline use and to provide on-site problem solving. The control intervention included the provision of clinical practice guidelines (without training in their use) and job aids, six-monthly surveys with written feedback, and a 1.5-day lecture-based seminar to explain the guidelines. The researchers compared the implementation of various processes of care (activities of patients and doctors undertaken to ensure delivery of care) in the intervention and control hospitals at baseline and 18 months later. The performance of both groups of hospitals improved during the trial but more markedly in the intervention hospitals than in the control hospitals. At 18 months, the completion of admission assessment tasks and the uptake of guideline-recommended clinical practices were both higher in the intervention hospitals than in the control hospitals. Moreover, a lower proportion of children received inappropriate doses of drugs such as quinine for malaria in the intervention hospitals than in the control hospitals.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that specific efforts are needed to improve pediatric care in rural Kenya and suggest that interventions that include more approaches to changing clinical practice may be more effective than interventions that include fewer approaches. These findings are limited by certain aspects of the trial design, such as the small number of participating hospitals, and may not be generalizable to other hospitals in Kenya or to hospitals in other developing countries. Thus, although these findings seem to suggest that efforts to implement and scale up improved secondary pediatric health care will need to include more than the production and dissemination of printed materials, further research including trials or evaluation of test programs are necessary before widespread adoption of any multifaceted approach (which will need to be tailored to local conditions and available resources) can be contemplated.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
WHO provides information on efforts to reduce global child mortality and on Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI); the WHO pocket book “Hospital care for children contains guidelines for the management of common illnesses with limited resources (available in several languages)
UNICEF also provides information on efforts to reduce child mortality and detailed statistics on child mortality
The iDOC Africa Web site, which is dedicated to improving the delivery of hospital care for children and newborns in Africa, provides links to the clinical guidelines and other resources used in this study
PMCID: PMC3071366  PMID: 21483712
6.  Patients’ perceptions of the quality of care after primary care reform 
Canadian Family Physician  2010;56(7):e273-e282.
To evaluate how a primary care reform, which aimed to promote interprofessional and interorganizational collaborative practices, affected patients’ experiences of the core dimensions of primary care.
Before-and-after comparison of patients’ perceptions of care at the beginning of family medicine group (FMG) implementation (15 to 20 months after accreditation) and 18 months later.
Five FMGs in the province of Quebec from various settings and types of practice.
A random sample of patients was selected in each FMG; a total of 1046 participants completed both the baseline and follow-up questionnaires.
Patients’ perceptions of relational and informational continuity, organizational and first-contact accessibility, attitude and efficiency of the clinic’s personnel and waiting times (service responsiveness), physician-nurse and primary care physician–specialist coordination, and intra-FMG collaboration were assessed over the telephone, mostly using a modified version of the Primary Care Assessment Tool. Additional items covered patients’ opinions about consulting nurses, patients’ use of emergency services, and patients’ recall of health promotion and preventive care received.
A total of 1275 patients were interviewed at the study baseline, and 82% also completed the follow-up interviews after 18 months (n = 1046). Overall, perceptions of relational and informational continuity increased significantly (P < .05), whereas organizational and first-contact accessibility and service responsiveness did not change significantly. Perception of physician-nurse coordination remained unchanged, but perception of primary care physician–specialist coordination decreased significantly (P < .05). The proportion of participants reporting visits with nurses and reporting use of FMGs’ emergency services increased significantly from baseline to follow-up (P < .05).
This reorganization of primary care services resulted in considerable changes in care practices, which led to improvements in patients’ experiences of the continuity of care but not to improvements in their experiences of the accessibility of care.
PMCID: PMC2922830  PMID: 20631263
7.  Treatment Outcomes and Cost-Effectiveness of Shifting Management of Stable ART Patients to Nurses in South Africa: An Observational Cohort 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(7):e1001055.
Lawrence Long and colleagues report that “down-referring” stable HIV patients from a doctor-managed, hospital-based ART clinic to a nurse-managed primary health facility provides good health outcomes and cost-effective treatment for patients.
To address human resource and infrastructure shortages, resource-constrained countries are being encouraged to shift HIV care to lesser trained care providers and lower level health care facilities. This study evaluated the cost-effectiveness of down-referring stable antiretroviral therapy (ART) patients from a doctor-managed, hospital-based ART clinic to a nurse-managed primary health care facility in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Methods and Findings
Criteria for down-referral were stable ART (≥11 mo), undetectable viral load within the previous 10 mo, CD4>200 cells/mm3, <5% weight loss over the last three visits, and no opportunistic infections. All patients down-referred from the treatment-initiation site to the down-referral site between 1 February 2008 and 1 January 2009 were compared to a matched sample of patients eligible for down-referral but not down-referred. Outcomes were assigned based on vital and health status 12 mo after down-referral eligibility and the average cost per outcome estimated from patient medical record data.
The down-referral site (n = 712) experienced less death and loss to follow up than the treatment-initiation site (n = 2,136) (1.7% versus 6.2%, relative risk = 0.27, 95% CI 0.15–0.49). The average cost per patient-year for those in care and responding at 12 mo was US$492 for down-referred patients and US$551 for patients remaining at the treatment-initiation site (p<0.0001), a savings of 11%. Down-referral was the cost-effective strategy for eligible patients.
