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1.  In search of attachment: a qualitative study of chronically ill women transitioning between family physicians in rural Ontario, Canada 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:125.
Background
Most Canadians receive basic health services from a family physician and these physicians are particularly critical in the management of chronic disease. Canada, however, has an endemic shortage of family physicians. Physician shortages and turnover are particularly acute in rural regions, leaving their residents at risk of needing to transition between family physicians. The knowledge base about how patients manage transitioning in a climate of scarcity remains nascent. The purpose of this study is to explore the experience of transitioning for chronically ill, rurally situated Canadian women to provide insight into if and how the system supports transitioning patients and to identify opportunities for enhancing that support.
Methods
Chronically ill women managing rheumatic diseases residing in two rural counties in the province of Ontario were recruited to participate in face-to-face, semi-structured interviews. Interview transcripts were analysed thematically to identify emergent themes associated with the transitioning experience.
Results
Seventeen women participated in this study. Ten had experienced transitioning and four with long-standing family physicians anticipated doing so soon. The remaining three expressed concerns about transitioning. Thematic analysis revealed the presence of a transitioning trajectory with three phases. The detachment phase focused on activities related to the termination of a physician-patient relationship, including haphazard notification tactics and the absence of referrals to replacement physicians. For those unable to immediately find a new doctor, there was a phase of unattachment during which patients had to improvise ways to receive care from alternative providers or walk-in clinics. The final phase, attachment, was characterized by acceptance into the practice of a new family physician.
Conclusions
Participants often found transitioning challenging, largely due to perceived gaps in support from the health care system. Barriers to a smooth transition included inadequate notification procedures, lack of formal assistance finding new physicians, and unsatisfactory experiences seeking care during unattachment. The participants’ accounts reveal opportunities for a stronger system presence during transition and a need for further research into alternative models of primary care delivery.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-125
PMCID: PMC3548744  PMID: 23259681
Family medicine; Canada; Unattached patients; Continuity; Attachment; Rural
2.  Understanding the Unattached Population in Ontario: Evidence from the Primary Care Access Survey (PCAS) 
Healthcare Policy  2010;6(2):33-47.
To measure primary care access on an ongoing basis, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care implemented the Primary Care Access Survey (PCAS) in 2006. The PCAS, a cross-sectional telephone survey, samples approximately 8,400 Ontario adults each year. It collects information on access to a family doctor, use of services, health status and socio-demographics. Analysis of the 2007—2008 PCAS (n=16,560) shows that 7.1% of Ontario's adults were without a family doctor (i.e., unattached). The attached and unattached populations differed on socio-demographic and health characteristics. Emergency department use was similar between the two groups, but walk-in clinic use was higher among the unattached. The unattached were less likely to have used care for immediate issues but accessed care in a more timely fashion than the attached. This initial exploration of the PCAS provides a better understanding of some of the differences between the attached and unattached populations in Ontario.
PMCID: PMC3016634  PMID: 22043222
3.  Doctors accessing mental-health services: an exploratory study 
BMJ Open  2011;1(1):e000017.
Objective
To develop a more in-depth understanding of how doctors do and do not access mental healthcare from the perspectives of doctors themselves and people they have contact with through the process.
Design
Qualitative methodology was used with semistructured interviews transcribed and analysed using Grounded Theory. Participants were 11 doctors with experience as patients of psychiatrists, four doctor and four non-doctor personal contacts (friends, family and colleagues) and eight treating psychiatrists.
Results
Participants described experiencing unrealistic expectations and a harsh work environment with poor self care and denial and minimisation of signs of mental health difficulties. Doctor contacts described particular difficulty in responding effectively to doctor friends, family and colleagues in need of mental healthcare. In contrast, non-doctor personal contacts were more able to identify and speak about concerns but not necessarily to enable accessing adequate mental-health services.
Conclusions
Three areas with potential to address in supporting doctors' accessing of appropriate healthcare have been identified: (1) processes to enable doctors to maintain high standards of functioning with less use of minimisation and denial; (2) improving the quality and effectiveness of informal doctor-to-doctor conversations about mental-health issues among themselves; (3) role of non-doctor support people in identifying doctors' mental-health needs and enabling their access to mental healthcare. Further research in all these areas has the potential to contribute to improving doctors' access to appropriate mental healthcare and may be of value for the general population.
Article summary
Article focus
Doctors' accessment of adequate mental healthcare is less than optimal.
Family and community contacts have an important role in accessing mental healthcare.
Our understanding of the processes related to doctors accessing mental healthcare can be improved by exploring perspectives of doctor patients, their support people and treating psychiatrists.
Key messages
Doctors' unrealistic expectations of themselves and associated minimisation and denial of a range of self care needs may function as a barrier to accessing mental healthcare.
Addressing how doctors respond to other doctors in informal conversations indicating mental healthcare needs may be helpful in improving access to care.
Non-doctor support people may have a valuable role in enabling doctors to access appropriate mental healthcare.
All these areas need further research.
Strengths and limitations of this study
This is the first study of its kind and generates new insights in an important area.
Because of challenges in recruiting doctors with experience as patients of psychiatrists, a hard-to-reach group, the sample is small and not broadly representative.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2010-000017
PMCID: PMC3191385  PMID: 22021726
Child & adolescent psychiatry; adult psychiatry; physicians' health; accessing healthcare; impaired physician; mental health
4.  HIV, Gender, Race, Sexual Orientation, and Sex Work: A Qualitative Study of Intersectional Stigma Experienced by HIV-Positive Women in Ontario, Canada 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001124.
Mona Loutfy and colleagues used focus groups to examine experiences of stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada.
Background
HIV infection rates are increasing among marginalized women in Ontario, Canada. HIV-related stigma, a principal factor contributing to the global HIV epidemic, interacts with structural inequities such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. The study objective was to explore experiences of stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a community-based qualitative investigation using focus groups to understand experiences of stigma and discrimination and coping methods among HIV-positive women from marginalized communities. We conducted 15 focus groups with HIV-positive women in five cities across Ontario, Canada. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis to enhance understanding of the lived experiences of diverse HIV-positive women. Focus group participants (n = 104; mean age = 38 years; 69% ethnic minority; 23% lesbian/bisexual; 22% transgender) described stigma/discrimination and coping across micro (intra/interpersonal), meso (social/community), and macro (organizational/political) realms. Participants across focus groups attributed experiences of stigma and discrimination to: HIV-related stigma, sexism and gender discrimination, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and involvement in sex work. Coping strategies included resilience (micro), social networks and support groups (meso), and challenging stigma (macro).
Conclusions
HIV-positive women described interdependent and mutually constitutive relationships between marginalized social identities and inequities such as HIV-related stigma, sexism, racism, and homo/transphobia. These overlapping, multilevel forms of stigma and discrimination are representative of an intersectional model of stigma and discrimination. The present findings also suggest that micro, meso, and macro level factors simultaneously present barriers to health and well being—as well as opportunities for coping—in HIV-positive women's lives. Understanding the deleterious effects of stigma and discrimination on HIV risk, mental health, and access to care among HIV-positive women can inform health care provision, stigma reduction interventions, and public health policy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
HIV-related stigma and discrimination—prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV—is a major factor contributing to the global HIV epidemic. HIV-related stigma, which devalues and stereotypes people living with HIV, increases vulnerability to HIV infection by reducing access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and support. At the personal (micro) level, HIV-related stigma can make it hard for people to take tests to determine their HIV status or to tell other people that they are HIV positive. At the social/community (meso) level, it can mean that HIV-positive people are ostracized from their communities. At the organizational/political (macro) level, it can mean that health-care workers treat HIV-positive people differently and that governments are deterred from taking fast, effective action against the HIV epidemic. In addition, HIV-related stigma is negatively associated with well-being among people living with HIV. Thus, among HIV-positive people, those who have experienced HIV-related stigma have higher levels of mental and physical illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
Racism (oppression and inequity founded on ethno-racial differences), sexism and gender discrimination (oppression and inequity based on gender bias in attitudes), and homophobia and transphobia (discrimination, fear, hostility, and violence towards nonheterosexual and transgender people, respectively) can also affect access to HIV services. However, little is known about how these different forms of stigma and discrimination interact (intersect). A better understanding of the effect of intersecting stigmas on people living with HIV could help in the development of stigma reduction interventions and HIV prevention, treatment and care programs, and could help to control global HIV infection rates. In this qualitative study (an analysis of people's attitudes and experiences rather than numerical data), the researchers investigate the intersection of HIV-related stigma, racism, sexism and gender discrimination, homophobia and transphobia among marginalized HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada. As elsewhere in the world, HIV infection rates are increasing among women in Canada. Nearly 25% of people living with HIV in Canada are women and about a quarter of all new infections are in women. Moreover, there is a disproportionately high infection rate among marginalized women in Canada such as sex workers and lesbian, bisexual, and queer women.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers held 15 focus groups with 104 marginalized HIV-positive women who were recruited by word-of-mouth and through flyers circulated in community agencies serving women of diverse ethno-cultural origins. Each focus group explored topics that included challenges in daily life, medical issues and needs, and issues that were silenced within the participants' communities. The researchers analyzed the data from these focus groups using thematic analysis, an approach that identifies, analyzes, and reports themes in qualitative data. They found that women living with HIV in Ontario experienced multiple types of stigma at different levels. So, for example, women experienced HIV-related stigma at the micro (“If you're HIV-positive, you feel shameful”), meso (“The thing I hate most for people that test positive for HIV is that society ostracizes them”), and macro (“A lot of women are not getting employed because they have to disclose their status”) levels. The women also attributed their experiences of stigma and discrimination to sexism and gender discrimination, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and involvement in sex work at all three levels and described coping strategies at the micro (resilience; “I always live with hope”), meso (participation in social networks), and macro (challenging stigma) levels.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that marginalized HIV-positive women living in Ontario experience overlapping forms of stigma and discrimination and that these forms of stigma operate over micro, meso, and macro levels, as do the coping strategies adopted by the women. Together, these results support an intersectional model of stigma and discrimination that should help to inform discussions about the complexity of stigma and coping strategies. However, because only a small sample of nonrandomly selected women was involved in this study, these findings need to be confirmed in other groups of HIV-positive women. If confirmed, the complex system of interplay of different forms of stigma revealed here should help to inform health-care provision, stigma reduction interventions, and public-health policy, and could, ultimately, help to bring the global HIV epidemic under control.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001124.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment; its publication HIV and stigma deals with HIV-related stigma in the UK
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV, and AIDS, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV/AIDS statistics for Canada (in English and Spanish)
The People Living with Stigma Index to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma; its website will soon include a selection of individual stories about HIV-related stigma
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert and through the charity website Healthtalkonline
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001124
PMCID: PMC3222645  PMID: 22131907
5.  Mandated Local Health Networks across the province of Québec: a better collaboration with primary care working in the communities? 
Key messages
New organisations were created with a mandate to lead the establishment of Local Health Networks with several partners such as primary healthcare organisations.
Various strategies were put in place to improve collaboration across and between primary healthcare organisations working in communities; for example, the implementation of new models of primary healthcare, improving access to specialists and diagnostic tests for family physicians, improving services for chronic disease in the community and helping unattached patients to find a family physician.
The planning and organisation of health services became more focused on the population of a local territory. This new mandate was based on a ‘population-based responsibility’.
Approximately 10 years have passed since the implementation of this large-scale redesign of the healthcare system in Québec, and many changes are still required.
Why this matters to us
‘Integrated care’ is a buzzword when it comes to improving healthcare services. There is a consensus among researchers, decision-makers and clinicians that services should be developed based on a network of integrated care. There are different ways to achieve this goal. The province of Québec used legislation to formally mandate healthcare organisations to function within newly created and geographically delimited Local Health Networks. Some lessons can be learned from this experiment in the province of Québec.
Background In 2004, the Québec government implemented an important reform of the healthcare system. The reform was based on the creation of new organisations called Health Services and Social Centres (HSSC), which were formed by merging several healthcare organisations. Upon their creation, each HSSC received the legal mandate to establish and lead a Local Health Network (LHN) with different partners within their territory. This mandate promotes a ‘population-based approach’ based to the responsibility for the population of a local territory.
Objective The aim of this paper is to illustrate and discuss how primary healthcare organisations (PHC) are involved in mandated LHNs in Québec. For illustration, we describe four examples that facilitate a better understanding of these integrated relationships.
Results The development of the LHNs and the different collaboration relationships are described through four examples: (1) improving PHC services within the LHN – an example of new PHC models; (2) improving access to specialists and diagnostic tests for family physicians working in the community – an example of centralised access to specialists services; (3) improving chronic-disease-related services for the population of the LHN – an example of a Diabetes Centre; and (4) improving access to family physicians for the population of the LHN – an example of the centralised waiting list for unattached patients.
Conclusion From these examples, we can see that the implementation of large-scale reform involves incorporating actors at all levels in the system, and facilitates collaboration between healthcare organisations, family physicians and the community. These examples suggest that the reform provided room for multiple innovations. The planning and organisation of health services became more focused on the population of a local territory. The LHN allows a territorial vision of these planning and organisational processes to develop. LHN also seems a valuable lever when all the stakeholders are involved and when the different organisations serve the community by providing acute care and chronic care, while taking into account the social, medical and nursing fields.
PMCID: PMC4238724  PMID: 25949720
integrated care; mandated reform; networks; primary healthcare
6.  "Seeing a doctor is just like having a date": a qualitative study on doctor shopping among overactive bladder patients in Hong Kong 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:27.
Background
Although having a regular primary care provider is noted to be beneficial to health, doctor shopping has been documented as a common treatment seeking behavior among chronically ill patients in different countries. However, little research has been conducted into the reasons behind doctor shopping behavior among patients with overactive bladder, and even less into how this behavior relates to these patients’ illness and social experiences, perceptions, and cultural practices. Therefore, this study examines overactive bladder patients to investigate the reasons behind doctor shopping behavior.
Methods
My study takes a qualitative approach, conducting 30 semi-structured individual interviews, with 30 overactive bladder patients in Hong Kong.
