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1.  Physicians who experience sickness certification as a work environmental problem: where do they work and what specific problems do they have? A nationwide survey in Sweden 
BMJ Open  2012;2(2):e000704.
Objectives
In a recent study, 11% of the Swedish physicians below 65 years dealing with sickness certification tasks (SCT) experienced SCT to a great extent as a work environment problem (WEP). This study aimed at exploring which SCT problems those physicians experienced and if these problems varied between general practitioners (GPs), psychiatrists, orthopaedists and physicians working at other types of clinics.
Design
A cross-sectional nationwide questionnaire study.
Setting
All physicians working in Sweden in 2008.
Participants
The 1554 physicians <65 years old, working in a clinical setting, having SCT and stating SCT to a great extent being a WEP.
Outcome measures
Frequency of possibly problematic situations or lack of time, reasons for sickness certifying unnecessarily long, experience of difficulties in contacts with sickness insurance offices, and severity of experienced problems.
Results
In all, 79% of this group of physicians experienced SCT as problematic at least once weekly, significantly higher proportion among GPs (p<0.001) and psychiatrists (p=0.005). A majority (at most 68.3%) experienced lack of time daily, when handling SCT, the proportion being significantly higher among orthopaedists (p=0.003, 0.007 and 0.011 on three respective items about lack of time). Among psychiatrists, a significantly higher proportion (p<0.001) stated wanting a patient coordinator. Also, GPs agreed to a higher extent (p<0.001) to finding 14 different SCT tasks as ‘very problematic’.
Conclusions
The main problem among physicians who experience SCT to a great extent as a WEP was lack of time related to SCT. The proportion of physicians experiencing problems varied in many aspects significantly between the different work clinics; however, GPs were among the highest in most types of problems. The results indicate that measures for improving physicians' sickness certification practices should be focused on organisational as well as professional level and that the needs in these aspects differ between specialties.
Article summary
Article focus
A study of the minority of physicians who state sickness certification tasks to a great extent being a work environment problem.
What problems do these physicians experience in relation to sickness certification?
Do the experienced problems vary with type of work clinic/specialty?
Key messages
A vast majority of these physicians experienced daily lack of time when handling sickness certification tasks.
About half of these physicians found it very problematic to assess level of work incapacity, to manage the two roles as the patient's physician and as a medical expert, and to provide the Social Insurance Office with more extensive sickness certificates.
Measures for improving physicians' sickness certification practices should be focused on organisational as well as professional levels and might need to differ between specialties.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The study was based on a questionnaire sent to all 37 000 physicians in a whole country, and the response rate (61%) could be regarded as relatively high.
Only one question about work environment was included.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000704
PMCID: PMC3293140  PMID: 22382120
2.  Frequency and severity of problems that general practitioners experience regarding sickness certification 
Objective
Tasks involved in sickness certification constitute potential problems for physicians. The objective in this study was to obtain more detailed knowledge about the problems that general practitioners (GPs) experience in sickness certification cases, specifically regarding reasons for issuing unnecessarily long sick-leave periods.
Design
A cross-sectional national questionnaire study. Setting. Primary health care in Sweden.
Subjects
The 2516 general practitioners (GPs), below 65 years of age, who had consultations involving sickness certification every week. This makes it the by far largest such study worldwide. The response rate among GPs was 59.9%.
Results
Once a week, half of the GPs (54.5%) found it problematic to handle sickness certification, and one-fourth (25.9%) had a patient who wanted to be sickness absent for some reason other than medical work incapacity. Issues rated as problematic by many GPs concerned assessing work capacity, prognosticating the duration of incapacity, handling situations in which the GP and the patient had different opinions on the need for sick leave, and managing the two roles as physician for the patient and medical expert in writing certificates for other authorities. Main reasons for certifying unnecessarily long sick-leave periods were long waiting times in health care and in other organizations, and younger and male GPs more often reported doing this to avoid conflicts with the patient.
Conclusion
A majority of the GPs found sickness certification problematic. Most problems were related to professional competence in insurance medicine. Better possibilities to develop, maintain, and practise such professionalism are warranted.
doi:10.3109/02813432.2011.628235
PMCID: PMC3308465  PMID: 22126222
GP; physicians; primary health care; sickness certification; sick leave
3.  Sickness-certification practice in different clinical settings; a survey of all physicians in a country 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:752.
Background
How physicians handle sickness-certification is essential in the sickness-absence process. Few studies have focused this task of physicians' daily work. Most previous studies have only included general practitioners. However, a previous study indicated that this is a common task also among other physicians. The aim of this study was to gain detailed knowledge about physicians' work with sickness-certification and of the problems they experience in this work.
Methods
A comprehensive questionnaire regarding sickness-certification practice was sent home to all physicians living and working in Sweden (N = 36,898; response rate: 61%). This study included physicians aged <65 years who had sickness-certification consultations at least a few times a year (n = 14,210). Descriptive statistics were calculated and odds ratios (OR) with 95 % confidence intervals (CI) were estimated for having different types of related problems, stratified on clinical settings, using physicians working in internal medicine as reference group.
Results
Sickness-certification consultations were frequent; 67% of all physicians had such, and of those, 83% had that at least once a week. The proportion who had such consultations >5 times a week varied between clinical settings; from 3% in dermatology to 79% in orthopaedics; and was 43% in primary health care. The OR for finding sickness-certification tasks problematic was highest among the physicians working in primary health care (OR 3.3; CI 2.9-3.7) and rheumatology clinics (OR 2.6; CI 1.9-3.5). About 60% found it problematic to assess patients' work capacity and to provide a prognosis regarding the duration of work incapacity.
Conclusions
So far, most interventions regarding physicians' sickness-certification practices have been targeted towards primary health care and general practitioners. Our results indicate that the ORs for finding these tasks problematic were highest in primary health care. Nevertheless, physicians in some other clinical settings more often have such consultations and many of them also find these tasks problematic, e.g. in rheumatology, neurology, psychiatry, and orthopaedic clinics. Thus, the results indicate that much can be gained through focusing on physicians in other types of clinics as well, when planning interventions to improve sickness-certification practice.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-752
PMCID: PMC3016384  PMID: 21129227
4.  General practitioners' experiences with sickness certification: a comparison of survey data from Sweden and Norway 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:10.