Twelve-month outcomes of stable ART patients who are down-referred to a primary health clinic are as good as, or better than, the outcomes of similar patients who are maintained at a hospital-based ART clinic. The cost of treatment with down-referral is lower across all outcomes and would save 11% for patients who remain in care and respond to treatment. These results suggest that this strategy would increase treatment capacity and conserve resources without compromising patient outcomes.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since 1981, and about 33 million people are now infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Because HIV destroys immune system cells, which leaves infected individuals susceptible to other infections, early in the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-infected people died within ten years of infection. Then, in 1996, antiretroviral therapy (ART), which can keep HIV in check for many years, became available. For people living in developed countries, HIV infection became a chronic condition, but people in developing countries were not so lucky—ART was prohibitively expensive and so a diagnosis of HIV infection remained a death sentence in many regions of the world. In 2003, this situation was declared a global health emergency, and governments, international agencies, and funding bodies began to implement plans to increase ART coverage in developing countries. As a result, nowadays, more than a third of people in low- and middle-income countries who need ART are receiving it.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, shortages of human resources in developing countries are impeding progress toward universal ART coverage. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, where two-thirds of all HIV-positive people live, there are too few doctors to supervise all the ART that is required. Various organizations are therefore encouraging a shift of clinical care responsibilities for people receiving ART from doctors to less highly trained, less expensive, and more numerous members of the clinical workforce. Thus, in South Africa, plans are underway to reduce the role of hospital doctors in ART and to increase the role of primary health clinic nurses. One specific strategy involves “down-referring” patients whose HIV infection is under control (“stable ART patients”) from a doctor-managed, hospital-based ART clinic to a nurse-managed primary health care facility. In this observational study, the researchers investigate the effect of this strategy on treatment outcomes and costs by retrospectively analyzing data collected from a cohort (group) of adult patients initially treated by doctors at the Themba Lethu Clinic in Johannesburg and then down-referred to a nearby primary health clinic where nurses supervised their treatment.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Patients attending the hospital-based ART clinic were invited to transfer to the down-referral site if they had been on ART for at least 11 months and met criteria that indicated that ART was controlling their HIV infection. Each of the 712 stable ART patients who agreed to be down-referred to the primary health clinic was matched to three patients eligible for down-referral but not down-referred (2,136 patients), and clinical outcomes and costs in the patient groups were compared 12 months after down-referral eligibility. At this time point, 1.7% of the down-referred patients had died or had been lost to follow up compared to 6.2% of the patients who continued to receive hospital-based ART. The average cost per patient-year for those in care and responding at 12 months was US$492 for down-referred patients but US$551 for patients remaining at the hospital. Finally, the down-referral site spent US$509 to produce a patient who was in care and responding one year after down-referral on average, whereas the hospital spent US$602 for each responding patient. Thus, the down-referral strategy (nurse-managed care) was more cost-effective than continued hospital treatment (doctor-managed care).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, at least for this pair of study sites, the 12-month outcomes of stable ART patients who were down-referred to a primary health clinic were as good as or better than the outcomes of similar patients who remained at a hospital-based ART clinic. Moreover, the down-referral strategy saved 11% of costs for patients who remained in care and responded to treatment and appeared to be cost-effective, although additional studies are needed to confirm this last finding. Because this is an observational study (that is, patients eligible for down-referral were not randomly assigned to hospital or primary care facility treatment), it is possible that some unknown factor was responsible for the difference in outcomes between the two patient groups. Nevertheless, these results suggest that the down-referral strategy tested in this study could increase ART capacity and conserve resources without compromising patient outcomes in South Africa and possibly in other resource-limited settings.
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 Ford and Mills
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in Africa and on universal access to AIDS treatment (in English and Spanish)
The World Health Organization provides information about universal access to AIDS treatment, including its 2010 progress report (in English, French and Spanish)
Right to Care, a non-profit organization that aims to deliver and support quality clinical services in Southern Africa for the prevention, treatment, and management of HIV, provides information on down-referral
PMCID: PMC3139666  PMID: 21811402
8.  Human Resource and Funding Constraints for Essential Surgery in District Hospitals in Africa: A Retrospective Cross-Sectional Survey 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(3):e1000242.
In the second of two papers investigating surgical provision in eight district hospitals in Saharan African countries, Margaret Kruk and colleagues describe the range of providers of surgical care and anesthesia and estimate the related costs.
There is a growing recognition that the provision of surgical services in low-income countries is inadequate to the need. While constrained health budgets and health worker shortages have been blamed for the low rates of surgery, there has been little empirical data on the providers of surgery and cost of surgical services in Africa. This study described the range of providers of surgical care and anesthesia and estimated the resources dedicated to surgery at district hospitals in three African countries.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a retrospective cross-sectional survey of data from eight district hospitals in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. There were no specialist surgeons or anesthetists in any of the hospitals. Most of the health workers were nurses (77.5%), followed by mid-level providers (MLPs) not trained to provide surgical care (7.8%), and MLPs trained to perform surgical procedures (3.8%). There were one to six medical doctors per hospital (4.2% of clinical staff). Most major surgical procedures were performed by doctors (54.6%), however over one-third (35.9%) were done by MLPs. Anesthesia was mainly provided by nurses (39.4%). Most of the hospital expenditure was related to staffing. Of the total operating costs, only 7% to 14% was allocated to surgical care, the majority of which was for obstetric surgery. These costs represent a per capita expenditure on surgery ranging from US$0.05 to US$0.14 between the eight hospitals.
African countries have adopted different policies to ensure the provision of surgical care in their respective district hospitals. Overall, the surgical output per capita was very low, reflecting low staffing ratios and limited expenditures for surgery. We found that most surgical and anesthesia services in the three countries in the study were provided by generalist doctors, MLPs, and nurses. Although more information is needed to estimate unmet need for surgery, increasing the funds allocated to surgery, and, in the absence of trained doctors and surgeons, formalizing the training of MLPs appears to be a pragmatic and cost-effective way to make basic surgical services available in underserved areas.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Infectious diseases remain the major killers in developing countries, but traumatic injuries, complications of childbirth, and other conditions that need surgery are important contributors to the overall burden of disease in these countries. Unfortunately, the provision of surgical services in low- and middle-income countries is often insufficient. There are many fewer operations per a head of population in developing countries than in developed countries, essential operations such as cesarean sections for complicated deliveries are not always available, and elective operations such as male and female sterilization can be difficult to obtain. Lack of funding for surgical procedures and shortages of trained health workers have often been blamed for the low rates of surgery in developing countries. For example, anesthesiologists (doctors who are trained to give anesthetics and other pain-relieving agents) and trained anesthetists (usually nurses and technicians) are rare in many African countries, as are surgeons and obstetricians (doctors who look after women during pregnancy and childbirth). To make matters worse, these specialists often work in tertiary referral hospitals in large cities. In district hospitals, which provide most of the primary health care needs of rural populations, basic surgical care is usually provided by “mid-level health care providers” (MLPs)—individuals with a level of training between that of nurses and physicians.
Why Was This Study Done?
Various organizations are currently working to improve emergency and essential surgical care in developing countries. For example, the Bellagio Essential Surgery Group (BESG) seeks to define, quantify, and address the problem of unmet surgical needs in sub-Saharan Africa. Importantly, however, before any programs can be introduced to improve access to surgical services in developing countries, better baseline data on existing surgical services needs to be collected—most of the available information on these services is anecdotal. In this study, the researchers (most of whom are members of the BESG) investigate the provision of surgical procedures and anesthesia in district hospitals in three sub-Saharan African countries and estimate the costs of surgery performed in the same hospitals.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected recent data on the number of doctors, MLPs, and nurses in two district hospitals in Tanzania and in Mozambique, and from four district hospitals in Uganda and information on each hospital's expenditure. Most of the health workers in these hospitals (which care for 3 million people between them) were nurses (77.5%), followed by MLPs not trained to provide surgical care (7.8%), and MLPs trained to provide surgical care (3.8%). The hospitals had between one and six medical doctors each (28 across all the hospitals), but there were no trained surgeons or anesthesiologists posted at any of the hospitals. About half of the major surgical procedures undertaken at these hospitals were performed by doctors but more than a third were done by MLPs although the exact pattern of personnel involved in surgery varied among the three countries. Anesthesia was mostly provided by nurses and doctors; again the pattern of anesthesia provision varied among countries and hospitals. Only 7%–14% of overall hospital expenditure was allocated to surgical care and most of this allocation was used for obstetric services. Finally, the researchers estimate that, on the basis of district populations, the district hospitals spent between US$0.05 and US$0.14 per head on surgical services.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in the district hospitals investigated in this study, physicians, MLPs, and nurses provide most of the surgical care. Furthermore, although all the hospitals in the study provide some surgical care, it accounts for a small part of the hospitals' overall operating costs. These findings may not be generalizable to other district hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa and provide no information about the unmet needs for surgical care. Nevertheless, these findings and those of a separate paper that investigates the range and volume of surgical procedures undertaken in the same district hospitals provide a valuable baseline for planning the expansion of health care services in Africa. They also suggest that increasing the funds allocated to surgery and formalizing the training of MLPs might be a cost-effective way of increasing access to surgical care in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The range and volume of surgery in the same hospitals is investigated in a PLoS Medicine Research Article by Moses Galukande et al.