Results
My study found six primary themes that influenced doctor shopping behavior: lack of perceived need, convenience, work-provided medical insurance, unpleasant experiences with doctors, searching for a match doctor, and switching between biomedicine and traditional Chinese medicine. Besides the perceptual factors, participants’ social environment, illness experiences, personal cultural preference, and cultural beliefs also intertwined to generate their doctor shopping behavior. Due to the low perceived need for a regular personal primary care physician, environmental factors such as time, locational convenience, and work-provided medical insurance became decisive in doctor shopping behavior. Patients’ unpleasant illness experiences, stemming from a lack of understanding among many primary care doctors about overactive bladder, contributed to participants’ sense of mismatch with these doctors, which induced them to shop for another doctor.
Conclusions
Overactive bladder is a chronic bladder condition with very limited treatment outcome. Although patients with overactive bladder often require specialty urology treatment, it is usually beneficial for the patients to receive continuous, coordinated, comprehensive, and patient-centered support from their primary care providers. Primary care doctors’ understanding on patients with overactive bladder with empathetic attitudes is important to reduce the motivations of doctor shopping behavior among these patients.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-27
PMCID: PMC3936809  PMID: 24502367
Hong Kong; Doctor shopping; Perceptions; Social environment; Illness and treatment experiences; Personal cultural preference; Cultural beliefs; Overactive bladder patients
7.  Professional Uncertainty and Disempowerment Responding to Ethnic Diversity in Health Care: A Qualitative Study 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(11):e323.
Background
While ethnic disparities in health and health care are increasing, evidence on how to enhance quality of care and reduce inequalities remains limited. Despite growth in the scope and application of guidelines on “cultural competence,” remarkably little is known about how practising health professionals experience and perceive their work with patients from diverse ethnic communities. Using cancer care as a clinical context, we aimed to explore this with a range of health professionals to inform interventions to enhance quality of care.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a qualitative study involving 18 focus groups with a purposeful sample of 106 health professionals of differing disciplines, in primary and secondary care settings, working with patient populations of varying ethnic diversity in the Midlands of the UK. Data were analysed by constant comparison and we undertook processes for validation of analysis. We found that, as they sought to offer appropriate care, health professionals wrestled with considerable uncertainty and apprehension in responding to the needs of patients of ethnicities different from their own. They emphasised their perceived ignorance about cultural difference and were anxious about being culturally inappropriate, causing affront, or appearing discriminatory or racist. Professionals' ability to think and act flexibly or creatively faltered. Although trying to do their best, professionals' uncertainty was disempowering, creating a disabling hesitancy and inertia in their practice. Most professionals sought and applied a knowledge-based cultural expertise approach to patients, though some identified the risk of engendering stereotypical expectations of patients. Professionals' uncertainty and disempowerment had the potential to perpetuate each other, to the detriment of patient care.
Conclusions
This study suggests potential mechanisms by which health professionals may inadvertently contribute to ethnic disparities in health care. It identifies critical opportunities to empower health professionals to respond more effectively. Interventions should help professionals acknowledge their uncertainty and its potential to create inertia in their practice. A shift away from a cultural expertise model toward a greater focus on each patient as an individual may help.
From a qualitative study, Joe Kai and colleagues have identified opportunities to empower health professionals to respond more effectively to challenges in their work with patients from diverse ethnic communities.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Communities are increasingly diverse in terms of ethnicity (belonging to a group of people defined by social characteristics such as cultural tradition or national origin) and race (belonging to a group identified by inherited physical characteristics). Although health professionals and governments are striving to ensure that everybody has the same access to health care, there is increasing evidence of ethnic inequalities in health-care outcomes. Some of these inequalities reflect intrinsic differences between groups of people—Ashkenazi Jews, for example, often carry an altered gene that increases their chance of developing aggressive breast cancer. Often, however, these differences reflect inequalities in the health care received by different ethnic groups. To improve this situation, “cultural competence” has been promoted over recent years. Cultural competence is the development of skills by individuals and organizations that allow them to work effectively with people from different cultures. Health professionals are now taught about ethnic differences in health beliefs and practices, religion, and communication styles to help them provide the best service to all their patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
Numerous guidelines aim to improve cultural competency but little is known about how health professionals experience and perceive their work with patients from diverse ethnic groups. Is their behavior influenced by ethnicity in ways that might contribute to health care disparities? For example, do doctors sometimes avoid medical examinations for fear of causing offence because of cultural differences? If more were known about how health professionals handle ethnic diversity (a term used here to include both ethnicity and race) it might be possible to reduce ethnic inequalities in health care. In this qualitative study, the researchers have explored how health professionals involved in cancer care are affected by working with ethnically diverse patients. A qualitative study is one that collects nonquantitative data such as how doctors “feel” about treating people of different ethnic backgrounds; a quantitative study might compare clinical outcomes in different ethnic groups.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 106 doctors, nurses, and other health-related professionals from different health-service settings in the Midlands, an ethnically diverse region of the UK. They organized 18 focus groups in which the health professionals described their experiences of caring for people from ethnic minority backgrounds. The participants were encouraged to recall actual cases and to identify what they saw as problems and strengths in their interactions with these patients. The researchers found that the health professionals wrestled with many challenges when providing health care for patients from diverse ethnic backgrounds. These challenges included problems with language and with general communication (for example, deciding when it was acceptable to touch a patient to show empathy). Health professionals also worried they did not know enough about cultural differences. As a result, they said they often felt uncertain of their ability to avoid causing affront or appearing racist. This uncertainty, the researchers report, disempowered the health professionals, sometimes making them hesitate or fail to do what was best for their patient.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal that health professionals often experience considerable uncertainty when caring for ethnically diverse patients, even after training in cultural competency. They also show that this uncertainty can lead to hesitancy and inertia, which might contribute to ethnic health care inequalities. Because the study participants were probably already interested in ethnic diversity and health care, interviews with other health professionals (and investigations of patient experiences) are needed to confirm these findings. Nevertheless, the researchers suggest several interventions that might reduce health care inequalities caused by ethnic diversity. For example, health professionals should be encouraged to recognize their uncertainty and should have access to more information and training about ethnic differences. In addition, there should be a shift in emphasis away from relying on knowledge-based cultural information towards taking an “ethnographic” approach. In other words, health professionals should be helped to feel able to ask their patients about what matters most to them as individuals about their illness and treatment.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040323.
Information on cultural competence and health care is available from the US National Center for Cultural Competence (in English and Spanish) and DiversityRx
PROCEED (Professionals Responding to Cancer in Ethnic Diversity) is a multimedia training tool for educators within the health and allied professions developed from the results of this study; a press release on PROCEED is available from the University of Nottingham
Transcultural Health Care Practice: An educational resource for nurses and health care practitioners is available on the web site of the UK Royal College of Nursing
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040323
PMCID: PMC2071935  PMID: 18001148
8.  Canadian family doctors’ roles and responsibilities toward outbound medical tourists 
Canadian Family Physician  2013;59(12):1314-1319.
Abstract
Objective
To explore how Canadian family doctors understand their roles and responsibilities toward patients who seek health care abroad.
Design
Six focus groups were held with family doctors across British Columbia to explore their experiences with and perspectives on outbound medical tourism. Focus groups were digitally recorded, transcribed, and subsequently thematically coded to discover common issues and themes across the entire data set.
Setting
Focus groups were held with family doctors in 6 cities in British Columbia that provided representation from all provincial health authorities and a range of urban contexts.
Participants
A total of 22 currently practising family doctors participated across the 6 focus groups, with groups ranging in size from 2 to 6 participants (average 4 participants).
Methods
Thematic analysis of the transcripts identified cross-cutting themes that emerged across the 6 focus groups.
Main findings
Participants reported that medical tourism threatened patients’ continuity of care. Informational continuity is disrupted before patients go abroad because patients regularly omit family doctors from preoperative planning and upon return home when patients lack complete or translated medical reports. Participants believed that their responsibilities to patients resumed once the patients had returned home from care abroad, but were worried about not being able to provide adequate follow-up care. Participants were also concerned about bearing legal liability toward patients should they be asked to clinically support treatments started abroad.
Conclusion
Medical tourism poses challenges to Canadian family doctors when trying to reconcile their traditional roles and responsibilities with the novel demands of private out-of-country care pursued by their patients. Guidance from professional bodies regarding physicians’ responsibilities to Canadian medical tourists is currently lacking. Developing these supports would help address challenges faced in clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC3860932  PMID: 24336547
9.  A qualitative study of the views of patients with long-term conditions on family doctors in Hong Kong 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:46.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-46
PMCID: PMC2889885  PMID: 20525340
10.  Navigating the mental health and addictions maze: a community-based pilot project of a new role in primary mental health care 
Problem being addressed In a medically under-served rural Canadian community where overburdened family physicians provide most of the cae for patients with mental illness and substance use problems, providing access to timely and effective help for all citizens is a challenge. The care burden of unmet mental health needs is experienced throughout the larger community by diverse community service providers.
Supporting a shared understanding of the needs and challenges, and ensuring effective connection and clear communication between diverse disciplines in primary care, community services and the formal mental health system requires models of service organisation and delivery that go beyond traditional clinical roles.
In cancer care a navigator model has previously been used to address information and service gaps and improve patient experience. We wished to evaluate whether a community-supported navigator model could help solve some of the challenges for clients and service providers in our community, while at the same time allowing data collection that offers a clearer understanding of actual service needs.
Pre-programme activities Community members formed an interdisciplinary community steering committee which met monthly for two years to develop and adapt a service and collaborative research model, generate support, secure ethical approval and raise funds.
Programme description The navigator service was embedded in a local family service organisation, the steering committee met monthly, and along with the researchers met regularly with programme staff and provided support, oversight and development of ethical data collection.
Navigators provided low barrier access, comprehensive assessment, collaborative service planning, and linkage and referral facilitation for any individual or family who requested assistance with a mental health or substance use concern. Navigators also serve as an information resource for any community service provider or family physician needing to assist a client, and collected data on local service needs.
Conclusions Analysis of quantitative administrative data, consented research data, and qualitative interview and survey data demonstrated that this community supported navigator service model was effective in improving service access, assessment and linkage for citizens with mental health and addictions concerns, and connecting a range of community services into a more effective network of care. Connecting unattached clients with a primary care provider and supporting needs assessment and service planning for patients of local family physicians were key navigator functions.
PMCID: PMC2777588  PMID: 22477883
community based participator research; mental health navigation; navigator model; primary mental health care
11.  Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing 
Executive Summary
This report from the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) was intended to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in average risk Canadians and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, this report also includes a systematic literature review of the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in these two subgroups.
This evaluation did not set out to determine the serum vitamin D thresholds that might apply to non-bone health outcomes. For bone health outcomes, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support a target serum level above 50 nmol/L. Similarly, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support vitamin D’s effects in non-bone health outcomes, other than falls.
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a lipid soluble vitamin that acts as a hormone. It stimulates intestinal calcium absorption and is important in maintaining adequate phosphate levels for bone mineralization, bone growth, and remodelling. It’s also believed to be involved in the regulation of cell growth proliferation and apoptosis (programmed cell death), as well as modulation of the immune system and other functions. Alone or in combination with calcium, Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce the risk of fractures in elderly men (≥ 65 years), postmenopausal women, and the risk of falls in community-dwelling seniors. However, in a comprehensive systematic review, inconsistent results were found concerning the effects of vitamin D in conditions such as cancer, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular disease. In fact, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found concerning the effects of vitamin D in such non-bone health outcomes. Given the uncertainties surrounding the effects of vitamin D in non-bone health related outcomes, it was decided that this evaluation should focus on falls and the effects of vitamin D in bone health and exclusively within average-risk individuals and patients with kidney disease.
Synthesis of vitamin D occurs naturally in the skin through exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sunlight, but it can also be obtained from dietary sources including fortified foods, and supplements. Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, fish liver oil, and some types of mushrooms. Since it is usually difficult to obtain sufficient vitamin D from non-fortified foods, either due to low content or infrequent use, most vitamin D is obtained from fortified foods, exposure to sunlight, and supplements.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Vitamin D deficiency may lead to rickets in infants and osteomalacia in adults. Factors believed to be associated with vitamin D deficiency include:
darker skin pigmentation,
winter season,
living at higher latitudes,
skin coverage,
kidney disease,
malabsorption syndromes such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and
genetic factors.
Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency due to either renal losses or decreased synthesis of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D.
Health Canada currently recommends that, until the daily recommended intakes (DRI) for vitamin D are updated, Canada’s Food Guide (Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide) should be followed with respect to vitamin D intake. Issued in 2007, the Guide recommends that Canadians consume two cups (500 ml) of fortified milk or fortified soy beverages daily in order to obtain a daily intake of 200 IU. In addition, men and women over the age of 50 should take 400 IU of vitamin D supplements daily. Additional recommendations were made for breastfed infants.
A Canadian survey evaluated the median vitamin D intake derived from diet alone (excluding supplements) among 35,000 Canadians, 10,900 of which were from Ontario. Among Ontarian males ages 9 and up, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake ranged between 196 IU and 272 IU per day. Among females, it varied from 152 IU to 196 IU per day. In boys and girls ages 1 to 3, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake was 248 IU, while among those 4 to 8 years it was 224 IU.
Vitamin D Testing
Two laboratory tests for vitamin D are available, 25-hydroxy vitamin D, referred to as 25(OH)D, and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Vitamin D status is assessed by measuring the serum 25(OH)D levels, which can be assayed using radioimmunoassays, competitive protein-binding assays (CPBA), high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). These may yield different results with inter-assay variation reaching up to 25% (at lower serum levels) and intra-assay variation reaching 10%.
The optimal serum concentration of vitamin D has not been established and it may change across different stages of life. Similarly, there is currently no consensus on target serum vitamin D levels. There does, however, appear to be a consensus on the definition of vitamin D deficiency at 25(OH)D < 25 nmol/l, which is based on the risk of diseases such as rickets and osteomalacia. Higher target serum levels have also been proposed based on subclinical endpoints such as parathyroid hormone (PTH). Therefore, in this report, two conservative target serum levels have been adopted, 25 nmol/L (based on the risk of rickets and osteomalacia), and 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on vitamin D’s interaction with PTH).