Background
In most countries with sickness insurance systems, general practitioners (GPs) play a key role in the sickness-absence process. Previous studies have indicated that GPs experience several tasks and situations related to sickness certification consultations as problematic. The fact that the organization of primary health care and social insurance systems differ between countries may influence both GPs' experiences and certification. The aim of the present study was to gain more knowledge of GPs' experiences of sickness certification, by comparing data from Sweden and Norway, regarding frequencies and aspects of sickness certification found to be problematic.
Methods
Statistical analyses of cross-sectional survey data of sickness certification by GPs in Sweden and Norway. In Sweden, all GPs were included, with 3949 (60.6%) responding. In Norway, a representative sample of GPs was included, with 221 (66.5%) responding.
Results
Most GPs reported having consultations involving sickness certification at least once a week; 95% of the GPs in Sweden and 99% of the GPs in Norway. A majority found such tasks problematic; 60% of the GPs in Sweden and 53% in Norway. In a logistic regression, having a higher frequency of sickness certification consultations was associated with a higher risk of experiencing them as problematic, in both countries. A higher rate of GPs in Sweden than in Norway reported meeting patients wanting a sickness certification without a medical reason. GPs in Sweden found it more problematic to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of sick leave with patients and to issue a prolongation of a sick-leave period initiated by another physician. GPs in Norway more often worried that patients would go to another physician if they did not issue a certificate, and a higher proportion of Norwegian GPs found it problematic to handle situations where they and their patient disagreed on the need for sick leave.
Conclusions
The study confirms that many GPs experience sickness absence consultations as problematic. However, there were differences between the two countries in GPs' experiences, which may be linked to differences in social security regulations and the organization of GP services. Possible causes and consequences of national differences should be addressed in future studies.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-10
PMCID: PMC3320536  PMID: 22375615
5.  Dealing with sickness certification – a survey of problems and strategies among general practitioners and orthopaedic surgeons 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:273.
Background
In order to get sickness benefit a sick-listed person need a medical certificate issued by a physician; in Sweden after one week of self-certification. Physicians experience sick-listing tasks as problematic and conflicts may arise when patients regard themselves unable to work due to complaints that are hard to objectively verify for the physician. Most GPs and orthopaedic surgeons (OS) deal regularly with sick-listing issues in their daily practice. The aim of this study was to explore perceived problems and coping strategies related to tasks of sickness certification among general practitioners (GP) and orthopaedic surgeons (OS).
Methods
A cross-sectional study about sickness certification in two Swedish counties, with 673 participating GPs and 149 OSs, who answered a comprehensive questionnaire. Frequencies together with crude and adjusted (gender and working years) Odds ratios were calculated.
Results
A majority of the GPs and OSs experienced problems in sickness certification every week. To assess the patient's work ability, to handle situations when they and the patient had different opinions about the need for sickness absence, and to issue prolongation certificates when the previous was issued by another physician were reported as problematic by a majority in both groups. Both GPs and OSs prolonged sickness certifications due to waiting times in health care or at Social Insurance Office (SIO). To handle experienced problems they used different strategies; OSs issued sickness certificates without personal appointment more often than the GPs, who on the other hand reported having contact with SIO more often than the OSs. A higher rate of GPs experienced support from management and had a common strategy for handling sickness certification at the clinic than the OSs.
Conclusion
Most GPs and OSs handled sickness certification weekly and reported a variety of problems in relation to this task, generally GPs to a higher extent, and they used different coping strategies to handle the problems.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-273
PMCID: PMC2089078  PMID: 17910746
6.  Frequency and nature of problems associated with sickness certification tasks: A cross-sectional questionnaire study of 5455 physicians 
Objective
To study the frequency and nature of problems associated with physicians’ sickness certification practices.
Design
Cross-sectional questionnaire study.
Setting
Stockholm and Östergötland Counties in Sweden.
Subjects
Physicians aged ≤64 years, n =7665, response rate 71% (n =5455).
Main outcome measures
The frequency of consultations involving sickness certification, the frequency and nature of problems related to sickness certification.
Results
A total of 74% (n =4019) of the respondents had consultations including sickness certification at least a few times a year. About half of these physicians had sickness certification cases at least six times a week, and 1 out of 10 (9.4%) had this more than 20 times a week. The items that the highest percentage of physicians rated as very or fairly problematic included: handling conflicts with patients over certification, assessing work ability, estimating optimal length and degree of absence, and managing prolongation of sick leave initially certified by another physician. There were large differences in frequency and nature of problems between different types of clinics/practices. General practitioners had the highest frequency of problems concerning sickness certification while the lowest was found among specialists in internal medicine and surgery.
Conclusion
Sickness certification should be recognized as an important task also for physicians other than general practitioners. The physicians experienced problems with numerous tasks related to sickness certification and these varied considerably between types of clinics. The high rate of problems experienced may have consequences for the physicians’ work situation, for patients, and for society.
doi:10.1080/02813430701430854
PMCID: PMC3379778  PMID: 17846937
Family practice; healthcare; insurance medicine; physicians; sickness certification; sick leave
7.  Health care management of sickness certification tasks: results from two surveys to physicians 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:207.
Background
Health care in general and physicians in particular, play an important role in patients’ sickness certification processes. However, a lack of management within health care regarding how sickness certification is carried out has been identified in Sweden. A variety of interventions to increase the quality of sickness certification were introduced by the government and County Councils. Some of these measures were specifically aimed at strengthening health care management of sickness certification; e.g. policy making and management support. The aim was to describe to what extent physicians in different medical specialties had access to a joint policy regarding sickness certification in their clinical settings and experienced management support in carrying out sickness certification.
Method
A descriptive study, based on data from two cross-sectional questionnaires sent to all physicians in the Stockholm County regarding their sickness certification practice. Criteria for inclusion in this study were working in a clinical setting, being a board-certified specialist, <65 years of age, and having sickness certification consultations at least a few times a year. These criteria were met by 2497 physicians in 2004 and 2204 physicians in 2008. Proportions were calculated regarding access to policy and management support, stratified according to medical specialty.