Information on the Bellagio Essential Surgery Group is available
WHO's Global initiative for Emergency and Essential Surgical Care plans to take essential emergency, basic surgery and anesthesia skills to health care staff in low- and middle-income countries around the world; WHO also has a page describing the importance of emergency and essential surgery in primary health care
PMCID: PMC2834706  PMID: 20231869
9.  Task Shifting for Scale-up of HIV Care: Evaluation of Nurse-Centered Antiretroviral Treatment at Rural Health Centers in Rwanda 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(10):e1000163.
Fabienne Shumbusho and colleagues evaluate a task-shifting model of nurse-centered antiretroviral treatment prescribing in rural primary health centers in Rwanda and find that nurses can effectively and safely prescribe ART when given adequate training, mentoring, and support.
The shortage of human resources for health, and in particular physicians, is one of the major barriers to achieve universal access to HIV care and treatment. In September 2005, a pilot program of nurse-centered antiretroviral treatment (ART) prescription was launched in three rural primary health centers in Rwanda. We retrospectively evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of this task-shifting model using descriptive data.
Methods and Findings
Medical records of 1,076 patients enrolled in HIV care and treatment services from September 2005 to March 2008 were reviewed to assess: (i) compliance with national guidelines for ART eligibility and prescription, and patient monitoring and (ii) key outcomes, such as retention, body weight, and CD4 cell count change at 6, 12, 18, and 24 mo after ART initiation. Of these, no ineligible patients were started on ART and only one patient received an inappropriate ART prescription. Of the 435 patients who initiated ART, the vast majority had adherence and side effects assessed at each clinic visit (89% and 84%, respectively). By March 2008, 390 (90%) patients were alive on ART, 29 (7%) had died, one (<1%) was lost to follow-up, and none had stopped treatment. Patient retention was about 92% by 12 mo and 91% by 24 mo. Depending on initial stage of disease, mean CD4 cell count increased between 97 and 128 cells/µl in the first 6 mo after treatment initiation and between 79 and 129 cells/µl from 6 to 24 mo of treatment. Mean weight increased significantly in the first 6 mo, between 1.8 and 4.3 kg, with no significant increases from 6 to 24 mo.
Patient outcomes in our pilot program compared favorably with other ART cohorts in sub-Saharan Africa and with those from a recent evaluation of the national ART program in Rwanda. These findings suggest that nurses can effectively and safely prescribe ART when given adequate training, mentoring, and support.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a serious health problem in sub-Saharan Africa. The virus attacks white blood cells that protect against infection, most commonly a type of white blood cell called CD4. When a person has been infected with HIV for a long time, the number of CD4 cells they have goes down, resulting in acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), in which the person's immune system no longer functions effectively.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has divided the disease into four stages as it progresses, according to symptoms including weight loss and so-called opportunistic infections. These are known as clinical stage I, II, III, or IV but were revised and renamed 1, 2, 3, and 4 in September 2005. HIV infection and AIDS cannot be cured but they can be managed with antiretroviral treatment (ART). The WHO currently recommends that ART is begun when the CD4 count falls below 350.
Rwanda is a country situated in the central Africa with a population of around 9 million inhabitants; over 3% of the rural population and 7% of the urban population are infected with HIV. In 2007, the WHO estimated that 220,000 Rwandan children had lost one or both parents to AIDS.
Why Was This Study Done?
The WHO estimates that 9.7 million people with HIV in low- to middle-income countries need ART but at the end of 2007, only 30% of these, including in Rwanda, had access to treatment. In many low-income countries a major factor in this is a lack of doctors. Rwanda, for example, has one doctor per 50,000 inhabitants and one nurse per 3,900 inhabitants.
This situation has led the WHO to recommend “task shifting,” i.e., that the task of prescribing ART should be shifted from doctors to nurses so that more patients can be treated. This type of reorganization is well studied in high-income countries, but the researchers wanted to help develop a system for treating AIDS that would be effective and timely in a predominantly rural, low-income setting such as Rwanda.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In conjunction with the Rwandan Ministry of Health, the researchers developed and piloted a task-shifting program, in which one nurse in each of three rural Rwandan primary health centers (PHCs) was trained to examine HIV patients and prescribe ART in simple cases. Nurses had to complete more than 50 consultations observed by the doctor before being permitted to consult patients independently. More complex cases were referred to a doctor. The authors developed standard checklists, instructions, and evaluation forms to guide nurses and the doctors who supervised them once a week.
The authors evaluated the pilot program by reviewing the records of 1,076 patients who enrolled on it between September 2005 and March 2008. They looked to see whether the nurses had followed guidelines and monitored the patients correctly. They also considered health outcomes for the patients, such as their death rate, their body weight, their CD4 cell count, and whether they maintained contact with caregivers.
They found that by March 2008, 451 patients had been eligible for ART. 435 received treatment and none of the patients were prescribed ART when they should not have been. Only one prescription did not follow national guidelines.
At every visit, nurses were supposed to assess whether patients were taking their drugs and to monitor side effects. They did this and maintained records correctly for the vast majority of the 435 patients who were prescribed ART. 390 patients (over 90%) of the 435 prescribed receiving ART continued to take it and maintain contact with the pilot PHC's program. 29 patients died. Only one was lost to follow up and the others transferred to another ART site. The majority gained weight in the first six months and their CD4 cell counts rose. Outcomes, including death rate, were similar to those treated on the (doctor-led) Rwandan national ART program and other sub-Saharan African national (doctor-led) programs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The study suggests that nurses are able to prescribe ART safely and effectively in a rural sub-Saharan setting, given sufficient training, mentoring, and support. Nurse-led prescribing of ART could mean that timely, appropriate treatment reaches many more HIV patients. It would reduce the burden of HIV care for doctors, freeing their time for other duties, and the study is already being used by the Rwandan Ministry of Health as a basis for plans to adopt a task-shifting strategy for the national ART program.
The study does have some limitations. The pilot program was funded and designed as a health project to deliver ART in rural areas, rather than a research project to compare nurse-led and doctor-led ART programs. There was no group of equivalent patients treated by doctors rather than nurses for direct comparison, although the authors did compare outcomes with those achieved nationally for doctor-led ART. The most promising sites, nurses, and patients were selected for the pilot and careful monitoring may have been an additional motivation for the nurses and doctors taking part. Health professionals in a scaled-up program may not be as committed as those in the pilot, who were carefully monitored. In addition, the nature of the pilot, which lasted for under three years and recruited new patients throughout, meant that patients were followed up for relatively short periods.