Ontario Context
Volume & Cost
The volume of vitamin D tests done in Ontario has been increasing over the past 5 years with a steep increase of 169,000 tests in 2007 to more than 393,400 tests in 2008. The number of tests continues to rise with the projected number of tests for 2009 exceeding 731,000. According to the Ontario Schedule of Benefits, the billing cost of each test is $51.7 for 25(OH)D (L606, 100 LMS units, $0.517/unit) and $77.6 for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (L605, 150 LMS units, $0.517/unit). Province wide, the total annual cost of vitamin D testing has increased from approximately $1.7M in 2004 to over $21.0M in 2008. The projected annual cost for 2009 is approximately $38.8M.
Evidence-Based Analysis
The objective of this report is to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, the report also sought to evaluate the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada. The specific research questions addressed were thus:
What is the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in subjects with kidney disease?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the average risk population in Canada?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with kidney disease in Canada?
Clinical utility was defined as the ability to improve bone health outcomes with the focus on the average risk population (excluding those with osteoporosis) and patients with kidney disease.
Literature Search
A literature search was performed on July 17th, 2009 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1, 1998 until July 17th, 2009. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist, then a group of epidemiologists until consensus was established. The quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Observational studies that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada in the population of interest were included based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria listed below. The baseline values were used in this report in the case of interventional studies that evaluated the effect of vitamin D intake on serum levels. Studies published in grey literature were included if no studies published in the peer-reviewed literature were identified for specific outcomes or subgroups.
Considering that vitamin D status may be affected by factors such as latitude, sun exposure, food fortification, among others, the search focused on prevalence studies published in Canada. In cases where no Canadian prevalence studies were identified, the decision was made to include studies from the United States, given the similar policies in vitamin D food fortification and recommended daily intake.
Inclusion Criteria
Studies published in English
Publications that reported the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada
Studies that included subjects from the general population or with kidney disease
Studies in children or adults
Studies published between January 1998 and July 17th 2009
Exclusion Criteria
Studies that included subjects defined according to a specific disease other than kidney disease
Letters, comments, and editorials
Studies that measured the serum vitamin D levels but did not report the percentage of subjects with serum levels below a given threshold
Outcomes of Interest
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 25 nmol/L
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 40 to 50 nmol/L
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D was the metabolite used to assess vitamin D status. Results from adult and children studies were reported separately. Subgroup analyses according to factors that affect serum vitamin D levels (e.g., seasonal effects, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake) were reported if enough information was provided in the studies
Quality of Evidence
The quality of the prevalence studies was based on the method of subject recruitment and sampling, possibility of selection bias, and generalizability to the source population. The overall quality of the trials was examined according to the GRADE Working Group criteria.
Summary of Findings
Fourteen prevalence studies examining Canadian adults and children met the eligibility criteria. With the exception of one longitudinal study, the studies had a cross-sectional design. Two studies were conducted among Canadian adults with renal disease but none studied Canadian children with renal disease (though three such US studies were included). No systematic reviews or health technology assessments that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada were identified. Two studies were published in grey literature, consisting of a Canadian survey designed to measure serum vitamin D levels and a study in infants presented as an abstract at a conference. Also included were the results of vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories in Ontario between October 2008 and September 2009 (provided by the Ontario Association of Medical Laboratories).
Different threshold levels were used in the studies, thus we reported the percentage of subjects with serum levels of between 25 and 30 nmol/L and between 37.5 and 50 nmol/L. Some studies stratified the results according to factors affecting vitamin D status and two used multivariate models to investigate the effects of these characteristics (including age, season, BMI, vitamin D intake, skin pigmentation, and season) on serum 25(OH)D levels. It’s unclear, however, if these studies were adequately powered for these subgroup analyses.
Study participants generally consisted of healthy, community-dwelling subjects and most excluded individuals with conditions or medications that alter vitamin D or bone metabolism, such as kidney or liver disease. Although the studies were conducted in different parts of Canada, fewer were performed in Northern latitudes, i.e. above 53°N, which is equivalent to the city of Edmonton.
Adults
Serum vitamin D levels of < 25 to 30 nmol/L were observed in 0% to 25.5% of the subjects included in five studies; the weighted average was 3.8% (95% CI: 3.0, 4.6). The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that approximately 5% of the subjects had serum levels below 29.5 nmol/L. The results of over 600,000 vitamin D tests performed in Ontarian community laboratories between October 2008 and September 2009 showed that 2.6% of adults (> 18 years) had serum levels < 25 nmol/L.
The prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below 37.5-50 nmol/L reported among studies varied widely, ranging from 8% to 73.6% with a weighted average of 22.5%. The preliminary results of the CHMS survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects had serum levels below 37 to 48 nmol/L. The results of the vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories showed that 10% to 25% of the individuals had serum levels between 39 and 50 nmol/L.
In an attempt to explain this inter-study variation, the study results were stratified according to factors affecting serum vitamin D levels, as summarized below. These results should be interpreted with caution as none were adjusted for other potential confounders. Adequately powered multivariate analyses would be necessary to determine the contribution of risk factors to lower serum 25(OH)D levels.
Seasonal variation
Three adult studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in different seasons observed a trend towards a higher prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L during the winter and spring months, specifically 21% to 39%, compared to 8% to 14% in the summer. The weighted average was 23.6% over the winter/spring months and 9.6% over summer. The difference between the seasons was not statistically significant in one study and not reported in the other two studies.
Skin Pigmentation
Four studies observed a trend toward a higher prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L in subjects with darker skin pigmentation compared to those with lighter skin pigmentation, with weighted averages of 46.8% among adults with darker skin colour and 15.9% among those with fairer skin.
Vitamin D intake and serum levels
Four adult studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels according to vitamin D intake and showed an overall trend toward a lower prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L with higher levels of vitamin D intake. One study observed a dose-response relationship between higher vitamin D intake from supplements, diet (milk), and sun exposure (results not adjusted for other variables). It was observed that subjects taking 50 to 400 IU or > 400 IU of vitamin D per day had a 6% and 3% prevalence of serum vitamin D level < 40 nmol/L, respectively, versus 29% in subjects not on vitamin D supplementation. Similarly, among subjects drinking one or two glasses of milk per day, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was found to be 15%, versus 6% in those who drink more than two glasses of milk per day and 21% among those who do not drink milk. On the other hand, one study observed little variation in serum vitamin D levels during winter according to milk intake, with the proportion of subjects exhibiting vitamin D levels of < 40 nmol/L being 21% among those drinking 0-2 glasses per day, 26% among those drinking > 2 glasses, and 20% among non-milk drinkers.
The overall quality of evidence for the studies conducted among adults was deemed to be low, although it was considered moderate for the subgroups of skin pigmentation and seasonal variation.
Newborn, Children and Adolescents
Five Canadian studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in newborns, children, and adolescents. In four of these, it was found that between 0 and 36% of children exhibited deficiency across age groups with a weighted average of 6.4%. The results of over 28,000 vitamin D tests performed in children 0 to 18 years old in Ontario laboratories (Oct. 2008 to Sept. 2009) showed that 4.4% had serum levels of < 25 nmol/L.
According to two studies, 32% of infants 24 to 30 months old and 35.3% of newborns had serum vitamin D levels of < 50 nmol/L. Two studies of children 2 to 16 years old reported that 24.5% and 34% had serum vitamin D levels below 37.5 to 40 nmol/L. In both studies, older children exhibited a higher prevalence than younger children, with weighted averages 34.4% and 10.3%, respectively. The overall weighted average of the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L among pediatric studies was 25.8%. The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects between 6 and 11 years (N= 435) had serum levels below 50 nmol/L, while for those 12 to 19 years, 25% to 50% exhibited serum vitamin D levels below 50 nmol/L.
The effects of season, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake were not explored in Canadian pediatric studies. A Canadian surveillance study did, however, report 104 confirmed cases1 (2.9 cases per 100,000 children) of vitamin D-deficient rickets among Canadian children age 1 to 18 between 2002 and 2004, 57 (55%) of which from Ontario. The highest incidence occurred among children living in the North, i.e., the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. In 92 (89%) cases, skin pigmentation was categorized as intermediate to dark, 98 (94%) had been breastfed, and 25 (24%) were offspring of immigrants to Canada. There were no cases of rickets in children receiving ≥ 400 IU VD supplementation/day.
Overall, the quality of evidence of the studies of children was considered very low.
Kidney Disease
Adults
Two studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in Canadian adults with kidney disease. The first included 128 patients with chronic kidney disease stages 3 to 5, 38% of which had serum vitamin D levels of < 37.5 nmol/L (measured between April and July). This is higher than what was reported in Canadian studies of the general population during the summer months (i.e. between 8% and 14%). In the second, which examined 419 subjects who had received a renal transplantation (mean time since transplantation: 7.2 ± 6.4 years), the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was 27.3%. The authors concluded that the prevalence observed in the study population was similar to what is expected in the general population.
Children
No studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in Canadian pediatric patients with kidney disease could be identified, although three such US studies among children with chronic kidney disease stages 1 to 5 were. The mean age varied between 10.7 and 12.5 years in two studies but was not reported in the third. Across all three studies, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below the range of 37.5 to 50 nmol/L varied between 21% and 39%, which is not considerably different from what was observed in studies of healthy Canadian children (24% to 35%).
Overall, the quality of evidence in adults and children with kidney disease was considered very low.
Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing
A high quality comprehensive systematic review published in August 2007 evaluated the association between serum vitamin D levels and different bone health outcomes in different age groups. A total of 72 studies were included. The authors observed that there was a trend towards improvement in some bone health outcomes with higher serum vitamin D levels. Nevertheless, precise thresholds for improved bone health outcomes could not be defined across age groups. Further, no new studies on the association were identified during an updated systematic review on vitamin D published in July 2009.
With regards to non-bone health outcomes, there is no high or even moderate quality evidence that supports the effectiveness of vitamin D in outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality. Even if there is any residual uncertainty, there is no evidence that testing vitamin D levels encourages adherence to Health Canada’s guidelines for vitamin D intake. A normal serum vitamin D threshold required to prevent non-bone health related conditions cannot be resolved until a causal effect or correlation has been demonstrated between vitamin D levels and these conditions. This is as an ongoing research issue around which there is currently too much uncertainty to base any conclusions that would support routine vitamin D testing.
For patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), there is again no high or moderate quality evidence supporting improved outcomes through the use of calcitriol or vitamin D analogs. In the absence of such data, the authors of the guidelines for CKD patients consider it best practice to maintain serum calcium and phosphate at normal levels, while supplementation with active vitamin D should be considered if serum PTH levels are elevated. As previously stated, the authors of guidelines for CKD patients believe that there is not enough evidence to support routine vitamin D [25(OH)D] testing. According to what is stated in the guidelines, decisions regarding the commencement or discontinuation of treatment with calcitriol or vitamin D analogs should be based on serum PTH, calcium, and phosphate levels.
Limitations associated with the evidence of vitamin D testing include ambiguities in the definition of an ‘adequate threshold level’ and both inter- and intra- assay variability. The MAS considers both the lack of a consensus on the target serum vitamin D levels and assay limitations directly affect and undermine the clinical utility of testing. The evidence supporting the clinical utility of vitamin D testing is thus considered to be of very low quality.
Daily vitamin D intake, either through diet or supplementation, should follow Health Canada’s recommendations for healthy individuals of different age groups. For those with medical conditions such as renal disease, liver disease, and malabsorption syndromes, and for those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, physician guidance should be followed with respect to both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
Conclusions
Studies indicate that vitamin D, alone or in combination with calcium, may decrease the risk of fractures and falls among older adults.
There is no high or moderate quality evidence to support the effectiveness of vitamin D in other outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality.
Studies suggest that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canadian adults and children is relatively low (approximately 5%), and between 10% and 25% have serum levels below 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on very low to low grade evidence).
Given the limitations associated with serum vitamin D measurement, ambiguities in the definition of a ‘target serum level’, and the availability of clear guidelines on vitamin D supplementation from Health Canada, vitamin D testing is not warranted for the average risk population.
Health Canada has issued recommendations regarding the adequate daily intake of vitamin D, but current studies suggest that the mean dietary intake is below these recommendations. Accordingly, Health Canada’s guidelines and recommendations should be promoted.
Based on a moderate level of evidence, individuals with darker skin pigmentation appear to have a higher risk of low serum vitamin D levels than those with lighter skin pigmentation and therefore may need to be specially targeted with respect to optimum vitamin D intake. The cause-effect of this association is currently unclear.
Individuals with medical conditions such as renal and liver disease, osteoporosis, and malabsorption syndromes, as well as those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, should follow their physician’s guidance concerning both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
PMCID: PMC3377517  PMID: 23074397
12.  In Idiopathic Calcium Oxalate Stone Formers, Unattached Stones Show Evidence of Having Originated as Attached Stones on Randall’s Plaque 
BJU international  2009;105(2):242-245.
Objective
To analyze the structure and composition of unattached stones in idiopathic calcium oxalate stone formers (ICSF) and compare them to attached stones from the same cohort in order to investigate whether more than one pathogenic mechanism exists for stone formation in ICSF.
Patients and methods
ICSF undergoing percutaneous nephrolithotomy or ureteroscopy for treatment of nephrolithiasis were consented for this study. All accessible renal papillae were endoscopically imaged using a digital endoscope. All stones were removed and determined by the operating surgeon to be attached or unattached to the underlying papilla. Micro-computed tomography (micro-CT), which provides three-dimensional analysis of entire stones, was used to compare the structure and composition of attached versus unattached stones.
Results
Of 115 stones collected from 9 patients (12 renal units), only 25 stones were found not to be attached to renal papillae. Of these 25 stones, 4 were lost and 12 showed definite morphological evidence of having been attached to tissue, probably having been knocked off of papillae during access. For the remaining 9 stones, micro-CT analysis revealed at least one internal region of calcium phosphate within each of these unattached calcium oxalate (CaOx) stones. That is, the internal structure of the unattached stones is consistent with their having originated attached to RP, and then having become detached but retained in the kidney, with new layers of CaOx eventually covering the original attachment site.