Results
The proportions of physicians working in clinical settings with a well-established policy regarding sickness certification were generally low both in 2004 and 2008, but varied greatly between different types of medical specialties (from 6.1% to 46.9%). Also, reports of access to substantial management support regarding sickness certification varied greatly between medical specialties (from 10.5% to 48.8%). More than one third of the physicians reported having no such management support.
Conclusions
Most physicians did not work in a clinical setting with a well-established policy on sickness certification tasks, nor did they experience substantial support from their manager. The results indicate a need of strengthening health care management of sickness certification tasks in order to better support physicians in these tasks.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-207
PMCID: PMC3671141  PMID: 23701711
Health care management; Sickness certification practice; Sick leave; Physician
8.  Sickness certificates in Sweden: did the new guidelines improve their quality? 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:907.
Background
Long-term sickness absence is high in many Western countries. In Sweden and many other countries, decisions on entitlement to sickness benefits and return to work measures are based on information provided by physicians in sickness certificates. The quality demands, as stressed by the Swedish sick leave guidelines from 2008, included accurate sickness certificates with assessment of functioning clearly documented. This study aims to compare quality of sickness certificates between 2007 and 2009 in Östergötland County, Sweden. Quality is defined in terms of descriptions of functioning with the use of activity and participation according to WHO’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), and in prescriptions of early rehabilitation.
Methods
During two weeks in 2007 and four weeks in 2009, all certificates had been collected upon arrival to the social insurance office in Östergötland County, Sweden. Four hundred seventy-five new certificates were included in 2007 and 501 in 2009. Prolongations of sick leave were included until the last date of sick listing. Free text on functioning was analysed deductively using the ICF framework, and placed into categories (body functions/structures, activity, participation, no description) for statistical analysis.
Results
The majority of the certificates were issued for musculoskeletal diseases or mental disorders. Text on functioning could be classified into the components of ICF in 65% and 78% of sickness certificates issued in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Descriptions according to body components such as “sensations of pain” or “emotional functions” were given in 58% of the certificates from 2007 and in 65% from 2009. The activity component, for example “walking” or “handling stress”, was more frequent in certificates issued in 2009 compared with 2007 (33% versus 26%). Prescriptions of early rehabilitation increased from 27% in 2007 to 35% in 2009, primarily due to more counseling.
Conclusions
An improvement of the quality between certificates collected in 2007 and 2009 was demonstrated in Östergötland County, Sweden. The certificates from 2009 provided more information linkable to ICF and incorporated an increased use of activity limitations when describing patients’ functioning. Still, activity limitations and prescriptions of early rehabilitation were only present in one-third of the sickness certificates.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-907
PMCID: PMC3503852  PMID: 23101724
Sickness certificates; International Classification of Functioning; Disability and Health (ICF); Rehabilitation; Sick leave; Physicians; Functioning; Work ability; Sweden
9.  Psychiatrists′ work with sickness certification: frequency, experiences and severity of the certification tasks in a national survey in Sweden 
Background
Many psychiatrists are involved in sickness certification of their patients; however, there is very limited knowledge about this aspect of their work. The objective of this study was to explore frequencies of problematic issues in the sickness certification tasks and experiences of severity regarding these problematic issues among psychiatrists.
Methods
A cross-sectional nationwide questionnaire study to all physicians in Sweden. The 579 specialists in psychiatry who answered the questionnaire, were under 65 years of age, worked mainly in psychiatric care, and had consultations involving sickness certification at least once a week were included.
Results
The frequency of problematic sickness certification consultations a few times per year or more often was considered by 87.3% of the psychiatrists; 11.7% handle such cases at least once a week. A majority (60.9%) reported ‘not having enough time with the patient’ at least once a week. The psychiatrists had access to several categories of professionals in their daily work. More than one third certified unnecessarily long sick-leave periods at least once a month due to waiting times for Social Insurance Office investigations or for treatments or investigations within health care.
Conclusion
The majority found it problematic to assess the level and duration of work incapacity, but also other types of problems like unnecessarily long sick-leave periods due to different types of waiting times. The findings have implications for different kinds of organisational and managerial support and training in sickness certification issues, like guidance to assess the level and duration of work incapacity.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-362
PMCID: PMC3480832  PMID: 23075202
Sickness certification; Psychiatry; Sick leave; Physician
10.  The association of patient's family, leisure time, and work situation with sickness certification in primary care in Sweden 
Objective
To investigate associations between patients’ family, leisure time, and work-related factors and physicians’ measure as to whether or not to sickness certify the patient in connection with the consultation.
Design
Questionnaire survey to physicians in general practice and their patients.
Setting
General practitioners (GPs) and their patients in Örebro county, Sweden.
Subjects
A total of 474 patient–physician consultations from 65 physicians with up to 10 patients each.
Main outcome measure
Whether or not a sickness certificate was issued.
Results
Among work-related factors, high “authority over decisions” and high “social support” correlated with 30% or more reduced sickness certification probability. Worrying about becoming ill or being injured from work correlates with almost doubled sickness certification risk. Among family and leisure-time variables, only living with a common law partner and having no children correlated with increased sickness certification risk. In addition to analyses of the whole group (all diagnoses), the two largest diagnostic subgroups, infectious diseases and musculoskeletal diseases, were examined. For the infectious diseases subgroup, high demands in work correlated with increased sickness certification risk, while in the musculoskeletal diseases subgroup, worry about work-related injury or illness was the main factor correlating with increased risk for sickness certification.
Conclusions
Work-related factors were the most important factors related to sickness certification in this study. Determinants for sickness certification risk differed between diagnostic subgroups.
doi:10.3109/02813431003765265
PMCID: PMC3442321  PMID: 20429740
Authority over decisions; family medicine; family practice; sick leave; social support; work capacity; work demands; work strain
11.  What physicians want to learn about sickness certification: analyses of questionnaire data from 4019 physicians 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:61.