The authors also warn that they did not consider in this study the changes task shifting will make to doctors' roles and the skills required of both doctors and nurses. They recommend that task shifting should be implemented as part of a wider investment in health systems, human resources, training, adapted medical records, tools, and protocols.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
PLoS Medicine includes a page collecting together its recent articles on HIV infection and AIDS that includes research articles, perspectives, editorials, and policy forums provides news, views, and information about science, technology, and the developing world, including a section specific to HIV/AIDs
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a downloadable booklet Task Shifting to Tackle Health Worker Shortages
The WHO offers information on HIV and AIDS (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish) as well as health information and fact sheets on individual countries, including on Rwanda
The UNAIDS/WHO working group on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Surveillance gathers and publishes data on the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in individual countries, including on Rwanda
AIDS.ORG provides information to help prevent HIV infections and to improve the lives of those affected by HIV and AIDS. Factsheets on many aspects of HIV and AIDS are available. It is the official online publisher of AIDS Treatment News
PMCID: PMC2752160  PMID: 19823569
10.  Need to teach family medicine concepts even before establishing such practice in a country 
The practice of family medicine is not well established in many developing countries including Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Government funds and runs the health facilities which cater to the health needs of a majority of the population. Services of a first contact doctor delivered by full time, vocationally trained, Family Physicians is generally overshadowed by outpatient departments of the government hospitals and after hours private practice by the government sector doctors and specialists. This process has changed the concept of the provision of comprehensive primary and continuing care for entire families, which in an ideal situation, should addresses psychosocial problems as well and deliver coordinated health care services in a society. Therefore there is a compelling need to teach Family Medicine concepts to undergraduates in all medical faculties.
A similar situation prevails in many countries in the region. Faculty of Medicine Peradeniya embarked on teaching family medicine concepts even before a department of Family Medicine was established. The faculty has recognized CanMed Family Medicine concepts as the guiding principles where being an expert, communicator, collaborator, advocate, manager and professional is considered as core competencies of a doctor. These concepts created the basis to evaluate the existing family medicine curriculum , and the adequacy of teaching knowledge and skills, related to family medicine has been confirmed. However inadequacies of teaching related to communication, collaboration, management, advocacy and professionalism were recognized. Importance of inculcating patient centred attitudes and empathy in patient care was highlighted. Adopting evaluation tools like Patient Practitioner Orientation Scale and Jefferson’s Scale of Empathy was established. Consensus has been developed among all the departments to improve their teaching programmes in order to establish a system of teaching family medicine concepts among students which would lead them to be good Family Physicians in the future.
Teaching Family Medicine concepts could be initiated even before establishing departments of family medicine in medical faculties and establishing the practice of family medicine in society. Family medicine competencies could be inculcated among graduates while promoting the establishment of the proper practice of Family Medicine in the society.
PMCID: PMC3904475  PMID: 24397851
Family medicine concepts; Undergraduate curriculum; Communication; Patient; Centeredness; Empathy
11.  Care for post-stroke patients at Malaysian public health centres: self-reported practices of family medicine specialists 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:40.
Provision of post stroke care in developing countries is hampered by discoordination of services and limited access to specialised care. Albeit shortcomings, primary care continues to provide post-stroke services in less than favourable circumstances. This paper aimed to review provision of post-stroke care and related problems among Family Medicine Specialists managing public primary health care services.
A semi-structured questionnaire was distributed to 121 Family Physicians servicing public funded health centres in a pilot survey focused on improving post stroke care provision at community level. The questionnaire assessed respondents background and practice details i.e. estimated stroke care burden, current service provision and opinion on service improvement. Means and frequencies described quantitative data. For qualitative data, constant comparison method was used until saturation of themes was reached.
Response rate of 48.8% was obtained. For every 100 patients seen at public healthcentres each month, 2 patients have stroke. Median number of stroke patients seen per month is 5 (IQR 2-10). 57.6% of respondents estimated total stroke patients treated per year at each centre was less than 40 patients. 72.4% lacked a standard care plan although 96.6% agreed one was needed. Patients seen were: discharged from tertiary care (88.1%), shared care plan with specialists (67.8%) and patients who developed stroke during follow up at primary care (64.4%). Follow-ups were done at 8-12 weekly intervals (60.3%) with 3.4% on ‘as needed’ basis. Referrals ranked in order of frequency were to physiotherapy services, dietitian and speech and language pathologists in public facilities. The FMS’ perceived 4 important ‘needs’ in managing stroke patients at primary care level; access to rehabilitation services, coordinated care between tertiary centres and primary care using multidisciplinary care approach, a standardized guideline and family and caregiver support.
Post discharge stroke care guidelines and access to rehabilitation services at primary care is needed for post stroke patients residing at home in the community.
PMCID: PMC3945040  PMID: 24580779
Post stroke; Primary care; Healthcare delivery
12.  A New Long-Term Care Facilities Model in Nova Scotia, Canada: Protocol for a Mixed Methods Study of Care by Design 
JMIR Research Protocols  2013;2(2):e56.
Prior to the implementation of a new model of care in long-term care facilities in the Capital District Health Authority, Halifax, Nova Scotia, residents entering long-term care were responsible for finding their own family physician. As a result, care was provided by many family physicians responsible for a few residents leading to care coordination and continuity challenges. In 2009, Capital District Health Authority (CDHA) implemented a new model of long-term care called “Care by Design” which includes: a dedicated family physician per floor, 24/7 on-call physician coverage, implementation of a standardized geriatric assessment tool, and an interdisciplinary team approach to care. In addition, a new Emergency Health Services program was implemented shortly after, in which specially trained paramedics dedicated to long-term care responses are able to address urgent care needs. These changes were implemented to improve primary and emergency care for vulnerable residents. Here we describe a comprehensive mixed methods research study designed to assess the impact of these programs on care delivery and resident outcomes. The results of this research will be important to guide primary care policy for long-term care.
We aim to evaluate the impact of introducing a new model of a dedicated primary care physician and team approach to long-term care facilities in the CDHA using a mixed methods approach. As a mixed methods study, the quantitative and qualitative data findings will inform each other. Quantitatively we will measure a number of indicators of care in CDHA long-term care facilities pre and post-implementation of the new model. In the qualitative phase of the study we will explore the experience under the new model from the perspectives of stakeholders including family doctors, nurses, administration and staff as well as residents and family members. The proposed mixed method study seeks to evaluate and make policy recommendations related to primary care in long-term care facilities with a focus on end-of-life care and dementia.
This is a mixed methods study with concurrent quantitative and qualitative phases. In the quantitative phase, a retrospective time series study is being conducted. Planned analyses will measure indicators of clinical, system, and health outcomes across three time periods and assess the effect of Care by Design as a whole and its component parts. The qualitative methods explore the experiences of stakeholders (ie, physicians, nurses, paramedics, care assistants, administrators, residents, and family members) through focus groups and in depth individual interviews.