Conclusions
Micro CT analysis supports the hypothesis that in ICSF, both attached and unattached stones occur as a result of a common pathogenic mechanism. That is, in this type of stone former, CaOx stones—even those not showing morphology that betrays attachment—all originate attached to interstitial plaque on the renal papilla.
doi:10.1111/j.1464-410X.2009.08637.x
PMCID: PMC2807918  PMID: 19549258
Randall’s plaque; nephrolithiasis; stone pathogenesis; micro computed tomography
13.  Physician Awareness of Drug Cost: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(9):e283.
Background
Pharmaceutical costs are the fastest-growing health-care expense in most developed countries. Higher drug costs have been shown to negatively impact patient outcomes. Studies suggest that doctors have a poor understanding of pharmaceutical costs, but the data are variable and there is no consistent pattern in awareness. We designed this systematic review to investigate doctors' knowledge of the relative and absolute costs of medications and to determine the factors that influence awareness.
Methods and Findings
Our search strategy included The Cochrane Library, EconoLit, EMBASE, and MEDLINE as well as reference lists and contact with authors who had published two or more articles on the topic or who had published within 10 y of the commencement of our review. Studies were included if: either doctors, trainees (interns or residents), or medical students were surveyed; there were more than ten survey respondents; cost of pharmaceuticals was estimated; results were expressed quantitatively; there was a clear description of how authors defined “accurate estimates”; and there was a description of how the true cost was determined. Two authors reviewed each article for eligibility and extracted data independently. Cost accuracy outcomes were summarized, but data were not combined in meta-analysis because of extensive heterogeneity. Qualitative data related to physicians and drug costs were also extracted. The final analysis included 24 articles. Cost accuracy was low; 31% of estimates were within 20% or 25% of the true cost, and fewer than 50% were accurate by any definition of cost accuracy. Methodological weaknesses were common, and studies of low methodological quality showed better cost awareness. The most important factor influencing the pattern and accuracy of estimation was the true cost of therapy. High-cost drugs were estimated more accurately than inexpensive ones (74% versus 31%, Chi-square p < 0.001). Doctors consistently overestimated the cost of inexpensive products and underestimated the cost of expensive ones (binomial test, 89/101, p < 0.001). When asked, doctors indicated that they want cost information and feel it would improve their prescribing but that it is not accessible.
Conclusions
Doctors' ignorance of costs, combined with their tendency to underestimate the price of expensive drugs and overestimate the price of inexpensive ones, demonstrate a lack of appreciation of the large difference in cost between inexpensive and expensive drugs. This discrepancy in turn could have profound implications for overall drug expenditures. Much more focus is required in the education of physicians about costs and the access to cost information. Future research should focus on the accessibility and reliability of medical cost information and whether the provision of this information is used by doctors and makes a difference to physician prescribing. Additionally, future work should strive for higher methodological standards to avoid the biases we found in the current literature, including attention to the method of assessing accuracy that allows larger absolute estimation ranges for expensive drugs.
From a review of data from 24 studies, Michael Allan and colleagues conclude that doctors often underestimate the price of expensive drugs and overestimate the price of those that are inexpensive.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Many medicines are extremely expensive, and the cost of buying them is a major (and increasing) proportion of the total cost of health care. Governments and health-care organizations try to find ways of keeping down costs without reducing the effectiveness of the health care they provide, but their efforts to control what is spent on medicines have not been very successful. There are often two or more equally effective drugs available for treating the same condition, and it would obviously help keep costs down if, when a doctor prescribes a medicine, he or she chose the cheapest of the effective drugs available. This choice could result in savings for whoever is paying for the drugs, be it the government, the patient, or a medical insurance organization.
Why Was This Study Done?
Doctors who prescribe drugs cannot be expected to know the exact cost of each drug on the market, but it would he helpful if they had some impression of the cost of a treatment and how the various alternatives compare in price. However, systems deciding how drugs are priced are often very complex. (This is particularly the case in the US.) The researchers wanted to find out how aware doctors are regarding drug costs and the difference between the alternatives. They also wanted to know what factors affected their awareness.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They decided to do a systematic review of all the research already conducted that addressed this issue so that the evidence from all of them could be considered together. In order to do such a review they had to specify precise requirements for the type of study that they would include and then comprehensively search the medical literature for such studies. They found 24 studies that met their requirements. From these studies, they concluded that doctors were usually not accurate when asked to estimate the cost of drugs; doctors came up with estimates that were within 25% of the true cost less than one-third of the time. In particular doctors tended to underestimate the cost of expensive drugs and overestimate the cost of the cheaper alternatives. A further analysis of the studies showed that many doctors said they would appreciate more accurate information on costs to help them choose which drugs to prescribe but that such information was not readily available.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers concluded that their systematic review demonstrates a lack of appreciation by prescribing doctors of the large difference in cost between inexpensive and expensive drugs, and that this finding has serious implications for overall spending on drugs. They call for more education and information to be provided to doctors on the cost of medicines together with better processes to help doctors in making such decisions.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040283.
A brief guide to systematic reviews has been published by the BMJ (British Medical Journal)
The Web site of the Cochrane Collaboration is a more detailed source of information on systematic reviews; in particular there is a newcomers' guide and information for health-care consumers
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, private operating foundation focusing on the major health care issues in the US, has a section on prescription drugs and their costs
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040283
PMCID: PMC1989748  PMID: 17896856
14.  “Do your homework…and then hope for the best”: the challenges that medical tourism poses to Canadian family physicians’ support of patients’ informed decision-making 
BMC Medical Ethics  2013;14:37.
Background
Medical tourism—the practice where patients travel internationally to privately access medical care—may limit patients’ regular physicians’ abilities to contribute to the informed decision-making process. We address this issue by examining ways in which Canadian family doctors’ typical involvement in patients’ informed decision-making is challenged when their patients engage in medical tourism.
Methods
Focus groups were held with family physicians practicing in British Columbia, Canada. After receiving ethics approval, letters of invitation were faxed to family physicians in six cities. 22 physicians agreed to participate and focus groups ranged from two to six participants. Questions explored participants’ perceptions of and experiences with medical tourism. A coding scheme was created using inductive and deductive codes that captured issues central to analytic themes identified by the investigators. Extracts of the coded data that dealt with informed decision-making were shared among the investigators in order to identify themes. Four themes were identified, all of which dealt with the challenges that medical tourism poses to family physicians’ abilities to support medical tourists’ informed decision-making. Findings relevant to each theme were contrasted against the existing medical tourism literature so as to assist in understanding their significance.
Results
Four key challenges were identified: 1) confusion and tensions related to the regular domestic physician’s role in decision-making; 2) tendency to shift responsibility related to healthcare outcomes onto the patient because of the regular domestic physician’s reduced role in shared decision-making; 3) strains on the patient-physician relationship and corresponding concern around the responsibility of the foreign physician; and 4) regular domestic physicians’ concerns that treatments sought abroad may not be based on the best available medical evidence on treatment efficacy.
Conclusions
Medical tourism is creating new challenges for Canadian family physicians who now find themselves needing to carefully negotiate their roles and responsibilities in the informed decision-making process of their patients who decide to seek private treatment abroad as medical tourists. These physicians can and should be educated to enable their patients to look critically at the information available about medical tourism providers and to ask critical questions of patients deciding to access care abroad.
doi:10.1186/1472-6939-14-37
PMCID: PMC3849019  PMID: 24053385
15.  A comparative analysis of chiropractic and general practitioner patients in North America: Findings from the joint Canada/United States survey of health, 2002–03 
Background
Scientifically rigorous general population-based studies comparing chiropractic with primary-care medical patients within and between countries have not been published. The objective of this study is to compare care seekers of doctors of chiropractic (DCs) and general practitioners (GPs) in the United States and Canada on a comprehensive set of sociodemographic, quality of life, and health-related variables.
Methods
Data are from the Joint Canada/U.S. Survey of Health (JCUSH), 2002–03, a random sample of adults in Canada (N = 3505) and the U.S. (N = 5183). Respondents were categorized according to their pattern of health-care use in the past year. Distributions, percentages, and estimates (adjusted odds ratios) weighted to reflect the complex survey design were produced.
Results
Nearly 80% of respondents sought care from GPs; 12% sought DC care. Compared with GP only patients, DC patients in both countries tend to be under 65 and white, with arthritis and disabling back or neck pain. U.S. DC patients are more likely than GP only patients to be obese and to lack a regular doctor; Canadian DC patients are more likely than GP only patients to be college educated, to have higher incomes, and dissatisfied with MD care. Compared with seekers of both GP and DC care, DC only patients in both countries have fewer chronic conditions, take fewer drugs, and have no regular doctor. U.S. DC only patients are more likely than GP+DC patients to be uninsured and dissatisfied with health care; Canadian DC only patients are more likely than GP+DC patients to be under 45, male, less educated, smokers, and not obese, without disabling back or neck pain, on fewer drugs, and lacking a regular doctor.
Conclusion
Chiropractic and GP patients are dissimilar in both Canada and the U.S., with key differences between countries and between DC patients who do and do not seek care from GPs. Such variation has broad and potentially far-reaching health policy and research implications.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-6-49
PMCID: PMC1458338  PMID: 16600038
16.  The Effect of Universal Influenza Immunization on Mortality and Health Care Use 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(10):e211.
Background
In 2000, Ontario, Canada, initiated a universal influenza immunization program (UIIP) to provide free influenza vaccines for the entire population aged 6 mo or older. Influenza immunization increased more rapidly in younger age groups in Ontario compared to other Canadian provinces, which all maintained targeted immunization programs. We evaluated the effect of Ontario's UIIP on influenza-associated mortality, hospitalizations, emergency department (ED) use, and visits to doctors' offices.
Methods and Findings
Mortality and hospitalization data from 1997 to 2004 for all ten Canadian provinces were obtained from national datasets. Physician billing claims for visits to EDs and doctors' offices were obtained from provincial administrative datasets for four provinces with comprehensive data. Since outcomes coded as influenza are known to underestimate the true burden of influenza, we studied more broadly defined conditions. Hospitalizations, ED use, doctors' office visits for pneumonia and influenza, and all-cause mortality from 1997 to 2004 were modelled using Poisson regression, controlling for age, sex, province, influenza surveillance data, and temporal trends, and used to estimate the expected baseline outcome rates in the absence of influenza activity. The primary outcome was then defined as influenza-associated events, or the difference between the observed events and the expected baseline events. Changes in influenza-associated outcome rates before and after UIIP introduction in Ontario were compared to the corresponding changes in other provinces. After UIIP introduction, influenza-associated mortality decreased more in Ontario (relative rate [RR] = 0.26) than in other provinces (RR = 0.43) (ratio of RRs = 0.61, p = 0.002). Similar differences between Ontario and other provinces were observed for influenza-associated hospitalizations (RR = 0.25 versus 0.44, ratio of RRs = 0.58, p < 0.001), ED use (RR = 0.31 versus 0.69, ratio of RRs = 0.45, p < 0.001), and doctors' office visits (RR = 0.21 versus 0.52, ratio of RRs = 0.41, p < 0.001). Sensitivity analyses were carried out to assess consistency, specificity, and the presence of a dose-response relationship. Limitations of this study include the ecological study design, the nonspecific outcomes, difficulty in modeling baseline events, data quality and availability, and the inability to control for potentially important confounders.
Conclusions
Compared to targeted programs in other provinces, introduction of universal vaccination in Ontario in 2000 was associated with relative reductions in influenza-associated mortality and health care use. The results of this large-scale natural experiment suggest that universal vaccination may be an effective public health measure for reducing the annual burden of influenza.
Comparing influenza-related mortality and health care use between Ontario and other Canadian provinces, Jeffrey Kwong and colleagues find evidence that Ontario's universal vaccination program has reduced the burden of influenza.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Seasonal outbreaks (epidemics) of influenza—a viral disease of the nose, throat, and airways—affect millions of people and kill about 500,000 individuals every year. These epidemics occur because of “antigenic drift”: small but frequent changes in the viral proteins to which the human immune system responds mean that an immune response produced one year by exposure to an influenza virus provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Immunization can boost this natural immunity and reduce a person's chances of catching influenza. That is, an injection of killed influenza viruses can be used to prime the immune system so that it responds quickly and efficiently when exposed to live virus. However, because of antigenic drift, for influenza immunization to be effective, it has to be repeated annually with a vaccine that contains the major circulating strains of the influenza virus.
Why Was This Study Done?
Public-health organizations recommend targeted vaccination programs, so that elderly people, infants, and chronically ill individuals—the people most likely to die from pneumonia and other complications of influenza—receive annual influenza vaccination. Some experts argue, however, that universal vaccination might provide populations with better protection from influenza, both directly by increasing the number of vaccinated people and indirectly through “herd immunity,” which occurs when a high proportion of the population is immune to an infectious disease, so that even unvaccinated people are unlikely to become infected (because infected people rarely come into contact with susceptible people). In this study, the researchers compare the effects of the world's first free universal influenza immunization program (UIIP), which started in 2000 in the Canadian province of Ontario, on influenza-associated deaths and health care use with the effects of targeted vaccine programs on the same outcomes elsewhere in Canada.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using national records, the researchers collected data on influenza vaccination, on all deaths, and on hospitalizations for pneumonia and influenza in all Canadian provinces between 1997 and 2004. They also collected data on emergency department and doctors' office visits for pneumonia and influenza for Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and Manitoba. They then used a mathematical model to estimate the baseline rates for these outcomes in the absence of influenza activity, and from these calculated weekly rates for deaths and health care use specifically resulting from influenza. In 1996–1997, 18% of the population was vaccinated against influenza in Ontario whereas in the other provinces combined the vaccination rate was 13%. On average, since 2000—the year in which UIIP was introduced in Ontario—vaccination rates have risen to 38% and 24% in Ontario and the other provinces, respectively. Since the introduction of UIIP, the researchers report, influenza-associated deaths have decreased by 74% in Ontario but by only 57% in the other provinces combined. Influenza-associated use of health care facilities has also decreased more in Ontario than in the other provinces over the same period.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings are limited by some aspects of the study design. For example, they depend on the accuracy of the assumptions made when calculating events due specifically to influenza, and on the availability and accuracy of vaccination and clinical outcome data. In addition, it is possible that influenza-associated deaths and health care use may have decreased more in Ontario than in the other Canadian provinces because of some unrecognized health care changes specific to Ontario but unrelated to the introduction of universal influenza vaccination. Nevertheless, these findings indicate that, compared to the targeted vaccination programs in the other Canadian provinces, the Ontarian UIIP is associated with reductions in influenza-associated deaths and health care use, particularly in people younger than 65 years old. This effect is seen at a level of vaccination unlikely to produce herd immunity so might be more marked if the uptake of vaccination could be further increased. Thus, although it is possible that Canada is a special case, these findings suggest that universal influenza vaccination might be an effective way to reduce the global burden of influenza.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050211.