Background
Sickness absence is a problem in many Western countries. Physicians have an essential role in sickness certification of patients, which is often recommended in health care but may have side effects. Despite the potentially harming impact of sickness absence, physicians have very limited training in insurance medicine, and there is little research on sickness certification practices. Our aim was to ascertain what knowledge and skills physicians in different clinical settings feel they need in order to improve their competence in sickness certification.
Methods
The data for analysis were collected in 2004 in Stockholm and Östergötland Counties, Sweden, by use of a comprehensive questionnaire about sickness certification issues, which was sent to 7,665 physicians aged ≤ 64 years. The response rate was 71% (n = 5455). Analyses of association and factor analysis were applied to the various aspects of competence to establish a skills index and a knowledge index, which were used to compare the results for physicians in different clinical settings.
Results
Most physicians stated they needed more knowledge and skills in handling sickness certification, e.g. regarding how to assess work capacity (44%) and optimal length and degree of sickness absence (50%), and information about aspects of the social insurance system (43-63%). Few (20%) reported needing to know more about issuing sickness certificates. The index scores varied substantially between different clinical settings, and this disparity remained after adjustment for sex, years in practice, workplace policy, and support from management. Scores on the skills index were significantly higher for physicians in primary care than for those working in other areas.
Conclusions
A majority of physicians in most types of clinics/practices, not only primary care, indicated the need for more knowledge and skills in handling sickness certification cases. Increased knowledge and skills are needed in order to protect both the health and equity of patients. However, few physicians stated that they needed more skills in filling out sickness certificates, which contradicts previous findings about such documents being of poor quality and suggests that factors other than mere knowledge and skills are involved.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-61
PMCID: PMC2829004  PMID: 20144230
12.  Reasons for and factors associated with issuing sickness certificates for longer periods than necessary: results from a nationwide survey of physicians 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:478.
Background
Physicians’ work with sickness certifications is an understudied field. Physicians’ experience of sickness certifying for longer periods than necessary has been previous reported. However, the extent and frequency of such sickness certification is largely unknown. The aims of this study were: a) to explore the frequency of sickness certifying for longer periods than necessary among physicians working in different clinical settings; b) to examine main reasons for issuing sickness certificates for longer periods than necessary; and c) to examine factors associated with unnecessary issued sickness certificates.
Methods
In 2008, all physicians living and working in Sweden (a total of 36,898) were sent an invitation to participate in a questionnaire study concerning their sick-listing practices. A total of 22,349 (60.6%) returned the questionnaire. In the current study, physicians reporting handling sickness certification consultations at least weekly were included in the analyses, a total of 12,348.
Results
The proportion of physicians reporting issuing sickness certificates for longer periods than actually necessary varied greatly between different types of clinics, with the highest frequency among those working at: occupational medicine, orthopedic, primary health care, and psychiatry clinics; and lowest among those working in: eye, dermatology, ear/nose/throat, oncology, surgery, and infection clinics. Logistic analyses showed that sickness certifying for longer periods than necessary due to limitations in the health care system was particularly common among physicians working at occupational medicine, orthopedic, and primary health care clinics. Sickness certifying for longer periods than necessary due to patient-related factors was much more common among physicians working at psychiatric clinics. In addition to differences between clinics, frequency of sickness certificates issued for longer periods than necessary varied by age, physicians’ experiences of different situations, and perceived problems.
Conclusions
This study showed that physicians issued sickness certificates for longer periods than actually necessary quite frequently at some types of clinics. Differences between clinics were to a large extent associated with frequency of problems, lack of time, delicate interactions with patients, and need for more competence.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-478
PMCID: PMC3691717  PMID: 23679866
Sick leave; Sickness certification; Insurance medicine; Physician
13.  Sickness certification as a complex professional and collaborative activity - a qualitative study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:702.
Background
Physicians have an important but problematic task to issue sickness certifications. A manifold of studies have identified a wide spectrum of medical and insurance-related problems in sickness certification. Despite educational efforts aiming to improve physicians’ knowledge of social insurance medicine there are no signs of reduction of these problems. We hypothesised that the quality deficits is not only due to lack of knowledge among issuing physicians. The aim of the study was to explore physicians’ challenges when handling sickness certification in relation to their professional roles as physicians and to their interaction with different stakeholders.
Methods
One hundred seventy-seven physicians in Stockholm County, Sweden, participated in a sick-listing audit program. Participants identified challenges in handling sick-leave issues and formulated action plans for improvement. Challenges and responsible stakeholders were identified in the action plans. To deepen the understanding facilitators of the program were interviewed. A qualitative content analysis was performed exploring challenge categories and categories of stakeholders with responsibility to initiate actions to improve the quality of the sick-listing process. The challenge categories were then related by their content to professional competence roles in accord with the Canadian Medical Education Directions for Specialists (CanMEDS) framework and to the stakeholder categories.
Results
Seven categories of challenges were identified. Practitioner patient interaction, Work capacity assessment, Interaction with the Social Insurance Administration, The patient’s workplace and the labour market, Sick-listing practice, Collaboration and resource allocation within the Health Care System, Leadership and routines at the Health Care Unit. The challenges were related to all seven CanMEDS roles. Five categories of stakeholders were identified and several stakeholders were involved in each challenge category.
Conclusions
Physicians performing sickness certification tasks experience a complex variety of challenges. From physician perspective actions to handle these need to be initiated in interaction with both medical and non-medical stakeholders. The relation between the challenges and a well-established professional competence framework revealed a complex pattern. Thus, from a public health perspective, educational activities aimed to improve the sick-listing process should address all physician competences including identification and interaction with stakeholders, and not just knowledge of social insurance medicine.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-702
PMCID: PMC3499228  PMID: 22928773
14.  General practitioners’ relationship to sickness certification 
Objective
GPs’ role conflict in connection with sickness certification is widely accepted. The authors explored the relationship between GPs and this difficult task.
Design
Cross-sectional questionnaire study of experiences, attitudes, and management of sickness certification. Data were analysed by hierarchical cluster analysis.
Setting
Norway.
Subjects
Representative sample of 308 general practitioners from a nationwide panel established by the Research Institute of the Norwegian Medical Association.