Data collection will be completed in fall 2013.
This study will generate a considerable amount of outcome data with applications for care providers, health care systems, and applications for program evaluation and quality improvement. Using the mixed methods design, this study will provide important results for stakeholders, as well as other health systems considering similar programs. In addition, this study will advance methods used to research new multifaceted interdisciplinary health delivery models using multiple and varied data sources and contribute to the discussion on evidence based health policy and program development.
PMCID: PMC3869043  PMID: 24292200
mixed methods; framework analysis; primary care; long-term care
13.  Frequency and Severity of Low Back Pain in Nurses Working in Intensive Care Units and Influential Factors 
Objective: The purpose of this research was to determine the frequency and severity of low back pain and influencing factors in nurses working in intensive care units.
Methods: This research was conducted as a cross-sectional study with 114 nurses working in the intensive care units in the province of Gaziantep, Turkey. Study data were collected using a questionnaire form and visual analogue scale.
Results: It was found that 84.2% of the nurses experienced low back pain, and 66.7% of the nurses evaluated this pain as “a pain with moderate severity”. It was determined that nurses who had not received any education on low back pain, who remained standing for long periods of time, who performed interventions that required bending forward, who lifted and repositioned patients, and who did not use any aiding equipment during interventions, experienced more pain and had higher average pain scores. In addition, average pain scores were higher among nurses with master’s and doctorate degrees, and those working in internal medicine and pediatric intensive care units and working in shifts.
Conclusion: It was observed that many of the nurses working in intensive care units experienced low back pain, and especially those working in internal medicine and pediatric intensive care units and working in shifts had higher average pain scores.
PMCID: PMC3955545  PMID: 24639834
Low back pain; Nurse; Influencing factors; Intensive care units
14.  State of emergency medicine in Spain 
Spain has universal public health care coverage. Emergency care provisions are offered to patients in different modalities and levels according to the characteristics of the medical complaint: at primary care centers (PCC), in an extrahospital setting by emergency medical services (EMS) and at hospital emergency departments (ED). We have more than 3,000 PCCs, which are run by family doctors (general practitioners) and pediatricians. On average, there is 1 PCC for every 15,000 to 20,000 inhabitants, and every family doctor is in charge of 1,500 to 2,000 citizens, although less populated zones tend to have lower ratios. Doctors spend part of their duty time in providing emergency care to their own patients. While not fully devoted to emergency medicine (EM) practice, they do manage minor emergencies. However, Spanish EMSs contribute hugely to guarantee population coverage in all situations. These EMS are run by EM technicians (EMT), nurses and doctors, who usually work exclusively in the emergency arena. EDs dealt with more than 25 million consultations in 2008, which implies, on average, that one out of two Spaniards visited an ED during this time. They are usually equipped with a wide range of diagnostic tools, most including ultrasonography and computerized tomography scans. The academic and training background of doctors working in the ED varies: nearly half lack any structured specialty residence training, but many have done specific master or postgraduate studies within the EM field. The demand for emergency care has grown at an annual rate of over 4% during the last decade. This percentage, which was greater than the 2% population increase during the same period, has outpaced the growth in ED capacity. Therefore, Spanish EDs become overcrowded when the system exerts minimal stress. Despite the high EM caseload and the potential severity of the conditions, training in EM is still unregulated in Spain. However, in April 2009 the Spanish Minister of Health announced the imminent approval of an EM specialty, allowing the first EM resident to officially start in 2011. Spanish emergency physicians look forward to the final approval, which will complete the modernization of emergency health care provision in Spain.
PMCID: PMC3047875  PMID: 21373287
Emergency medicine; Research; Teaching; Specialty; Resident
15.  The strength of primary care in Europe: an international comparative study 
The British Journal of General Practice  2013;63(616):e742-e750.
A suitable definition of primary care to capture the variety of prevailing international organisation and service-delivery models is lacking.
Evaluation of strength of primary care in Europe.
Design and setting
International comparative cross-sectional study performed in 2009–2010, involving 27 EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey.
Outcome measures covered three dimensions of primary care structure: primary care governance, economic conditions of primary care, and primary care workforce development; and four dimensions of primary care service-delivery process: accessibility, comprehensiveness, continuity, and coordination of primary care. The primary care dimensions were operationalised by a total of 77 indicators for which data were collected in 31 countries. Data sources included national and international literature, governmental publications, statistical databases, and experts’ consultations.
Countries with relatively strong primary care are Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and the UK. Countries either have many primary care policies and regulations in place, combined with good financial coverage and resources, and adequate primary care workforce conditions, or have consistently only few of these primary care structures in place. There is no correlation between the access, continuity, coordination, and comprehensiveness of primary care of countries.
Variation is shown in the strength of primary care across Europe, indicating a discrepancy in the responsibility given to primary care in national and international policy initiatives and the needed investments in primary care to solve, for example, future shortages of workforce. Countries are consistent in their primary care focus on all important structure dimensions. Countries need to improve their primary care information infrastructure to facilitate primary care performance management.
PMCID: PMC3809427  PMID: 24267857
benchmarking, Europe; delivery of health care; general practice; primary health care
16.  Policy characteristics facilitating primary health care in Thailand: A pilot study in transitional country 
In contrast to the considerable evidence of inequitable distribution of health, little is known about how health services (particularly primary care services) are distributed in less developed countries. Using a version of primary health care system questionnaire, this pilot study in Thailand assessed policies related to the provision of primary care, particularly with regard to attempts to distribute resources equitably, adequacy of resources, comprehensiveness of services, and co-payment requirement. Information on other main attributes of primary health care policy was also ascertained.
Questionnaire survey of 5 policymakers, 5 academicians, and 77 primary care practitioners who were attending a workshop on primary care. Descriptive statistics with Fischer's exact test were used for data analysis.
All policymakers and academicians completed the mailed questionnaire; the response rate among the practitioners was 53.25% (41 out of 77). However, the responses from all three groups were consistent in reporting that (1) financial resources were allocated based on different health needs and special efforts were made to assure primary care services to the needy or underserved population, (2) the supply of essential drugs was adequate, (3) clinical services were distributed equitably, (4) out-of-pocket payment was low, and that some primary health care attributes, particularly longitudinality (patients are seen by same doctor or team each time they make a visit), coordination, and family- and community-orientation were satisfactory. Geographical variations were present, suggesting inequitable distribution of primary care across regions. The questionnaire was robust across key stakeholders and feasible for use in a transitional country.
A primary care systems questionnaire administered to different types of health professionals was able to show that resource distribution was equitable at a national level but some aspects of primary care practice across regions is still of concern, in at least in this transitional country.
PMCID: PMC2667426  PMID: 19323812
17.  Factors Affecting Choice of Specialty Among First-year Medical Students of Four Universities in Different Regions of Turkey 
Croatian medical journal  2008;49(3):415-420.
To determine the factors affecting medical students’ choice of the specialty of family medicine.