Read the related PLoSMedicine Perspective by Cécile Viboud and Mark Miller
A related PLoSMedicine Research Article by Carline van den Dool and colleagues is also available
The Ontario Ministry of Health provides information on its universal influenza immunization program (in English and French)
The World Health Organization provides information on influenza and on influenza vaccines (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information for patients and professionals on all aspects of influenza (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides a list of links to other information about influenza (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service provides information about the science of immunization, including a simple explanatory animation of immunity
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050211
PMCID: PMC2573914  PMID: 18959473
17.  Access to primary health care among homeless adults in Toronto, Canada: results from the Street Health survey 
Open Medicine  2011;5(2):e94-e103.
Background
Despite experiencing a disproportionate burden of acute and chronic health issues, many homeless people face barriers to primary health care. Most studies on health care access among homeless populations have been conducted in the United States, and relatively few are available from countries such as Canada that have a system of universal health insurance. We investigated access to primary health care among a representative sample of homeless adults in Toronto, Canada.
Methods
Homeless adults were recruited from shelter and meal programs in downtown Toronto between November 2006 and February 2007. Cross-sectional data were collected on demographic characteristics, health status, health determinants and access to health care. We used multivariable logistic regression analysis to investigate the association between having a family doctor as the usual source of health care (an indicator of access to primary care) and health status, proof of health insurance, and substance use after adjustment for demographic characteristics.
Results
Of the 366 participants included in our study, 156 (43%) reported having a family doctor. After adjustment for potential confounders and covariates, we found that the odds of having a family doctor significantly decreased with every additional year spent homeless in the participant’s lifetime (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.91, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.86–0.97). Having a family doctor was significantly associated with being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (adjusted OR 2.70, 95% CI 1.04–7.00), having a health card (proof of health insurance coverage in the province of Ontario) (adjusted OR 2.80, 95% CI 1.61–4.89) and having a chronic medical condition (adjusted OR 1.91, 95% CI 1.03–3.53).
Interpretation
Less than half of the homeless people in Toronto who participated in our study reported having a family doctor. Not having a family doctor was associated with key indicators of health care access and health status, including increasing duration of homelessness, lack of proof of health insurance coverage and having a chronic medical condition. Increased efforts are needed to address the barriers to appropriate health care and good health that persist in this population despite the provision of health insurance.
PMCID: PMC3148004  PMID: 21915240
18.  Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Acute Respiratory Failure Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 
Executive Summary
In July 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) evidentiary framework, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding treatment strategies for patients with COPD. This project emerged from a request by the Health System Strategy Division of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that MAS provide them with an evidentiary platform on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of COPD interventions.
After an initial review of health technology assessments and systematic reviews of COPD literature, and consultation with experts, MAS identified the following topics for analysis: vaccinations (influenza and pneumococcal), smoking cessation, multidisciplinary care, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation for acute and chronic respiratory failure, hospital-at-home for acute exacerbations of COPD, and telehealth (including telemonitoring and telephone support). Evidence-based analyses were prepared for each of these topics. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed where appropriate. In addition, a review of the qualitative literature on patient, caregiver, and provider perspectives on living and dying with COPD was conducted, as were reviews of the qualitative literature on each of the technologies included in these analyses.
The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis series is made up of the following reports, which can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: http://www.hqontario.ca/en/mas/mas_ohtas_mn.html.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Evidentiary Framework
Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccinations for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Community-Based Multidisciplinary Care for Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Long-term Oxygen Therapy for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Acute Respiratory Failure Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Chronic Respiratory Failure Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telehealth for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Using an Ontario Policy Model
Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Qualitative Empirical Literature
For more information on the qualitative review, please contact Mita Giacomini at: http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/ceb/faculty_member_giacomini.htm.
For more information on the economic analysis, please visit the PATH website: http://www.path-hta.ca/About-Us/Contact-Us.aspx.
The Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment (THETA) collaborative has produced an associated report on patient preference for mechanical ventilation. For more information, please visit the THETA website: http://theta.utoronto.ca/static/contact.
Objective
The objective of this evidence-based analysis was to examine the effectiveness, safety, and cost-effectiveness of noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) in the following patient populations: patients with acute respiratory failure (ARF) due to acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); weaning of COPD patients from invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV); and prevention of or treatment of recurrent respiratory failure in COPD patients after extubation from IMV.
Clinical Need and Target Population
Acute Hypercapnic Respiratory Failure
Respiratory failure occurs when the respiratory system cannot oxygenate the blood and/or remove carbon dioxide from the blood. It can be either acute or chronic and is classified as either hypoxemic (type I) or hypercapnic (type II) respiratory failure. Acute hypercapnic respiratory failure frequently occurs in COPD patients experiencing acute exacerbations of COPD, so this is the focus of this evidence-based analysis. Hypercapnic respiratory failure occurs due to a decrease in the drive to breathe, typically due to increased work to breathe in COPD patients.
Technology
There are several treatment options for ARF. Usual medical care (UMC) attempts to facilitate adequate oxygenation and treat the cause of the exacerbation, and typically consists of supplemental oxygen, and a variety of medications such as bronchodilators, corticosteroids, and antibiotics. The failure rate of UMC is high and has been estimated to occur in 10% to 50% of cases.
The alternative is mechanical ventilation, either invasive or noninvasive. Invasive mechanical ventilation involves sedating the patient, creating an artificial airway through endotracheal intubation, and attaching the patient to a ventilator. While this provides airway protection and direct access to drain sputum, it can lead to substantial morbidity, including tracheal injuries and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP).
While both positive and negative pressure noninvasive ventilation exists, noninvasive negative pressure ventilation such as the iron lung is no longer in use in Ontario. Noninvasive positive pressure ventilation provides ventilatory support through a facial or nasal mask and reduces inspiratory work. Noninvasive positive pressure ventilation can often be used intermittently for short periods of time to treat respiratory failure, which allows patients to continue to eat, drink, talk, and participate in their own treatment decisions. In addition, patients do not require sedation, airway defence mechanisms and swallowing functions are maintained, trauma to the trachea and larynx are avoided, and the risk for VAP is reduced. Common complications are damage to facial and nasal skin, higher incidence of gastric distension with aspiration risk, sleeping disorders, and conjunctivitis. In addition, NPPV does not allow direct access to the airway to drain secretions and requires patients to cooperate, and due to potential discomfort, compliance and tolerance may be low.
In addition to treating ARF, NPPV can be used to wean patients from IMV through the gradual removal of ventilation support until the patient can breathe spontaneously. Five to 30% of patients have difficultly weaning. Tapering levels of ventilatory support to wean patients from IMV can be achieved using IMV or NPPV. The use of NPPV helps to reduce the risk of VAP by shortening the time the patient is intubated.
Following extubation from IMV, ARF may recur, leading to extubation failure and the need for reintubation, which has been associated with increased risk of nosocomial pneumonia and mortality. To avoid these complications, NPPV has been proposed to help prevent ARF recurrence and/or to treat respiratory failure when it recurs, thereby preventing the need for reintubation.
Research Questions
What is the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and safety of NPPV for the treatment of acute hypercapnic respiratory failure due to acute exacerbations of COPD compared with
usual medical care, and
invasive mechanical ventilation?
What is the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and safety of NPPV compared with IMV in COPD patients after IMV for the following purposes:
weaning COPD patients from IMV,
preventing ARF in COPD patients after extubation from IMV, and
treating ARF in COPD patients after extubation from IMV?
Research Methods
Literature Search
A literature search was performed on December 3, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, OVID EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Wiley Cochrane, and the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination/International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1, 2004 until December 3, 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search.
Since there were numerous studies that examined the effectiveness of NPPV for the treatment of ARF due to exacerbations of COPD published before 2004, pre-2004 trials which met the inclusion/exclusion criteria for this evidence-based review were identified by hand-searching reference lists of included studies and systematic reviews.
Inclusion Criteria
English language full-reports;
health technology assessments, systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and randomized controlled trials (RCTs);
studies performed exclusively in patients with a diagnosis of COPD or studies performed with patients with a mix of conditions if results are reported for COPD patients separately;
patient population: (Question 1) patients with acute hypercapnic respiratory failure due to an exacerbation of COPD; (Question 2a) COPD patients being weaned from IMV; (Questions 2b and 2c) COPD patients who have been extubated from IMV.
Exclusion Criteria
< 18 years of age
animal studies
duplicate publications
grey literature
studies examining noninvasive negative pressure ventilation
studies comparing modes of ventilation
studies comparing patient-ventilation interfaces
studies examining outcomes not listed below, such as physiologic effects including heart rate, arterial blood gases, and blood pressure
Outcomes of Interest
mortality
intubation rates
length of stay (intensive care unit [ICU] and hospital)
health-related quality of life
breathlessness
duration of mechanical ventilation
weaning failure
complications
NPPV tolerance and compliance
Statistical Methods
When possible, results were pooled using Review Manager 5 Version 5.1, otherwise, the results were summarized descriptively. Dichotomous data were pooled into relative risks using random effects models and continuous data were pooled using weighted mean differences with a random effects model. Analyses using data from RCTs were done using intention-to-treat protocols; P values < 0.05 were considered significant. A priori subgroup analyses were planned for severity of respiratory failure, location of treatment (ICU or hospital ward), and mode of ventilation with additional subgroups as needed based on the literature. Post hoc sample size calculations were performed using STATA 10.1.
Quality of Evidence
The quality of each included study was assessed taking into consideration allocation concealment, randomization, blinding, power/sample size, withdrawals/dropouts, and intention-to-treat analyses.
The quality of the body of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low, or very low according to the GRADE Working Group criteria. The following definitions of quality were used in grading the quality of the evidence:
Summary of Findings
NPPV for the Treatment of ARF due to Acute Exacerbations of COPD
NPPV Plus Usual Medical Care Versus Usual Medical Care Alone for First Line Treatment
A total of 1,000 participants were included in 11 RCTs1; the sample size ranged from 23 to 342. The mean age of the participants ranged from approximately 60 to 72 years of age. Based on either the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) COPD stage criteria or the mean percent predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), 4 of the studies included people with severe COPD, and there was inadequate information to classify the remaining 7 studies by COPD severity. The severity of the respiratory failure was classified into 4 categories using the study population mean pH level as follows: mild (pH ≥ 7.35), moderate (7.30 ≤ pH < 7.35), severe (7.25 ≤ pH < 7.30), and very severe (pH < 7.25). Based on these categories, 3 studies included patients with a mild respiratory failure, 3 with moderate respiratory failure, 4 with severe respiratory failure, and 1 with very severe respiratory failure.
The studies were conducted either in the ICU (3 of 11 studies) or general or respiratory wards (8 of 11 studies) in hospitals, with patients in the NPPV group receiving bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) ventilatory support, except in 2 studies, which used pressure support ventilation and volume cycled ventilation, respectively. Patients received ventilation through nasal, facial, or oronasal masks. All studies specified a protocol or schedule for NPPV delivery, but this varied substantially across the studies. For example, some studies restricted the amount of ventilation per day (e.g., 6 hours per day) and the number of days it was offered (e.g., maximum of 3 days); whereas, other studies provided patients with ventilation for as long as they could tolerate it and recommended it for much longer periods of time (e.g., 7 to 10 days). These differences are an important source of clinical heterogeneity between the studies. In addition to NPPV, all patients in the NPPV group also received UMC. Usual medical care varied between the studies, but common medications included supplemental oxygen, bronchodilators, corticosteroids, antibiotics, diuretics, and respiratory stimulators.
The individual quality of the studies ranged. Common methodological issues included lack of blinding and allocation concealment, and small sample sizes.
Need for Endotracheal Intubation
Eleven studies reported the need for endotracheal intubation as an outcome. The pooled results showed a significant reduction in the need for endotracheal intubation in the NPPV plus UMC group compared with the UMC alone group (relative risk [RR], 0.38; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.28−0.50). When subgrouped by severity of respiratory failure, the results remained significant for the mild, severe, and very severe respiratory failure groups.
GRADE: moderate
Inhospital Mortality
Nine studies reported inhospital mortality as an outcome. The pooled results showed a significant reduction in inhospital mortality in the NPPV plus UMC group compared with the UMC group (RR, 0.53; 95% CI, 0.35−0.81). When subgrouped by severity of respiratory failure, the results remained significant for the moderate and severe respiratory failure groups.
GRADE: moderate
Hospital Length of Stay
Eleven studies reported hospital length of stay (LOS) as an outcome. The pooled results showed a significant decrease in the mean length of stay for the NPPV plus UMC group compared with the UMC alone group (weighted mean difference [WMD], −2.68 days; 95% CI, −4.41 to −0.94 days). When subgrouped by severity of respiratory failure, the results remained significant for the mild, severe, and very severe respiratory failure groups.
GRADE: moderate
Complications
Five studies reported complications. Common complications in the NPPV plus UMC group included pneumonia, gastrointestinal disorders or bleeds, skin abrasions, eye irritation, gastric insufflation, and sepsis. Similar complications were observed in the UMC group including pneumonia, sepsis, gastrointestinal disorders or bleeds, pneumothorax, and complicated endotracheal intubations. Many of the more serious complications in both groups occurred in those patients who required endotracheal intubation. Three of the studies compared complications in the NPPV plus UMC and UMC groups. While the data could not be pooled, overall, the NPPV plus UMC group experienced fewer complications than the UMC group.
GRADE: low
Tolerance/Compliance
Eight studies reported patient tolerance or compliance with NPPV as an outcome. NPPV intolerance ranged from 5% to 29%. NPPV tolerance was generally higher for patients with more severe respiratory failure. Compliance with the NPPV protocol was reported by 2 studies, which showed compliance decreases over time, even over short periods such as 3 days.