Main outcome measures
Differentiation of response patterns regarding perceived burden, self-evaluation, doubt, permissiveness, opinions on whether sickness certification is a medical task, and sociopolitical attitude. Associations with hours of patient contact per week, number of sickness certifications per week, job satisfaction, degree of paternalism, and personality characteristics.
Results
Four groups evolved, one (12%) with low burden, high self-esteem, little doubt, and permissiveness, another (12%) with the opposite characteristics. They displayed similar sociopolitical attitudes. The third group (32%) was primarily characterized by a biomedical attitude, while the fourth represented a middle position in all dimensions. The first two groups differed on personality characteristics. There were no differences between groups regarding number of sickness certifications per week, job satisfaction, or degree of paternalism.
Conclusions
Prominent differences in experiences with sickness certification between groups of doctors exist. No evidence was found of associations between group-level GP differences and sickness certification rates.
doi:10.1080/02813430600879680
PMCID: PMC3389448  PMID: 17354155
Doctor behaviour; family practice; general practitioner; sickness certification; survey
15.  Length of sick leave – Why not ask the sick-listed? Sick-listed individuals predict their length of sick leave more accurately than professionals 
BMC Public Health  2004;4:46.
Background
The knowledge of factors accurately predicting the long lasting sick leaves is sparse, but information on medical condition is believed to be necessary to identify persons at risk. Based on the current practice, with identifying sick-listed individuals at risk of long-lasting sick leaves, the objectives of this study were to inquire the diagnostic accuracy of length of sick leaves predicted in the Norwegian National Insurance Offices, and to compare their predictions with the self-predictions of the sick-listed.
Methods
Based on medical certificates, two National Insurance medical consultants and two National Insurance officers predicted, at day 14, the length of sick leave in 993 consecutive cases of sick leave, resulting from musculoskeletal or mental disorders, in this 1-year follow-up study. Two months later they reassessed 322 cases based on extended medical certificates. Self-predictions were obtained in 152 sick-listed subjects when their sick leave passed 14 days. Diagnostic accuracy of the predictions was analysed by ROC area, sensitivity, specificity, likelihood ratio, and positive predictive value was included in the analyses of predictive validity.
Results
The sick-listed identified sick leave lasting 12 weeks or longer with an ROC area of 80.9% (95% CI 73.7–86.8), while the corresponding estimates for medical consultants and officers had ROC areas of 55.6% (95% CI 45.6–65.6%) and 56.0% (95% CI 46.6–65.4%), respectively. The predictions of sick-listed males were significantly better than those of female subjects, and older subjects predicted somewhat better than younger subjects. Neither formal medical competence, nor additional medical information, noticeably improved the diagnostic accuracy based on medical certificates.
Conclusion
This study demonstrates that the accuracy of a prognosis based on medical documentation in sickness absence forms, is lower than that of one based on direct communication with the sick-listed themselves.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-4-46
PMCID: PMC529266  PMID: 15476563
16.  General practice on a new housing estate. 1956. 
An analysis has been carried out of the records kept for the year 1953 by six doctors practising on a new housing estate near London. The population of the estate is described in terms of age, sex, and social class. 76 per cent. of the registered patients consulted a doctor at some time during the year, the consultation rate per person being 4.1 based on the average registered population; females had more consultations than males; 80 per cent. of all consultations were made by people under the age of 45. One-sixth of the patients accounted for about half of the consultations, and 30 per cent. of the consultations were made by the 7 per cent. of registered patients who consulted twelve or more times in the year. The consultation rates showed a slight, but statistically significant, social gradient, with more consultations among patients in the lower social classes. The illness rate was 26 per person, and was higher among males in infancy and old age, and among females between the ages of 5 and 64. A method of estimating the duration of sickness in terms of the period under medical care was employed. This showed that 70 per cent. of all illnesses were dealt with in single consultations, and that only 3 per cent. of illnesses were under care for more than 90 days. Over half of the practice population were under care for less than 5 days, and only 8 per cent. for more than 90 days. The proportion of patients having more than 30 days sickness generally increased with age, but there was a slight fall among the women aged 65 and over. Certificates were issued at the rate of about one for every five consultations, two-thirds of these being necessitated by the requirements of the National Insurance regulations. Prescriptions were issued at the rate of about one per consultation, the prescription rate being 41 per person. Only 5 per cent. of the practice population consulted the doctor but did not obtain a prescription. About 30 per cent. of the patients who consulted a doctor were referred outside the practices, 80 per cent. of all referrals being to hospitals, either as inpatients or as out-patients. The person-hospital referral rate was 20 per 100, and there were 31 referrals for every 100 registered patients. Males over 65 had the highest rates for consultations, illnesses, prescriptions, and referrals. The reason for this is discussed. The value of record-keeping by general practitioners is stressed, together with the need for a generally accepted method of expressing rates in studies of this kind.
Images
PMCID: PMC1060306  PMID: 8882219
17.  Identification of UK sickness certification rates, standardised for age and sex 
Background
There is growing interest in tackling the perceived ‘sick note’ culture in the UK.
Aim
The aim of this paper was to report the rates of sickness certification in a UK population, using sick certification rates as a precursor to addressing fitness for work.
Method
Electronic records from all 14 practices included in the Keele GP Research Network were reviewed; all sickness certification records from 2005 were retrieved and corresponding consultation records were examined. Participants were 148 176 patients registered during 2005, including 6398 patients who received at least one sickness certificate during the same year.
Results
The rate of sickness certification was 101.67 certificates per 1000 person years (95% confidence interval [CI] = 100.13 to 103.21). This rate was significantly higher in women, at 109.76 certificates per 1000 person years (95% CI = 107.550 to 112.02), compared to men who had a rate of 93.68 certificates per 1000 person years (95% CI = 91.59 to 95.78; P<0.001). The rate of sickness certification was greatest for mental health conditions, followed closely by musculoskeletal conditions.