The study was conducted in the period from 2004-2006 and comprised 770 first-year medical students from Ondokuz Mayis, Karadeniz Technical, Kocaeli, and Adnan Menderes Universities, Turkey. The questionnaire included questions on demographic data and 6 “yes/no” or open-ended questions on students’ career aspirations and the specialty of family medicine.
The response rate was 93.1% (n = 717, 54.7% male). Nearly all students (n = 714, 99.6%) showed an intention to specialize after receiving the medical doctor degree. A total of 187 students (26.2%) showed an intention to work in primary care without specialization “for a temporary period” to “gain some experience.” Family medicine was the least preferred specialty (n = 7, 0.9%). The most important reasons for the choice of specialty were “better financial opportunities” and “prestige” (n = 219, 30.5%), followed by “personal development” (n = 149, 20.8%), “more benefits for the patient” (n = 128, 17.9%), and “wish to work in an urban area” (n = 32, 4.5%). The most preferred specialties were cardiology (n = 179, 25.0%), pediatrics (n = 121, 16.9%), ophthalmology (n = 47, 6.6%), physical therapy and rehabilitation (n = 34, 4.7%), and obstetrics and gynecology (n = 32, 4.5%).
Prestige, money, and personal development are important factors in career decision-making among medical students in Turkey. This should be taken into consideration when conducting reforms at the primary level.
PMCID: PMC2443626  PMID: 18581621
18.  A self-evaluation tool for integrated care services: the Development Model for Integrated Care applied in practice 
The purpose of the workshop is to show the applications of the Development Model for Integrated Care (DMIC) in practice. This relatively new and validated model, can be used by integrated care practices to evaluate their integrated care, to assess their phase of development and reveal improvement areas. In the workshop the results of the use of the model in three types of integrated care settings in the Netherlands will be presented. Participants are offered practical instruments based on the validated DMIC to use in their own setting and will be introduced to the webbased tool.
To integrate care from multiple providers into a coherent and streamlined client-focused service, a large number of activities and agreements have to be implemented like streamlining information flows and adequate transfers of clients. In the large range of possible activities it is often not clear what essential activities are and where to start or continue. Also, knowledge about how to further develop integrated care services is needed. The Development Model for Integrated Care (DMIC), based on PhD research of Mirella Minkman, describes nine clusters containing in total 89 elements that contribute to the integration of care. The clusters are named: ‘client-centeredness’, ‘delivery system’, ‘performance management’, ‘quality of care’, ‘result-focused learning’, ‘interprofessional teamwork’, ‘roles and tasks’, ‘commitment’, and ‘transparant entrepreneurship’ [1–3]. In 2011 a new digital webbased self-evolution tool which contains the 89 elements grouped in nine clusters was developed. The DMIC also describes four phases of development [4]. The model is empirically validated in practice by assessing the relevance and implementation of the elements and development phases in 84 integrated care services in The Netherlands: in stroke, acute myocardial infarct (AMI), and dementia services. The validation studies are recently published [5, 6]. In 2011 also other integrated care services started using the model [7]. Vilans developed a digital web-based self-evaluation tool for integrated care services based on the DMIC. A palliative care network, four diabetes services, a youth care service and a network for autism used the self-evaluation tool to evaluate the development of their integrated care service. Because of its generic character, the model and tool are believed to be also interesting internationally.
Data sources
In the workshop we will present the results of three studies in integrated diabetes, youth and palliative care. The three projects consist of multiple steps, see below. Workshop participants could also work with the DMIC following these steps.
One: Preparation of the digital self-evolution tool for integrated care services
Although they are very different, the three integrated care services all wanted to gain insight in their development and improvement opportunities. We tailored the digital self-evaluation tool for each specific integrated care services, but for all the basis was the DMIC. Personal accounts for the digital DMIC self-evalution survey were sent to multiple partners working in each integrated care service (4–16 partners).
Two: Use of the online self-evaluation tool each partner of the local integrated care setting evaluated the integrated care by filling in the web-based questionnaire. The tool consists of three parts (A-C) named: general information about the integrated care practice (A); the clusters and elements of the DMIC (B); and the four phases of development (C). The respondents rated the relevance and presence of each element in their integrated care practice. Respondents were asked to estimate in which phase of development their thought their service was.
Three: Analysing the results
Advisers from Vilans, the Centre of excellence for long-term care in the Netherlands, analysed the self-evolution results in cooperation with the integrated care coordinators. The results show the total amount of implemented integrated care elements per cluster in spider graphs and the development phase as calculated by the DMIC model. Suggestions for further development of the integrated care services were analysed and reported.
Four: Discussing the implications for further development
In a workshop with the local integrated care partners the results of the self-evaluation were presented and discussed. We noticed remarkable results and highlight elements for further development. In addition, we gave advice for further development appropriate to the development phase of the integrated care service. Furthermore, the professionals prioritized the elements and decided which elements to start working on. This resulted in a (quality improvement) plan for the further development of the integrated care service.
Five: Reporting results
In a report all the results of the survey (including consensus scores) and the workshops came together. The integrated care coordinators stated that the reports really helped them to assess their improvement strategy. Also, there was insight in the development phase of their service which gave tools for further development.
Case description
The three cases presented are a palliative network, an integrated diabetes services and an integrated care network for youth in the Netherlands. The palliative care network wanted to reflect on their current development, to build a guiding framework for further development of the network. About sixteen professionals within the network worked with the digital self-evaluation tool and the DMIC: home care organisations, welfare organizations, hospice centres, health care organisations, community organizations.
For diabetes care, a Dutch health care insurance company wished to gain insight in the development of the contracted integrated care services to stimulate further development of the services. Professionals of three diabetes integrated care services were invited to fill in the digital self-evaluation tool. Of each integrated care service professionals like a general practitioner, a diabetes nurse, a medical specialist, a dietician and a podiatrist were invited. In youth care, a local health organisation wondered whether the DMIC could be helpful to visualize the results of youth integrated care services at process- and organisational level. The goal of the project was to define indicators at a process- and organisational level for youth care services based on the DMIC. In the future, these indicators might be used to evaluate youth care integrated care services and improve the quality of youth care within the Netherlands.
Conclusions and discussion
It is important for the quality of integrated care services that the involved coordinators, managers and professionals are aware of the development process of the integrated care service and that they focus on elements which can further develop and improve their integrated care. However, we noticed that integrated care services in the Netherlands experience difficulties in developing their integrated care service. It is often not clear what essential activities are to work on and how to further develop the integrated care service. A guiding framework for the development of integrated care was missing. The DMIC model has been developed for that reason and offers a useful tool for assessment, self-evaluation or improvement of integrated care services in practice. The model has been validated for AMI, dementia and stroke services. The latest new studies in diabetes, palliative care and youth care gave further insight in the generic character of the DMIC. Based on these studies it can be assumed that the DMIC can be used for multiple types of integrated care services. The model is assumed to be interesting for an international audience. Improving integrated care is a complex topic in a large number of countries; the DMIC is also based on the international literature. Dutch integrated care coordinators stated that the DMIC helped them to assess their integrated care development in practice and supported them in obtaining ideas for expanding and improving their integrated care activities.