NPPV Versus IMV for the Treatment of Patients Who Failed Usual Medical Care
A total of 205 participants were included in 2 studies; the sample sizes of these studies were 49 and 156. The mean age of the patients was 71 to 73 years of age in 1 study, and the median age was 54 to 58 years of age in the second study. Based on either the GOLD COPD stage criteria or the mean percent predicted FEV1, patients in 1 study had very severe COPD. The COPD severity could not be classified in the second study. Both studies had study populations with a mean pH less than 7.23, which was classified as very severe respiratory failure in this analysis. One study enrolled patients with ARF due to acute exacerbations of COPD who had failed medical therapy. The patient population was not clearly defined in the second study, and it was not clear whether they had to have failed medical therapy before entry into the study.
Both studies were conducted in the ICU. Patients in the NPPV group received BiPAP ventilatory support through nasal or full facial masks. Patients in the IMV group received pressure support ventilation.
Common methodological issues included small sample size, lack of blinding, and unclear methods of randomization and allocation concealment. Due to the uncertainty about whether both studies included the same patient population and substantial differences in the direction and significance of the results, the results of the studies were not pooled.
Mortality
Both studies reported ICU mortality. Neither study showed a significant difference in ICU mortality between the NPPV and IMV groups, but 1 study showed a higher mortality rate in the NPPV group (21.7% vs. 11.5%) while the other study showed a lower mortality rate in the NPPV group (5.1% vs. 6.4%). One study reported 1-year mortality and showed a nonsignificant reduction in mortality in the NPPV group compared with the IMV group (26.1% vs. 46.1%).
GRADE: low to very low
Intensive Care Unit Length of Stay
Both studies reported LOS in the ICU. The results were inconsistent. One study showed a statistically significant shorter LOS in the NPPV group compared with the IMV group (5 ± 1.35 days vs. 9.29 ± 3 days; P < 0.001); whereas, the other study showed a nonsignificantly longer LOS in the NPPV group compared with the IMV group (22 ± 19 days vs. 21 ± 20 days; P = 0.86).
GRADE: very low
Duration of Mechanical Ventilation
Both studies reported the duration of mechanical ventilation (including both invasive and noninvasive ventilation). The results were inconsistent. One study showed a statistically significant shorter duration of mechanical ventilation in the NPPV group compared with the IMV group (3.92 ± 1.08 days vs. 7.17 ± 2.22 days; P < 0.001); whereas, the other study showed a nonsignificantly longer duration of mechanical ventilation in the NPPV group compared with the IMV group (16 ± 19 days vs. 15 ± 21 days; P = 0.86). GRADE: very low
Complications
Both studies reported ventilator-associated pneumonia and tracheotomies. Both showed a reduction in ventilator-associated pneumonia in the NPPV group compared with the IMV group, but the results were only significant in 1 study (13% vs. 34.6%, P = 0.07; and 6.4% vs. 37.2%, P < 0.001, respectively). Similarly, both studies showed a reduction in tracheotomies in the NPPV group compared with the IMV group, but the results were only significant in 1 study (13% vs. 23.1%, P = 0.29; and 6.4% vs. 34.6%; P < 0.001).
GRADE: very low
Other Outcomes
One of the studies followed patients for 12 months. At the end of follow-up, patients in the NPPV group had a significantly lower rate of needing de novo oxygen supplementation at home. In addition, the IMV group experienced significant increases in functional limitations due to COPD, while no increase was seen in the NPPV group. Finally, no significant differences were observed for hospital readmissions, ICU readmissions, and patients with an open tracheotomy, between the NPPV and IMV groups.
NPPV for Weaning COPD Patients From IMV
A total of 80 participants were included in the 2 RCTs; the sample sizes of the studies were 30 and 50 patients. The mean age of the participants ranged from 58 to 69 years of age. Based on either the GOLD COPD stage criteria or the mean percent predicted FEV1, both studies included patients with very severe COPD. Both studies also included patients with very severe respiratory failure (mean pH of the study populations was less than 7.23). Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients receiving IMV were enrolled in the study if they failed a T-piece weaning trial (spontaneous breathing test), so they could not be directly extubated from IMV.
Both studies were conducted in the ICU. Patients in the NPPV group received weaning using either BiPAP or pressure support ventilation NPPV through a face mask, and patients in the IMV weaning group received pressure support ventilation. In both cases, weaning was achieved by tapering the ventilation level.
The individual quality of the studies ranged. Common methodological problems included unclear randomization methods and allocation concealment, lack of blinding, and small sample size.
Mortality
Both studies reported mortality as an outcome. The pooled results showed a significant reduction in ICU mortality in the NPPV group compared with the IMV group (RR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.23−0.97; P = 0.04).
GRADE: moderate
Intensive Care Unit Length of Stay
Both studies reported ICU LOS as an outcome. The pooled results showed a nonsignificant reduction in ICU LOS in the NPPV group compared with the IMV group (WMD, −5.21 days; 95% CI, −11.60 to 1.18 days).
GRADE: low
Duration of Mechanical Ventilation
Both studies reported duration of mechanical ventilation (including both invasive and noninvasive ventilation) as an outcome. The pooled results showed a nonsignificant reduction in duration of mechanical ventilation (WMD, −3.55 days; 95% CI, −8.55 to 1.44 days).
GRADE: low
Nosocomial Pneumonia
Both studies reported nosocominal pneumonia as an outcome. The pooled results showed a significant reduction in nosocomial pneumonia in the NPPV group compared with the IMV group (RR, 0.14; 95% CI, 0.03−0.71; P = 0.02).
GRADE: moderate
Weaning Failure
One study reported a significant reduction in weaning failure in the NPPV group compared with the IMV group, but the results were not reported in the publication. In this study, 1 of 25 patients in the NPPV group and 2 of 25 patients in the IMV group could not be weaned after 60 days in the ICU.
NPPV After Extubation of COPD Patients From IMV
The literature was reviewed to identify studies examining the effectiveness of NPPV compared with UMC in preventing recurrence of ARF after extubation from IMV or treating acute ARF which has recurred after extubation from IMV. No studies that included only COPD patients or reported results for COPD patients separately were identified for the prevention of ARF postextubation.
One study was identified for the treatment of ARF in COPD patients that recurred within 48 hours of extubation from IMV. This study included 221 patients, of whom 23 had COPD. A post hoc subgroup analysis was conducted examining the rate of reintubation in the COPD patients only. A nonsignificant reduction in the rate of reintubation was observed in the NPPV group compared with the UMC group (7 of 14 patients vs. 6 of 9 patients, P = 0.67). GRADE: low
Conclusions
NPPV Plus UMC Versus UMC Alone for First Line Treatment of ARF due to Acute Exacerbations of COPD
Moderate quality of evidence showed that compared with UMC, NPPV plus UMC significantly reduced the need for endotracheal intubation, inhospital mortality, and the mean length of hospital stay.
Low quality of evidence showed a lower rate of complications in the NPPV plus UMC group compared with the UMC group.
NPPV Versus IMV for the Treatment of ARF in Patients Who Have Failed UMC
Due to inconsistent and low to very low quality of evidence, there was insufficient evidence to draw conclusions on the comparison of NPPV versus IMV for patients who failed UMC.
NPPV for Weaning COPD Patients From IMV
Moderate quality of evidence showed that weaning COPD patients from IMV using NPPV results in significant reductions in mortality, nosocomial pneumonia, and weaning failure compared with weaning with IMV.
Low quality of evidence showed a nonsignificant reduction in the mean LOS and mean duration of mechanical ventilation in the NPPV group compared with the IMV group.
NPPV for the Treatment of ARF in COPD Patients After Extubation From IMV
Low quality of evidence showed a nonsignificant reduction in the rate of reintubation in the NPPV group compared with the UMC group; however, there was inadequate evidence to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of NPPV for the treatment of ARF in COPD patients after extubation from IMV
PMCID: PMC3384377  PMID: 23074436
19.  Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Using an Ontario Policy Model 
Executive Summary
In July 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) evidentiary framework, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding treatment strategies for patients with COPD. This project emerged from a request by the Health System Strategy Division of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that MAS provide them with an evidentiary platform on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of COPD interventions.
After an initial review of health technology assessments and systematic reviews of COPD literature, and consultation with experts, MAS identified the following topics for analysis: vaccinations (influenza and pneumococcal), smoking cessation, multidisciplinary care, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation for acute and chronic respiratory failure, hospital-at-home for acute exacerbations of COPD, and telehealth (including telemonitoring and telephone support). Evidence-based analyses were prepared for each of these topics. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed where appropriate. In addition, a review of the qualitative literature on patient, caregiver, and provider perspectives on living and dying with COPD was conducted, as were reviews of the qualitative literature on each of the technologies included in these analyses.
The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis series is made up of the following reports, which can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: http://www.hqontario.ca/en/mas/mas_ohtas_mn.html.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Evidentiary Framework
Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccinations for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Community-Based Multidisciplinary Care for Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Long-Term Oxygen Therapy for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Acute Respiratory Failure Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Chronic Respiratory Failure Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telehealth for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Using an Ontario Policy Model
Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Qualitative Empirical Literature
For more information on the qualitative review, please contact Mita Giacomini at: http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/ceb/faculty_member_giacomini.htm.
For more information on the economic analysis, please visit the PATH website: http://www.path-hta.ca/About-Us/Contact-Us.aspx.
The Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment (THETA) collaborative has produced an associated report on patient preference for mechanical ventilation. For more information, please visit the THETA website: http://theta.utoronto.ca/static/contact.
Background
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by chronic inflammation throughout the airways, parenchyma, and pulmonary vasculature. The inflammation causes repeated cycles of injury and repair in the airway wall— inflammatory cells release a variety of chemicals and lead to cellular damage. The inflammation process also contributes to the loss of elastic recoil pressure in the lung, thereby reducing the driving pressure for expiratory flow through narrowed and poorly supported airways, in which airflow resistance is significantly increased. Expiratory flow limitation is the pathophysiological hallmark of COPD.
Exacerbations of COPD contribute considerably to morbidity and mortality, and impose a burden on the health care system. They are a leading cause of emergency room visits and hospitalizations, particularly in the winter. In Canada, the reported average cost for treating a moderate exacerbation is $641; for a major exacerbation, the cost is $10,086.
Objective
The objective of this study was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness and budget impact of the following interventions in moderate to very severe COPD, investigated in the Medical Advisory Secretariat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis Series:
smoking cessation programs in moderate COPD in an outpatient setting:
– intensive counselling (IC) versus usual care (UC)
– nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) versus UC
– IC + NRT versus placebo
– bupropion versus placebo
multidisciplinary care (MDC) teams versus UC in moderate to severe COPD in an outpatient setting
pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) versus UC following acute exacerbations in moderate to severe COPD
long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT) versus UC in severe hypoxemia in COPD in an outpatient setting
ventilation:
– noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) + usual medical care versus usual medical care in acute respiratory failure due to an acute exacerbation in severe COPD in an inpatient setting
– weaning with NPPV versus weaning with invasive mechanical ventilation in acute respiratory failure due to an acute exacerbation in very severe COPD in an inpatient setting
Methods
A cost-utility analysis was conducted using a Markov probabilistic model. The model consists of different health states based on the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease COPD severity classification. Patients were assigned different costs and utilities depending on their severity health state during each model cycle. In addition to moving between health states, patients were at risk of acute exacerbations of COPD in each model cycle. During each cycle, patients could have no acute exacerbation, a minor acute exacerbation, or a major exacerbation. For the purposes of the model, a major exacerbation was defined as one that required hospitalization. Patients were assigned different costs and utilities in each model cycle, depending on whether they experienced an exacerbation, and its severity.
Starting cohorts reflected the various patient populations from the trials analyzed. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs)—that is, costs per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY)—were estimated for each intervention using clinical parameters and summary estimates of relative risks of (re)hospitalization, as well as mortality and abstinence rates, from the COPD mega-analysis evidence-based analyses.
A budget impact analysis was also conducted to project incremental costs already being incurred or resources already in use in Ontario. Using provincial data, medical literature, and expert opinion, health system impacts were calculated for the strategies investigated.
All costs are reported in Canadian dollars.
Results
All smoking cessation programs were dominant (i.e., less expensive and more effective overall). Assuming a base case cost of $1,041 and $1,527 per patient for MDC and PR, the ICER was calculated to be $14,123 per QALY and $17,938 per QALY, respectively. When the costs of MDC and PR were varied in a 1-way sensitivity analysis to reflect variation in resource utilization reported in the literature, the ICER increased to $55,322 per QALY and $56,270 per QALY, respectively. Assuming a base case cost of $2,261 per year per patient for LTOT as reported by data from the Ontario provincial program, the ICER was calculated to be $38,993 per QALY. Ventilation strategies were dominant (i.e., cheaper and more effective), as reflected by the clinical evidence of significant in-hospital days avoided in the study group.
Ontario currently pays for IC through physician billing (translating to a current burden of $8 million) and bupropion through the Ontario Drug Benefit program (translating to a current burden of almost $2 million). The burden of NRT was projected to be $10 million, with future expenditures of up to $1 million in Years 1 to 3 for incident cases.
Ontario currently pays for some chronic disease management programs. Based on the most recent Family Health Team data, the costs of MDC programs to manage COPD were estimated at $85 million in fiscal year 2010, with projected future expenditures of up to $51 million for incident cases, assuming the base case cost of the program. However, this estimate does not accurately reflect the current costs to the province because of lack of report by Family Health Teams, lack of capture of programs outside this model of care by any data set in the province, and because the resource utilization and frequency of visits/follow-up phone calls were based on the findings in the literature rather than the actual Family Health Team COPD management programs in place in Ontario. Therefore, MDC resources being utilized in the province are unknown and difficult to measure.
Data on COPD-related hospitalizations were pulled from Ontario administrative data sets and based on consultation with experts. Half of hospitalized patients will access PR resources at least once, and half of these will repeat the therapy, translating to a potential burden of $17 million to $32 million, depending on the cost of the program. These resources are currently being absorbed, but since utilization is not being captured by any data set in the province, it is difficult to quantify and estimate. Provincial programs may be under-resourced, and patients may not be accessing these services effectively.
Data from the LTOT provincial program (based on fiscal year 2006 information) suggested that the burden was $65 million, with potential expenditures of up to $0.2 million in Years 1 to 3 for incident cases.
From the clinical evidence on ventilation (i.e., reduction in length of stay in hospital), there were potential cost savings to the hospitals of $42 million and $12 million for NPPV and weaning with NPPV, respectively, if the study intervention were adopted. Future cost savings were projected to be up to $4 million and $1 million, respectively, for incident cases.