Conclusion
On average, one in 10 patients will receive a sickness certificate each year, with the highest rates occurring around 50 years of age, in women. Mental health and musculoskeletal conditions were associated with the highest rates of certification. These results provide important information to underpin the national ‘Fit for Work’ scheme, by providing targets for intervention and a benchmark against which the impact of public health initiatives to reduce certified sickness absence due to health conditions can be evaluated and monitored.
doi:10.3399/bjgp09X453431
PMCID: PMC2702016  PMID: 19566999
epidemiology; general practice; primary care; sickness certification
18.  How primary health care physicians make sick listing decisions: The impact of medical factors and functioning 
Background
The decision to issue sickness certification in Sweden for a patient should be based on the physician's assessment of the reduction of the patient's work capacity due to a disease or injury, not on psychosocial factors, in spite of the fact that they are known as risk factors for sickness absence. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of medical factors and functioning on sick listing probability.
Methods
Four hundred and seventy-four patient-physician consultations, where sick listing could be an option, in general practice in Örebro county, central Sweden, were documented using physician and patient questionnaires. Information sought was the physicians' assessments of causes and consequences of the patients' complaints, potential to recover, diagnoses and prescriptions on sick leave, and the patients' view of their family and work situation and functioning as well as data on the patients' former and present health situation. The outcome measure was whether or not a sickness certificate was issued. Multivariate analyses were performed.
Results
Complaints entirely or mainly somatic as assessed by the physician decreased the risk of sick listing, and complaints resulting in severe limitation of occupational work capacity, as assessed by the patient as well as the physician, increased the risk of sick listing, as did appointments for locomotor complaints. The results for patients with infectious diseases or musculoskeletal diseases were partly similar to those for all diseases.
Conclusion
The strongest predictors for sickness certification were patient's and GP's assessment of reduced work capacity, with a striking concordance between physician and patient on this assessment. When patient's complaints were judged to be non-somatic the risk of sickness certification was enhanced.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-9-3
PMCID: PMC2266928  PMID: 18208594
19.  Inclusion of Ethical Issues in Dementia Guidelines: A Thematic Text Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001498.
Background
Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) aim to improve professionalism in health care. However, current CPG development manuals fail to address how to include ethical issues in a systematic and transparent manner. The objective of this study was to assess the representation of ethical issues in general CPGs on dementia care.
Methods and Findings
To identify national CPGs on dementia care, five databases of guidelines were searched and national psychiatric associations were contacted in August 2011 and in June 2013. A framework for the assessment of the identified CPGs' ethical content was developed on the basis of a prior systematic review of ethical issues in dementia care. Thematic text analysis and a 4-point rating score were employed to assess how ethical issues were addressed in the identified CPGs. Twelve national CPGs were included. Thirty-one ethical issues in dementia care were identified by the prior systematic review. The proportion of these 31 ethical issues that were explicitly addressed by each CPG ranged from 22% to 77%, with a median of 49.5%. National guidelines differed substantially with respect to (a) which ethical issues were represented, (b) whether ethical recommendations were included, (c) whether justifications or citations were provided to support recommendations, and (d) to what extent the ethical issues were explained.
Conclusions
Ethical issues were inconsistently addressed in national dementia guidelines, with some guidelines including most and some including few ethical issues. Guidelines should address ethical issues and how to deal with them to help the medical profession understand how to approach care of patients with dementia, and for patients, their relatives, and the general public, all of whom might seek information and advice in national guidelines. There is a need for further research to specify how detailed ethical issues and their respective recommendations can and should be addressed in dementia guidelines.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors’ Summary
Background
In the past, doctors tended to rely on their own experience to choose the best treatment for their patients. Faced with a patient with dementia (a brain disorder that affects short-term memory and the ability tocarry out normal daily activities), for example, a doctor would use his/her own experience to help decide whether the patient should remain at home or would be better cared for in a nursing home. Similarly, the doctor might have to decide whether antipsychotic drugs might be necessary to reduce behavioral or psychological symptoms such as restlessness or shouting. However, over the past two decades, numerous evidence-based clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) have been produced by governmental bodies and medical associations that aim to improve standards of clinical competence and professionalism in health care. During the development of each guideline, experts search the medical literature for the current evidence about the diagnosis and treatment of a disease, evaluate the quality of that evidence, and then make recommendations based on the best evidence available.
Why Was This Study Done?
Currently, CPG development manuals do not address how to include ethical issues in CPGs. A health-care professional is ethical if he/she behaves in accordance with the accepted principles of right and wrong that govern the medical profession. More specifically, medical professionalism is based on a set of binding ethical principles—respect for patient autonomy, beneficence, non-malfeasance (the “do no harm” principle), and justice. In particular, CPG development manuals do not address disease-specific ethical issues (DSEIs), clinical ethical situations that are relevant to the management of a specific disease. So, for example, a DSEI that arises in dementia care is the conflict between the ethical principles of non-malfeasance and patient autonomy (freedom-to-move-at-will). Thus, healthcare professionals may have to decide to physically restrain a patient with dementia to prevent the patient doing harm to him- or herself or to someone else. Given the lack of guidance on how to address ethical issues in CPG development manuals, in this thematic text analysis, the researchers assess the representation of ethical issues in CPGs on general dementia care. Thematic text analysis uses a framework for the assessment of qualitative data (information that is word-based rather than number-based) that involves pinpointing, examining, and recording patterns (themes) among the available data.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 12 national CPGs on dementia care by searching guideline databases and by contacting national psychiatric associations. They developed a framework for the assessment of the ethical content in these CPGs based on a previous systematic review of ethical issues in dementia care. Of the 31 DSEIs included by the researchers in their analysis, the proportion that were explicitly addressed by each CPG ranged from 22% (Switzerland) to 77% (USA); on average the CPGs explicitly addressed half of the DSEIs. Four DSEIs—adequate consideration of advanced directives in decision making, usage of GPS and other monitoring techniques, covert medication, and dealing with suicidal thinking—were not addressed in at least 11 of the CPGs. The inclusion of recommendations on how to deal with DSEIs ranged from 10% of DSEIs covered in the Swiss CPG to 71% covered in the US CPG. Overall, national guidelines differed substantially with respect to which ethical issues were included, whether ethical recommendations were included, whether justifications or citations were provided to support recommendations, and to what extent the ethical issues were clearly explained.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that national CPGs on dementia care already address clinical ethical issues but that the extent to which the spectrum of DSEIs is considered varies widely within and between CPGs. They also indicate that recommendations on how to deal with DSEIs often lack the evidence that health-care professionals use to justify their clinical decisions. The researchers suggest that this situation can and should be improved, although more research is needed to determine how ethical issues and recommendations should be addressed in dementia guidelines. A more systematic and transparent inclusion of DSEIs in CPGs for dementia (and for other conditions) would further support the concept of medical professionalism as a core element of CPGs, note the researchers, but is also important for patients and their relatives who might turn to national CPGs for information and guidance at a stressful time of life.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001498.