The web-based self-evaluation tool focuses on a process- and organisational level of integrated care. Also, the self assessed development phase can be compared to the development phase as calculated by the DMIC tool. The cases showed this is fruitful input for discussions. When using the tool, the results can also be used in quality policy reports and improvement plans. The web-based tool is being tested at this moment in practice, but in San Marino we can present the latest webversion and demonstrate with a short video how to use the tool and model. During practical exercises in the workshop the participants will experience how the application of the DMIC can work for them in practice or in research. For integrated care researchers and policy makers, the DMIC questionnaire and tool is a promising method for further research and policy plans in integrated care.
PMCID: PMC3617779
development model for integrated care; development of integrated care services; implementation and improvement of integrated care; self evaluation
19.  A qualitative study of the views of patients with long-term conditions on family doctors in Hong Kong 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:46.
Primary care based management of long-term conditions (LTCs) is high on the international healthcare agenda, including the Asia-Pacific region. Hong Kong has a 'mixed economy' healthcare system with both public and private sectors with a range of types of primary care doctors. Recent Hong Kong Government policy aims to enhance the management of LTCs in primary care possibly based on a 'family doctor' model. Patients' views on this are not well documented and the aim of the present study was to explore the views of patients with LTCs on family doctors in Hong Kong.
The views of patients (with a variety of LTCs) on family doctors in Hong Kong were explored. Two groups of participants were interviewed; a) those who considered themselves as having a family doctor, b) those who considered themselves as not having a family doctor (either with a regular primary care doctor but not a family doctor or with no regular primary care doctor). In-depth individual semi-structured interviews were carried out with 28 participants (10 with a family doctor, 10 with a regular doctor, and 8 with no regular doctor) and analysed using the constant comparative method.
Participants who did not have a family doctor were familiar with the concept but regarded it as a 'luxury item' for the rich within the private healthcare system. Those with a regular family doctor (all private) regarded having one as important to their and their family's health. Participants in both groups felt that as well as the more usual family medicine specialist or general practitioner, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners also had the potential to be family doctors. However most participants attended the public healthcare system for management of their LTCs whether they had a family doctor or not. Cost, perceived need, quality, trust, and choice were all barriers to the use of family doctors for the management of their LTCs.
Important barriers to the adoption of a 'family doctor' model of management of LTCs exist in Hong Kong. Effective policy implementation seems unlikely unless these complex barriers are addressed.
PMCID: PMC2889885  PMID: 20525340
20.  Having a family doctor was associated with lower utilization of hospital-based health services 
Primary care in the United States and most countries in Asia are provided by a variety of doctors. However, effectiveness of such diversified primary care in gate-keeping secondary medical services is unknown. This study aimed to evaluate health services utilization rates of hospital emergency and admission services among people who used different primary care doctors in Hong Kong.
This study was a population-based cross-sectional telephone survey using structured questionnaire on health services utilization rates and pattern in Hong Kong in 2007 to 2008. Information on the choice of primary care doctors, utilization rates and patterns of primary care service were collected. Poisson and logistic regression analyses were used to explore any differences in service utilization rates and patterns among people using different types of primary care doctors.
Out of 3148 subjects who completed the survey, 1896 (60.2%) had regular primary care doctors, of whom 1150 (60.7%) regarded their regular doctors as their family doctors (RFD). 1157 (36.8%) of them did not use any regular doctors (NRD). Only 4.3% of the RFD group (vs 7.8% of other regular doctors (ORD) and 9.6% of NRD) visited emergency service and only 1.7% (vs 3.6% of ORD and 4.0% of NRD) were admitted to hospital for their last episode of illness. Regression analyses controlling for sociodemographics and health status confirmed that respondents having RFD were less likely to use emergency service than people who had NRD (OR 0.479) or ORD (OR 0.624) or being admitted to hospital (OR 0.458 vs NRD and 0.514 vs ORD) for their last episode of illness.
Primary care is the most effective in gate-keeping secondary care among people with regular family doctors. People without any regular primary care doctor were more likely to use emergency service as primary care. The findings supported a family doctor-led primary care model.
Trial registration number ID: NCT01422031.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12913-015-0705-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4312460  PMID: 25627936
Family doctor; Health utilization; Hospitalization; Emergency services; Chinese; Count data
21.  The contribution of Physician Assistants in primary care: a systematic review 
Primary care provision is important in the delivery of health care but many countries face primary care workforce challenges. Increasing demand, enlarged workloads, and current and anticipated physician shortages in many countries have led to the introduction of mid-level professionals, such as Physician Assistants (PAs). Objective: This systematic review aimed to appraise the evidence of the contribution of PAs within primary care, defined for this study as general practice, relevant to the UK or similar systems.
Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO, BNI, SSCI and SCOPUS databases were searched from 1950 to 2010. Eligibility criteria: PAs with a recognised PA qualification, general practice/family medicine included and the findings relevant to it presented separately and an English language journal publication. Two reviewers independently identified relevant publications, assessed quality using Critical Appraisal Skills Programme tools and extracted findings. Findings were classified and synthesised narratively as factors related to structure, process or outcome of care.
2167 publications were identified, of which 49 met our inclusion criteria, with 46 from the United States of America (USA). Structure: approximately half of PAs are reported to work in primary care in the USA with good support and a willingness to employ amongst doctors. Process: the majority of PAs’ workload is the management of patients with acute presentations. PAs tend to see younger patients and a different caseload to doctors, and require supervision. Studies of costs provide mixed results. Outcomes: acceptability to patients and potential patients is consistently found to be high, and studies of appropriateness report positively. Overall the evidence was appraised as of weak to moderate quality, with little comparative data presented and little change in research questions over time.
Limitations: identification of a broad range of studies examining ‘contribution’ made meta analysis or meta synthesis untenable.
The research evidence of the contribution of PAs to primary care was mixed and limited. However, the continued growth in employment of PAs in American primary care suggests that this professional group is judged to be of value by increasing numbers of employers. Further specific studies are needed to fill in the gaps in our knowledge about the effectiveness of PAs’ contribution to the international primary care workforce.
PMCID: PMC3698179  PMID: 23773235
Physician assistants; Family practice; Physicians; Family; General practice; Primary health care; Review
22.  Health system reforms, violence against doctors and job satisfaction in the medical profession: a cross-sectional survey in Zhejiang Province, Eastern China 
BMJ Open  2014;4(12):e006431.
To explore the factors influencing doctors’ job satisfaction and morale in China, in the context of the ongoing health system reforms and the deteriorating doctor–patient relationship.
Cross-sectional survey using self-completion questionnaires.
Study setting
The survey was conducted from March to May 2012 among doctors at the provincial, county and primary care levels in Zhejiang Province, China.