Conclusions
Currently, costs for most of these interventions are being absorbed by provider services, the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, the Assistive Devices Program, and the hospital global budget. The most cost-effective intervention for COPD will depend on decision-makers’ willingness to pay. Lack of provincial data sets capturing resource utilization for the various interventions poses a challenge for estimating current burden and future expenditures.
PMCID: PMC3384363  PMID: 23074422
20.  Community Nurses' View of General Practice Attachment 
British Medical Journal  1969;3(5670):584-587.
An analysis of 98 health visitors and district nurses attached and non-attached to general practitioners in three local authority areas showed that most of them were aged over 40 and that many had entered domiciliary work because of the convenient hours or because of its intangible attractions. Adequate preparation for attachment was considered important, particularly a clear definition of the roles of the attached staff and their relationships to other workers in the practice.
Attached staff were found to be much more satisfied with the information given by the general practitioner about their patients than were unattached staff, and the former usually had access to the patients' medical records. The principal advantages of attachment were listed as access to family history; improved co-ordination within the practice and co-operation with the social services; favourable patient response; and increased mileage and work-load; the impossibility of crossing local authority boundaries; and having to deal with families registered with more than one doctor.
PMCID: PMC1984371  PMID: 5803696
21.  Caregiver- and Patient-Directed Interventions for Dementia 
Executive Summary
In early August 2007, the Medical Advisory Secretariat began work on the Aging in the Community project, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding healthy aging in the community. The Health System Strategy Division at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care subsequently asked the secretariat to provide an evidentiary platform for the ministry’s newly released Aging at Home Strategy.
After a broad literature review and consultation with experts, the secretariat identified 4 key areas that strongly predict an elderly person’s transition from independent community living to a long-term care home. Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these 4 areas: falls and fall-related injuries, urinary incontinence, dementia, and social isolation. For the first area, falls and fall-related injuries, an economic model is described in a separate report.
Please visit the Medical Advisory Secretariat Web site, http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/mas_about.html, to review these titles within the Aging in the Community series.
Aging in the Community: Summary of Evidence-Based Analyses
Prevention of Falls and Fall-Related Injuries in Community-Dwelling Seniors: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Behavioural Interventions for Urinary Incontinence in Community-Dwelling Seniors: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Caregiver- and Patient-Directed Interventions for Dementia: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Social Isolation in Community-Dwelling Seniors: An Evidence-Based Analysis
The Falls/Fractures Economic Model in Ontario Residents Aged 65 Years and Over (FEMOR)
This report features the evidence-based analysis on caregiver- and patient-directed interventions for dementia and is broken down into 4 sections:
Introduction
Caregiver-Directed Interventions for Dementia
Patient-Directed Interventions for Dementia
Economic Analysis of Caregiver- and Patient-Directed Interventions for Dementia
Caregiver-Directed Interventions for Dementia
Objective
To identify interventions that may be effective in supporting the well-being of unpaid caregivers of seniors with dementia living in the community.
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
Dementia is a progressive and largely irreversible syndrome that is characterized by a loss of cognitive function severe enough to impact social or occupational functioning. The components of cognitive function affected include memory and learning, attention, concentration and orientation, problem-solving, calculation, language, and geographic orientation. Dementia was identified as one of the key predictors in a senior’s transition from independent community living to admission to a long-term care (LTC) home, in that approximately 90% of individuals diagnosed with dementia will be institutionalized before death. In addition, cognitive decline linked to dementia is one of the most commonly cited reasons for institutionalization.
Prevalence estimates of dementia in the Ontario population have largely been extrapolated from the Canadian Study of Health and Aging conducted in 1991. Based on these estimates, it is projected that there will be approximately 165,000 dementia cases in Ontario in the year 2008, and by 2010 the number of cases will increase by nearly 17% over 2005 levels. By 2020 the number of cases is expected to increase by nearly 55%, due to a rise in the number of people in the age categories with the highest prevalence (85+). With the increase in the aging population, dementia will continue to have a significant economic impact on the Canadian health care system. In 1991, the total costs associated with dementia in Canada were $3.9 billion (Cdn) with $2.18 billion coming from LTC.
Caregivers play a crucial role in the management of individuals with dementia because of the high level of dependency and morbidity associated with the condition. It has been documented that a greater demand is faced by dementia caregivers compared with caregivers of persons with other chronic diseases. The increased burden of caregiving contributes to a host of chronic health problems seen among many informal caregivers of persons with dementia. Much of this burden results from managing the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), which have been established as a predictor of institutionalization for elderly patients with dementia.
It is recognized that for some patients with dementia, an LTC facility can provide the most appropriate care; however, many patients move into LTC unnecessarily. For individuals with dementia to remain in the community longer, caregivers require many types of formal and informal support services to alleviate the stress of caregiving. These include both respite care and psychosocial interventions. Psychosocial interventions encompass a broad range of interventions such as psychoeducational interventions, counseling, supportive therapy, and behavioural interventions.
Assuming that 50% of persons with dementia live in the community, a conservative estimate of the number of informal caregivers in Ontario is 82,500. Accounting for the fact that 29% of people with dementia live alone, this leaves a remaining estimate of 58,575 Ontarians providing care for a person with dementia with whom they reside.
Description of Interventions
The 2 main categories of caregiver-directed interventions examined in this review are respite care and psychosocial interventions. Respite care is defined as a break or relief for the caregiver. In most cases, respite is provided in the home, through day programs, or at institutions (usually 30 days or less). Depending on a caregiver’s needs, respite services will vary in delivery and duration. Respite care is carried out by a variety of individuals, including paid staff, volunteers, family, or friends.
Psychosocial interventions encompass a broad range of interventions and have been classified in various ways in the literature. This review will examine educational, behavioural, dementia-specific, supportive, and coping interventions. The analysis focuses on behavioural interventions, that is, those designed to help the caregiver manage BPSD. As described earlier, BPSD are one of the most challenging aspects of caring for a senior with dementia, causing an increase in caregiver burden. The analysis also examines multicomponent interventions, which include at least 2 of the above-mentioned interventions.
Methods of Evidence-Based Analysis
A comprehensive search strategy was used to identify systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that examined the effectiveness of interventions for caregivers of dementia patients.
Questions
Section 2.1
Are respite care services effective in supporting the well-being of unpaid caregivers of seniors with dementia in the community?
Do respite care services impact on rates of institutionalization of these seniors?
Section 2.2
Which psychosocial interventions are effective in supporting the well-being of unpaid caregivers of seniors with dementia in the community?
Which interventions reduce the risk for institutionalization of seniors with dementia?
Outcomes of Interest
any quantitative measure of caregiver psychological health, including caregiver burden, depression, quality of life, well-being, strain, mastery (taking control of one’s situation), reactivity to behaviour problems, etc.;
rate of institutionalization; and
cost-effectiveness.
Assessment of Quality of Evidence
The quality of the evidence was assessed as High, Moderate, Low, or Very low according to the GRADE methodology and GRADE Working Group. As per GRADE the following definitions apply:
Summary of Findings
Conclusions in Table 1 are drawn from Sections 2.1 and 2.2 of the report.
Summary of Conclusions on Caregiver-Directed Interventions
There is limited evidence from RCTs that respite care is effective in improving outcomes for those caring for seniors with dementia.
There is considerable qualitative evidence of the perceived benefits of respite care.
Respite care is known as one of the key formal support services for alleviating caregiver burden in those caring for dementia patients.
Respite care services need to be tailored to individual caregiver needs as there are vast differences among caregivers and patients with dementia (severity, type of dementia, amount of informal/formal support available, housing situation, etc.)
There is moderate- to high-quality evidence that individual behavioural interventions (≥ 6 sessions), directed towards the caregiver (or combined with the patient) are effective in improving psychological health in dementia caregivers.
There is moderate- to high-quality evidence that multicomponent interventions improve caregiver psychosocial health and may affect rates of institutionalization of dementia patients.
RCT indicates randomized controlled trial.
Patient-Directed Interventions for Dementia
Objective
The section on patient-directed interventions for dementia is broken down into 4 subsections with the following questions:
3.1 Physical Exercise for Seniors with Dementia – Secondary Prevention
What is the effectiveness of physical exercise for the improvement or maintenance of basic activities of daily living (ADLs), such as eating, bathing, toileting, and functional ability, in seniors with mild to moderate dementia?
3.2 Nonpharmacologic and Nonexercise Interventions to Improve Cognitive Functioning in Seniors With Dementia – Secondary Prevention
What is the effectiveness of nonpharmacologic interventions to improve cognitive functioning in seniors with mild to moderate dementia?
3.3 Physical Exercise for Delaying the Onset of Dementia – Primary Prevention
Can exercise decrease the risk of subsequent cognitive decline/dementia?
3.4 Cognitive Interventions for Delaying the Onset of Dementia – Primary Prevention
Does cognitive training decrease the risk of cognitive impairment, deterioration in the performance of basic ADLs or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs),1 or incidence of dementia in seniors with good cognitive and physical functioning?
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
Secondary Prevention2
Exercise
Physical deterioration is linked to dementia. This is thought to be due to reduced muscle mass leading to decreased activity levels and muscle atrophy, increasing the potential for unsafe mobility while performing basic ADLs such as eating, bathing, toileting, and functional ability.
Improved physical conditioning for seniors with dementia may extend their independent mobility and maintain performance of ADL.
Nonpharmacologic and Nonexercise Interventions
Cognitive impairments, including memory problems, are a defining feature of dementia. These impairments can lead to anxiety, depression, and withdrawal from activities. The impact of these cognitive problems on daily activities increases pressure on caregivers.
Cognitive interventions aim to improve these impairments in people with mild to moderate dementia.
Primary Prevention3
Exercise
Various vascular risk factors have been found to contribute to the development of dementia (e.g., hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, overweight).
Physical exercise is important in promoting overall and vascular health. However, it is unclear whether physical exercise can decrease the risk of cognitive decline/dementia.
Nonpharmacologic and Nonexercise Interventions
Having more years of education (i.e., a higher cognitive reserve) is associated with a lower prevalence of dementia in crossectional population-based studies and a lower incidence of dementia in cohorts followed longitudinally. However, it is unclear whether cognitive training can increase cognitive reserve or decrease the risk of cognitive impairment, prevent or delay deterioration in the performance of ADLs or IADLs or reduce the incidence of dementia.
Description of Interventions
Physical exercise and nonpharmacologic/nonexercise interventions (e.g., cognitive training) for the primary and secondary prevention of dementia are assessed in this review.
Evidence-Based Analysis Methods
A comprehensive search strategy was used to identify systematic reviews and RCTs that examined the effectiveness, safety and cost effectiveness of exercise and cognitive interventions for the primary and secondary prevention of dementia.
Questions
Section 3.1: What is the effectiveness of physical exercise for the improvement or maintenance of ADLs in seniors with mild to moderate dementia?
Section 3.2: What is the effectiveness of nonpharmacologic/nonexercise interventions to improve cognitive functioning in seniors with mild to moderate dementia?
Section 3.3: Can exercise decrease the risk of subsequent cognitive decline/dementia?
Section 3.4: Does cognitive training decrease the risk of cognitive impairment, prevent or delay deterioration in the performance of ADLs or IADLs, or reduce the incidence of dementia in seniors with good cognitive and physical functioning?
Assessment of Quality of Evidence
The quality of the evidence was assessed as High, Moderate, Low, or Very low according to the GRADE methodology. As per GRADE the following definitions apply:
Summary of Findings
Table 2 summarizes the conclusions from Sections 3.1 through 3.4.
Summary of Conclusions on Patient-Directed Interventions*
Previous systematic review indicated that “cognitive training” is not effective in patients with dementia.
A recent RCT suggests that CST (up to 7 weeks) is effective for improving cognitive function and quality of life in patients with dementia.
Regular leisure time physical activity in midlife is associated with a reduced risk of dementia in later life (mean follow-up 21 years).
Regular physical activity in seniors is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline (mean follow-up 2 years).
Regular physical activity in seniors is associated with a reduced risk of dementia (mean follow-up 6–7 years).
Evidence that cognitive training for specific functions (memory, reasoning, and speed of processing) produces improvements in these specific domains.
Limited inconclusive evidence that cognitive training can offset deterioration in the performance of self-reported IADL scores and performance assessments.
1° indicates primary; 2°, secondary; CST, cognitive stimulation therapy; IADL, instrumental activities of daily living; RCT, randomized controlled trial.
Benefit/Risk Analysis
As per the GRADE Working Group, the overall recommendations consider 4 main factors:
the trade-offs, taking into account the estimated size of the effect for the main outcome, the confidence limits around those estimates, and the relative value placed on the outcome;
the quality of the evidence;
translation of the evidence into practice in a specific setting, taking into consideration important factors that could be expected to modify the size of the expected effects such as proximity to a hospital or availability of necessary expertise; and
uncertainty about the baseline risk for the population of interest.
The GRADE Working Group also recommends that incremental costs of health care alternatives should be considered explicitly alongside the expected health benefits and harms. Recommendations rely on judgments about the value of the incremental health benefits in relation to the incremental costs. The last column in Table 3 reflects the overall trade-off between benefits and harms (adverse events) and incorporates any risk/uncertainty (cost-effectiveness).
Overall Summary Statement of the Benefit and Risk for Patient-Directed Interventions*
Economic Analysis
Budget Impact Analysis of Effective Interventions for Dementia
Caregiver-directed behavioural techniques and patient-directed exercise programs were found to be effective when assessing mild to moderate dementia outcomes in seniors living in the community. Therefore, an annual budget impact was calculated based on eligible seniors in the community with mild and moderate dementia and their respective caregivers who were willing to participate in interventional home sessions. Table 4 describes the annual budget impact for these interventions.
Annual Budget Impact (2008 Canadian Dollars)
Assumed 7% prevalence of dementia aged 65+ in Ontario.
Assumed 8 weekly sessions plus 4 monthly phone calls.
Assumed 12 weekly sessions plus biweekly sessions thereafter (total of 20).