Wikipedia contains a page on clinical practice guidelines (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The US National Guideline Clearinghouse provides information on national guidelines, including CPGs for dementia
The Guidelines International Network promotes the systematic development and application of clinical practice guidelines
The American Medical Association provides information about medical ethics; the British Medical Association provides information on all aspects of ethics and includes an essential tool kit that introduces common ethical problems and practical ways to deal with them
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about dementia, including a personal story about dealing with dementia
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about dementia and about Alzheimers disease, a specific type of dementia (in English and Spanish)
The UK Nuffield Council on Bioethics provides the report Dementia: ethical issues and additional information on the public consultation on ethical issues in dementia care
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001498
PMCID: PMC3742442  PMID: 23966839
20.  Sick notes, general practitioners, emergency departments and fracture clinics 
Background
General practitioner waiting times are increasing. The two national surveys regarding general practice showed that the number of patients waiting for ⩾2 days for an appointment rose from 63% to 72% between 1998 and 2002, with 25% waiting for ⩾4 days. The Department of Health recognised that many patients discharged from hospitals and outpatient clinics required to visit their general practitioner for the sole purpose of obtaining a sick note. The report entitled Making a difference: reducing general practitioner paperwork estimated that 518 000 appointments (and 42 000 GP h) could be saved by ensuring that these patients were issued with a sick note directly from hospital rather than being referred to their general practitioner. This practice was to be adopted from July 2001 and included patients discharged from wards as well as those seen in outpatient departments.
Method
50 emergency departments and fracture clinics in Scotland and England were contacted to assess whether these guidelines had been adopted. Only hospitals with both accident and emergency and fracture clinics were included; nurse‐led and paediatric departments were excluded.
Results
Of the 25 Scottish emergency hospitals contacted, 4 (16%) accident and emergency departments and 8 (32%) fracture clinics issued sick notes. This was compared with 5 of 25 (20%) accident and emergency departments and 12 of 25 (48%) fracture clinics in England. Four Scottish and five English accident and emergency departments stated that it was policy to give sick notes, three Scottish and four English departments said that it was policy not to give them and the rest (72% in Scotland and 64% in England) stated that they had no clear policy but “just don't give them”.
Conclusion
The 2001 guidance from the joint Cabinet Office/Department of Health has not been fully incorporated into standard practice in Scotland and England. If all emergency departments and fracture clinics were to issue sick notes to patients requiring >7 days absence from work, this could reduce general practitioner consultations and improve waiting times.
doi:10.1136/emj.2006.042960
PMCID: PMC2658149  PMID: 17183039
21.  Reliability of sickness certificates in detecting potential sick leave reduction by modifying working conditions: a clinical epidemiology study 
BMC Public Health  2004;4:8.
Background
Medical sickness certificates are generally the main source for information when scrutinizing the need for aimed intervention strategies to avoid or reduce the individual and community side effects of sick leave. This study explored the value of medical sickness certificates related to daily work in Norwegian National Insurance Offices to identify sick-listed persons, where modified working conditions might reduce the ongoing sick leave.
Methods
The potential for reducing the ongoing sick leave by modifying working conditions was individually assessed on routine sickness certificates in 999 consecutive sick leave episodes by four Norwegian National Insurance collaborators, two with and two without formal medical competence. The study took place in Northern Norway in 1997 and 1998. Agreement analysed with differences against mean, kappa, and proportional-agreement analysis within and between groups of assessors was used in the judgement. Agreements between the assessors and the self-assessment of sick-listed subjects were additionally analysed in 159 sick-leave episodes.
Results
Both sick-listed subjects and National Insurance collaborators anticipated a potential reduction in sick leave in 20–30% of cases, and in another 20% the potential was assessed as possible. The chance corrected agreements, however, were poor (k < 0.20) within and between groups of National Insurance collaborators. The agreement between National Insurance collaborators and the sick-listed subjects was no better than chance. Neither extended medical information nor formal medical competence increased agreement in cases where modified working conditions might have reduced sick leave.
Conclusion
Information in medical sickness certificates proved ineffective in detecting cases where modified working conditions may reduce sick leave, and focusing on medical certificates may prevent identification of needed interventions. Strategies on how to communicate directly with sick-listed subjects would enable social authorities to exploit more of the sick leave reduction potential by modifying the working conditions than strategies on improving medical information.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-4-8
PMCID: PMC400742  PMID: 15043757
22.  Views on sick-listing practice among Swedish General Practitioners – a phenomenographic study 
BMC Family Practice  2007;8:44.
Background
The number of people on sick-leave started to increase in Sweden and several other European countries towards the end of the 20th century. Physicians play an important role in the sickness insurance system by acting as gate-keepers. Our aim was to explore how General Practitioners (GPs) view their sick-listing commission and sick-listing practice.
Methods
Semi-structured interviews with 19 GPs in 17 Primary Health Care settings in four mid-Sweden counties. Interview transcripts were analysed with phenomenographic approach aiming to uncover the variation in existing views regarding the respondents' sick-listing commission and practice.
Results
We found large qualitative differences in the GPs' views on sick-listing. The sick-listing commission was experienced to come either from society or from patients, with no responsibility for societal interests, or as an integration of these two views. All the GPs were aware of a possible conflict between the interests of society and patients. While some expressed feelings of strong conflict, others seemed to have solved the conflict, at least partly, between these two loyalties.
Some GPs experienced carrying the full responsibility to decide whether a patient would get monetary sick-leave benefits or not and they were not comfortable with this situation. Views on the physician's and the patient's responsibility in sick-listing and rehabilitation varied from a passive to an empowering role of the physician.