The questionnaire was completed by 202 doctors. Factors which contributed most to low job satisfaction were low income and long working hours. Provincial level doctors were most dissatisfied while primary care doctors were the least dissatisfied. Three per cent of doctors at high-level hospitals and 27% of those in primary care were satisfied with the salary. Only 7% at high-level hospitals were satisfied with the work hours, compared to 43% in primary care. Less than 10% at high levels were satisfied with the amount of paid vacation time (3%) and paid sick leave (5%), compared with 38% and 41%, respectively, in primary care. Overall, 87% reported that patients were more likely to sue and that patient violence against doctors was increasing. Only 4.5% wanted their children to be doctors. Of those 125 who provided a reason, 34% said poor pay, 17% said it was a high-risk profession, and 9% expressed concerns about personal insecurity or patient violence.
Doctors have low job satisfaction overall. Recruitment and retention of doctors have become major challenges for the Chinese health system. Measures must be taken to address this, in order to ensure recruitment and retention of doctors in the future. These measures must first include reduction of doctors’ workload, especially at provincial hospitals, partly through incentivisation of appropriate utilisation of primary care, increase in doctors’ salary and more effective measures to tackle patient violence against doctors.
PMCID: PMC4281536  PMID: 25552614
health reform; China; patient aggression; doctors; job satisfaction
23.  The medical care of patients with primary care home nursing is complex and influenced by non-medical factors: a comprehensive retrospective study from a suburban area in Sweden 
The reduced number of hospital beds and an ageing population have resulted in growing demands for home nursing. We know very little about the comprehensive care of these patients. The objectives were to identify the care, in addition to primary health care, of patients with primary-care home nursing to give a comprehensive view of their care and to investigate how personal, social and functional factors influence the use of specialised medical care.
One-third (158) of all patients receiving primary-care home nursing in an area were sampled, and 73 % (116) were included. Their care from October 1995 until October 1996 was investigated by sending questionnaires to district nurses and home-help providers and by collecting retrospective data from primary-care records and official statistics. We used non-parametric statistical methods, i.e. medians and minimum – maximum, χ2, and the Mann-Whitney test, since the data were not normally distributed. Conditional logistic regression was used to study whether personal, social or functional factors influenced the chance (expressed as odds ratio) that study patients had made visits to or had received inpatient care from specialised medical care during the study year.
56 % of the patients had been hospitalised. 73 % had made outpatient visits to specialised medical care. The care took place at 14 different hospitals, and more than 22 specialities were involved, but local care predominated. Almost all patients visited doctors, usually in both primary and specialised medical care. Patients who saw doctors in specialised care had more help from all other categories of care. Patients who received help from their families made more visits to specialised medical care and patients with severe ADL dependence made fewer visits.
The care of patients with primary-care home nursing is complex. Apart from home nursing, all patients also made outpatient visits to doctors, usually in both primary and specialised medical care. Many different caregivers and professions were involved. Reduced functional capacity decreased and help from family members increased the chance of having received outpatient specialised medical care. This raises questions concerning the medical care for patients with both medical and functional problems.
PMCID: PMC517924  PMID: 15333133
home nursing; home health care; home care; hospitalisation; outpatient visits; health care utilisation; primary health care; specialised medical care
24.  Reliable mortality statistics for Turkey: Are we there yet? 
BMC Public Health  2015;15:545.
The Turkish government has implemented several reforms to improve the Turkish Statistical Institute Death Reporting System (TURKSTAT-DRS) since 2009. However, there has been no assessment to evaluate the impact of these reforms on causes of death statistics. This study attempted to analyse the impact of these reforms on the TURKSTAT-DRS for Turkey, and in the case of Izmir, one of the most developed provinces in Turkey.
The evaluation framework comprised three main components each with specific criteria. Firstly, data from TURKSTAT for Turkey and Izmir for the periods 2001–2008 and 2009–2013 were assessed in terms of the following dimensions that represent quality of mortality statistics (a. completeness of death registration, b. trends in proportions of deaths with ill-defined causes). Secondly, the quality of information recorded on individual death certificates from Izmir in 2010 was analysed for a. missing information, b. timeliness of death notifications and c. characteristics of deaths with ill-defined causes. Finally, TURKSTAT data were analysed to estimate life tables and summary mortality indicators for Turkey and Izmir, as well as the leading causes-of-death in Turkey in 2013.
Registration of adult deaths in Izmir as well as at the national level for Turkey has considerably improved since the introduction of reforms in 2009, along with marked decline in the proportions of deaths assigned ill-defined causes. Death certificates from Izmir indicated significant gaps in recorded information for demographic as well as epidemiological variables, particularly for infant deaths, and in the detailed recording of causes of death. Life expectancy at birth estimated from local data is 3–4 years higher than similar estimates for Turkey from international studies, and this requires further investigation and confirmation.
The TURKSTAT-DRS is now an improved source of mortality and cause of death statistics for Turkey. The reliability and validity of TURKSTAT data needs to be established through a detailed research program to evaluate completeness of death registration and validity of registered causes of death. Similar evaluation and data analysis of mortality indicators is required at regular intervals at national and sub-national level, to increase confidence in their utility as primary data for epidemiology and health policy.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-015-1904-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4460716  PMID: 26058703
Turkish Statistical Institute; Death Reporting System; Vital Registration; Mortality statistics; Izmir; Turkey
25.  African leaders’ views on critical human resource issues for the implementation of family medicine in Africa 
The World Health Organisation has advocated for comprehensive primary care teams, which include family physicians. However, despite (or because of) severe doctor shortages in Africa, there is insufficient clarity on the role of the family physician in the primary health care team. Instead there is a trend towards task shifting without thought for teamwork, which runs the risk of dangerous oversimplification. It is not clear how African leaders understand the challenges of implementing family medicine, especially in human resource terms. This study, therefore, sought to explore the views of academic and government leaders on critical human resource issues for implementation of family medicine in Africa.
In this qualitative study, key academic and government leaders were purposively selected from sixteen African countries. In-depth interviews were conducted using an interview guide. All interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed.
There were 27 interviews conducted with 16 government and 11 academic leaders in nine Sub-Saharan African countries: Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda. Respondents spoke about: educating doctors in family medicine suited to Africa, including procedural skills and holistic care, to address the difficulty of recruiting and retaining doctors in rural and underserved areas; planning for primary health care teams, including family physicians; new supervisory models in primary health care; and general human resource management issues.
Important milestones in African health care fail to specifically address the human resource issues of integrated primary health care teamwork that includes family physicians. Leaders interviewed in this study, however, proposed organising the district health system with a strong embrace of family medicine in Africa, especially with regard to providing clinical leadership in team-based primary health care. Whilst these leaders focussed positively on entry and workforce issues, in terms of the 2006 World Health Report on human resources for health, they did not substantially address retention of family physicians. Family physicians need to respond to the challenge by respondents to articulate human resource policies appropriate to Africa, including the organisational development of the primary health care team with more sophisticated skills and teamwork.
PMCID: PMC3899624  PMID: 24438344
Family medicine; Primary health care; Africa; Development; Family physician; Human resources; Policy

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