GPs expressing a combination of less inclusive views of the different aspects of sick-listing experienced strong conflict and appeared to feel distressed in their sick-listing role. Some GPs described how they had changed from less to more inclusive views.
Conclusion
The clearer understanding of the different views on sick-listing generated in this study can be used in educational efforts to improve physicians' sick-listing practices, benefiting GPs' work situation as well as their patients' well-being. The GP's role as a gatekeeper in the social security system needs further exploration. Our findings could be used to develop a questionnaire to measure the distribution of different views in a wider population of GPs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-8-44
PMCID: PMC1988796  PMID: 17663793
23.  Clinical practice patterns among native and immigrant doctors doing out-of-hours work in Norway: a registry-based observational study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(4):e001153.
Objectives
To evaluate whether immigrant and native Norwegian doctors differ in their practice patterns.
Design
Observational study.
Setting
Out-of-hours (OOH) emergency primary healthcare in Norway, 2008.
Participants
All primary care physicians doing OOH work, altogether 4165 physicians.
Main outcome measures
Number of patient contacts per doctor. Use of laboratory tests, minor surgery, sickness certification and length of consultations. Use of diagnoses related to psychiatric and sexual health. Choice of management strategy with psychiatric patients (psychotherapy or hospitalisation).
Results
21.4% of the physicians were immigrants, and they had 30.6% of the patient contacts. Immigrant doctors from Asia, Africa and Latin America had most patient contacts, 633 (95% CI 549 to 716), while native Norwegian doctors had 306 (95% CI 288 to 325). In multivariate analyses, immigrant physicians did not differ significantly from native Norwegians regarding use of laboratory tests, minor surgery or length of consultations, but immigrant doctors wrote more sickness certificates, OR 1.75 (95% CI 1.24 to 2.47) for immigrant doctors from Europe, North America and Oceania versus native Norwegian doctors and OR 1.56 (95% CI 1.15 to 2.11) for immigrant doctors from Asia, Africa and Latin America versus native Norwegians. Immigrant physicians from Europe, North America and Oceania used more diagnoses related to pregnancy, family planning and female genitals, OR 1.55 (95% CI 1.11 to 2.16), versus native Norwegian physicians. Immigrant doctors from Asia, Africa and Latin America used less psychiatric diagnoses, OR 0.71 (95% CI 0.53 to 0.95), versus native Norwegian doctors but did not differ significantly in their management of recognised psychiatric illness.
Conclusions
Immigrant doctors make an important contribution to OOH emergency primary healthcare in Norway. The authors found only modest evidence that their clinical practice patterns are different from that of native Norwegian doctors.
Article summary
Article focus
Western countries receive an increasing number of immigrant doctors.
Concern has been raised regarding their skills.
We studied immigrant doctors' clinical performance.
Key messages
Immigrant doctors from Asia, Africa and Latin America did more OOH work than native Norwegian doctors.
Immigrant doctors wrote more sickness certificates per consultation.
Otherwise, there were only minor differences in practice patterns between immigrant and native Norwegian doctors.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Large and complete material.
Avoids problem with case mix.
Limited information about immigrant doctors' educational background.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001153
PMCID: PMC3400071  PMID: 22798255
24.  No physician gender difference in prescription of sick-leave certification: A retrospective study of the Skaraborg Primary Care Database 
Objective
The primary objective was to investigate how physicians’ gender and level of experience affects the rate and length of sick-leave certificate prescription. The secondary objective was to study the physicians’ gender and professional experience in relation to the diagnoses on the certificates.
Design
Retrospective, cross-sectional study of computerized medical records from 24 health care centres in 2005.
Setting
Primary care in Sweden.
Subjects
Primary care physicians (n = 589) and patients (n = 88 780) aged 18–64 years.
Main outcome measures
Rate and duration of sick leave certified by different categories of physicians and for different diagnoses and gender of patients.
Results
Sick leave was certified in 9.0% (musculoskeletal (3%) and psychiatric (2.3%) diagnoses were most common) of all contacts and the mean duration was 32.2 days. Overall there was no difference between male and female physicians in the sick-leave certification prescription rate (9.1% vs. 9.0%) or duration of sick leave (32.1 vs. 32.6 days). The duration of sick leave was associated with the physician's level of professional experience in general practice (GPs (Distriktläkare) 37, GP trainees (ST-läkare) 26, interns (AT-läkare) 20 and locum (vikarier) 19 days, p < 0.001).
Conclusion
Contrary to earlier studies we found no difference in sick-leave certification prescription rate and length between male and female physicians.
doi:10.3109/02813432.2012.651569
PMCID: PMC3337525  PMID: 22348513
Family practice; gender; physicians; registries; sick leave
25.  Sick leave certification: a unique perspective on frequency and duration of episodes - a complete record of sickness certification in a defined population of employees in Malta 
Background
In Malta, sickness certificates are needed from the first day of illness, and are issued by family physicians (FPs) either employed by the government primary health care system, self-employed in private practice, or employed by an employer for this purpose alone. The latter system, when applied by the employer, is compulsory. In order to contribute to the debate on the role of the FP in this context, electronic data collected by a group of company-employed FPs was used to study the phenomenon of sickness certification. This database is a complete record of the selected employees' sick leave certification during the study period.
Methods
Data collected by company-employed FPs from a defined population was used: all employees of selected Maltese companies served by a group of FPs. The database included episode-based data from home visits over three years (01/01/1997 – 31/12/1999), by 9 company-appointed FPs regarding 421 employees of five companies.
Results
3015 episodes of sickness absenteeism, with an average duration of 2.9 days, were documented. Employees who did intensive manual work had relatively higher rates. Furthermore, a relatively higher incidence of work injury, sprains and strains, anxiety and depression and low back pain as found in manual workers, and in male workers. This trend was shown to be statistically significant.
Conclusions
The frequency of sick-leave certification in Malta is comparable to that in other European countries, but the average duration of certificates is much less than reported in other studies that generally did not include data on short-term illness and certification. This has important implications on future research in the field. A number of common disorders were found to be significantly more prevalent causes of sickness certification in manual workers, amongst them anxiety and depression.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-2
PMCID: PMC153541  PMID: 12697050

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