Assumed 2 sessions per week for first 5 weeks. Assumed 90% of seniors in the community with dementia have mild to moderate disease. Assumed 4.5% of seniors 65+ are in long-term care, and the remainder are in the community. Assumed a rate of participation of 60% for both patients and caregivers and of 41% for patient-directed exercise. Assumed 100% compliance since intervention administered at the home. Cost for trained staff from Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care data source. Assumed cost of personal support worker to be equivalent to in-home support. Cost for recreation therapist from Alberta government Website.
Note: This budget impact analysis was calculated for the first year after introducing the interventions from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care perspective using prevalence data only. Prevalence estimates are for seniors in the community with mild to moderate dementia and their respective caregivers who are willing to participate in an interventional session administered at the home setting. Incidence and mortality rates were not factored in. Current expenditures in the province are unknown and therefore were not included in the analysis. Numbers may change based on population trends, rate of intervention uptake, trends in current programs in place in the province, and assumptions on costs. The number of patients was based on patients likely to access these interventions in Ontario based on assumptions stated below from the literature. An expert panel confirmed resource consumption.
PMCID: PMC3377513  PMID: 23074509
22.  Psychosocial Factors That Shape Patient and Carer Experiences of Dementia Diagnosis and Treatment: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(10):e1001331.
A systematic review of qualitative studies conducted by Frances Bunn and colleagues identifies and describes the experiences of patients and caregivers on receiving and adapting to a diagnosis of dementia.
Background
Early diagnosis and intervention for people with dementia is increasingly considered a priority, but practitioners are concerned with the effects of earlier diagnosis and interventions on patients and caregivers. This systematic review evaluates the qualitative evidence about how people accommodate and adapt to the diagnosis of dementia and its immediate consequences, to guide practice.
Methods and Findings
We systematically reviewed qualitative studies exploring experiences of community-dwelling individuals with dementia, and their carers, around diagnosis and the transition to becoming a person with dementia. We searched PubMed, PsychINFO, Embase, CINAHL, and the British Nursing Index (all searched in May 2010 with no date restrictions; PubMed search updated in February 2012), checked reference lists, and undertook citation searches in PubMed and Google Scholar (ongoing to September 2011). We used thematic synthesis to identify key themes, commonalities, barriers to earlier diagnosis, and support identified as helpful. We identified 126 papers reporting 102 studies including a total of 3,095 participants. Three overarching themes emerged from our analysis: (1) pathways through diagnosis, including its impact on identity, roles, and relationships; (2) resolving conflicts to accommodate a diagnosis, including the acceptability of support, focusing on the present or the future, and the use or avoidance of knowledge; and (3) strategies and support to minimise the impact of dementia. Consistent barriers to diagnosis include stigma, normalisation of symptoms, and lack of knowledge. Studies report a lack of specialist support particularly post-diagnosis.
Conclusions
There is an extensive body of qualitative literature on the experiences of community-dwelling individuals with dementia on receiving and adapting to a diagnosis of dementia. We present a thematic analysis that could be useful to professionals working with people with dementia. We suggest that research emphasis should shift towards the development and evaluation of interventions, particularly those providing support after diagnosis.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Dementia is a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer disease is the most common type of dementia. People with dementia usually have problems with two or more cognitive functions—thinking, language, memory, understanding, and judgment. Dementia is rare before the age of 65, but about a quarter of people over 85 have dementia. Because more people live longer these days, the number of patients with dementia is increasing. It is estimated that today between 40 and 50 million people live with dementia worldwide. By 2050, this number is expected to triple.
One way to study what dementia means to patients and their carers (most often spouses or other family members) is through qualitative research. Qualitative research aims to develop an in-depth understanding of individuals' experiences and behavior, as well as the reasons for their feelings and actions. In qualitative studies, researchers interview patients, their families, and doctors. When the studies are published, they usually contain direct quotations from interviews as well as summaries by the scientists who designed the interviews and analyzed the responses.
Why Was This Study Done?
This study was done to better understand the experiences and attitudes of patients and their carers surrounding dementia diagnosis. It focused on patients who lived and were cared for within the community (as opposed to people living in senior care facilities or other institutions). Most cases of dementia are progressive, meaning symptoms get worse over time. Diagnosis often happens at an advanced stage of the disease, and some patients never receive a formal diagnosis. This could have many possible reasons, including unawareness or denial of symptoms by patients and people close to them. The study was also trying to understand barriers to early diagnosis and what type of support is useful for newly diagnosed patients and carers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a systematic search for published qualitative research studies that reported on the experience, beliefs, feelings, and attitudes surrounding dementia diagnosis. They identified and reviewed 102 such studies. Among the quotations and summaries of the individual studies, they looked for prominent and recurring themes. They also compared and contrasted the respective experiences of patients and carers.
Overall, they found that the complexity and variety of responses to a diagnosis of dementia means that making the diagnosis and conveying it to patients and carers is challenging. Negative connotations associated with dementia, inconsistent symptoms, and not knowing enough about the signs and symptoms were commonly reported barriers to early dementia diagnosis. It was often the carer who initiated the search for help from a doctor, and among patients, willingness and readiness to receive a diagnosis varied. Being told one had dementia had a big impact on a patient's identity and often caused feelings of loss, anger, fear, and frustration. Spouses had to adjust to increasingly unequal relationships and the transition to a role as carer. The strain associated with this often caused health problems in the carers as well. On the other hand, studies examining the experience of couples often reported that they found ways to continue working together as a team.
Adjusting to a dementia diagnosis is a complex process. Initially, most patients and carers experienced conflicts, for example, between autonomy and safety, between recognizing the need for help but reluctance to accept it, or between living in the present and dealing with anxiety about and preparing for the future. As these were resolved and as the disease progressed, the attitudes of patients and carers towards dementia often became more balanced and accepting. Many patients and their families adopted strategies to cope with the impact of dementia on their lives in order to manage the disease and maintain some sort of normal life. These included practical strategies involving reminders, social strategies such as relying on family support, and emotional strategies such as using humor. At some point many patients and carers reported that they were able to adopt positive mindsets and incorporate dementia in their lives.
The studies also pointed to an urgent need for support from outside the family, both right after diagnosis and subsequently. General practitioners and family physicians have important roles in helping patients and carers to get access to information, social and psychological support, and community care. The need for information was reported to be ongoing and varied, and meeting it required a variety of sources and formats. Key needs for patients and carers mentioned in the studies include information on financial aids and entitlements early on, and continued access to supportive professionals and specialists.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Qualitative studies to date on how patients and carers respond to a diagnosis of dementia provide a fairly detailed picture of their experiences. The summary provided here should help professionals to understand better the challenges patients and carers face around the time of diagnosis as well as their immediate and evolving needs. The results also suggest that future research should focus on the development and evaluation of ways to meet those needs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001331.
Wikipedia has pages on dementia and qualitative research (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
Alzheimer Europe, an umbrella organization of 34 Alzheimer associations from 30 countries across Europe, has a page on the different approaches to research
The UK Department of Health has pages on dementia, including guidelines for carers of people with dementia
MedlinePlus also has information about dementia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001331
PMCID: PMC3484131  PMID: 23118618
23.  Describing and analysing primary health care system support for chronic illness care in Indigenous communities in Australia's Northern Territory – use of the Chronic Care Model 
Background
Indigenous Australians experience disproportionately high prevalence of, and morbidity and mortality from chronic illness such as diabetes, renal disease and cardiovascular disease. Improving the understanding of how Indigenous primary care systems are organised to deliver chronic illness care will inform efforts to improve the quality of care for Indigenous people.
Methods
This cross-sectional study was conducted in 12 Indigenous communities in Australia's Northern Territory. Using the Chronic Care Model as a framework, we carried out a mail-out survey to collect information on material, financial and human resources relating to chronic illness care in participating health centres. Follow up face-to-face interviews with health centre staff were conducted to identify successes and difficulties in the systems in relation to providing chronic illness care to community members.
Results
Participating health centres had distinct areas of strength and weakness in each component of systems: 1) organisational influence – strengthened by inclusion of chronic illness goals in business plans, appointment of designated chronic disease coordinators and introduction of external clinical audits, but weakened by lack of training in disease prevention and health promotion and limited access to Medicare funding; 2) community linkages – facilitated by working together with community organisations (e.g. local stores) and running community-based programs (e.g. "health week"), but detracted by a shortage of staff especially of Aboriginal health workers working in the community; 3) self management – promoted through patient education and goal setting with clients, but impeded by limited focus on family and community-based activities due to understaffing; 4) decision support – facilitated by distribution of clinical guidelines and their integration with daily care, but limited by inadequate access to and support from specialists; 5) delivery system design – strengthened by provision of transport for clients to health centres, separate men's and women's clinic rooms, specific roles of primary care team members in relation to chronic illness care, effective teamwork, and functional pathology and pharmacy systems, but weakened by staff shortage (particularly doctors and Aboriginal health workers) and high staff turnover; and 6) clinical information systems – facilitated by wide adoption of computerised information systems, but weakened by the systems' complexity and lack of IT maintenance and upgrade support.
Conclusion
Using concrete examples, this study translates the concept of the Chronic Care Model (and associated systems view) into practical application in Australian Indigenous primary care settings. This approach proved to be useful in understanding the quality of primary care systems for prevention and management of chronic illness. Further refinement of the systems should focus on both increasing human and financial resources and improving management practice.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-112
PMCID: PMC2430955  PMID: 18505591
24.  Utilization of DXA Bone Mineral Densitometry in Ontario 
Executive Summary
Issue
Systematic reviews and analyses of administrative data were performed to determine the appropriate use of bone mineral density (BMD) assessments using dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and the associated trends in wrist and hip fractures in Ontario.
Background
Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry Bone Mineral Density Assessment
Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry bone densitometers measure bone density based on differential absorption of 2 x-ray beams by bone and soft tissues. It is the gold standard for detecting and diagnosing osteoporosis, a systemic disease characterized by low bone density and altered bone structure, resulting in low bone strength and increased risk of fractures. The test is fast (approximately 10 minutes) and accurate (exceeds 90% at the hip), with low radiation (1/3 to 1/5 of that from a chest x-ray). DXA densitometers are licensed as Class 3 medical devices in Canada. The World Health Organization has established criteria for osteoporosis and osteopenia based on DXA BMD measurements: osteoporosis is defined as a BMD that is >2.5 standard deviations below the mean BMD for normal young adults (i.e. T-score <–2.5), while osteopenia is defined as BMD that is more than 1 standard deviation but less than 2.5 standard deviation below the mean for normal young adults (i.e. T-score< –1 & ≥–2.5). DXA densitometry is presently an insured health service in Ontario.
Clinical Need
 
Burden of Disease
The Canadian Multicenter Osteoporosis Study (CaMos) found that 16% of Canadian women and 6.6% of Canadian men have osteoporosis based on the WHO criteria, with prevalence increasing with age. Osteopenia was found in 49.6% of Canadian women and 39% of Canadian men. In Ontario, it is estimated that nearly 530,000 Ontarians have some degrees of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis-related fragility fractures occur most often in the wrist, femur and pelvis. These fractures, particularly those in the hip, are associated with increased mortality, and decreased functional capacity and quality of life. A Canadian study showed that at 1 year after a hip fracture, the mortality rate was 20%. Another 20% required institutional care, 40% were unable to walk independently, and there was lower health-related quality of life due to attributes such as pain, decreased mobility and decreased ability to self-care. The cost of osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures in Canada was estimated to be $1.3 billion in 1993.
Guidelines for Bone Mineral Density Testing
With 2 exceptions, almost all guidelines address only women. None of the guidelines recommend blanket population-based BMD testing. Instead, all guidelines recommend BMD testing in people at risk of osteoporosis, predominantly women aged 65 years or older. For women under 65 years of age, BMD testing is recommended only if one major or two minor risk factors for osteoporosis exist. Osteoporosis Canada did not restrict its recommendations to women, and thus their guidelines apply to both sexes. Major risk factors are age greater than or equal to 65 years, a history of previous fractures, family history (especially parental history) of fracture, and medication or disease conditions that affect bone metabolism (such as long-term glucocorticoid therapy). Minor risk factors include low body mass index, low calcium intake, alcohol consumption, and smoking.
Current Funding for Bone Mineral Density Testing
The Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP) Schedule presently reimburses DXA BMD at the hip and spine. Measurements at both sites are required if feasible. Patients at low risk of accelerated bone loss are limited to one BMD test within any 24-month period, but there are no restrictions on people at high risk. The total fee including the professional and technical components for a test involving 2 or more sites is $106.00 (Cdn).
Method of Review
This review consisted of 2 parts. The first part was an analysis of Ontario administrative data relating to DXA BMD, wrist and hip fractures, and use of antiresorptive drugs in people aged 65 years and older. The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences extracted data from the OHIP claims database, the Canadian Institute for Health Information hospital discharge abstract database, the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System, and the Ontario Drug Benefit database using OHIP and ICD-10 codes. The data was analyzed to examine the trends in DXA BMD use from 1992 to 2005, and to identify areas requiring improvement.
The second part included systematic reviews and analyses of evidence relating to issues identified in the analyses of utilization data. Altogether, 8 reviews and qualitative syntheses were performed, consisting of 28 published systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses, 34 randomized controlled trials, and 63 observational studies.
Findings of Utilization Analysis
Analysis of administrative data showed a 10-fold increase in the number of BMD tests in Ontario between 1993 and 2005.
OHIP claims for BMD tests are presently increasing at a rate of 6 to 7% per year. Approximately 500,000 tests were performed in 2005/06 with an age-adjusted rate of 8,600 tests per 100,000 population.
Women accounted for 90 % of all BMD tests performed in the province.
In 2005/06, there was a 2-fold variation in the rate of DXA BMD tests across local integrated health networks, but a 10-fold variation between the county with the highest rate (Toronto) and that with the lowest rate (Kenora). The analysis also showed that:
With the increased use of BMD, there was a concomitant increase in the use of antiresorptive drugs (as shown in people 65 years and older) and a decrease in the rate of hip fractures in people age 50 years and older.
Repeat BMD made up approximately 41% of all tests. Most of the people (>90%) who had annual BMD tests in a 2-year or 3-year period were coded as being at high risk for osteoporosis.
18% (20,865) of the people who had a repeat BMD within a 24-month period and 34% (98,058) of the people who had one BMD test in a 3-year period were under 65 years, had no fracture in the year, and coded as low-risk.
Only 19% of people age greater than 65 years underwent BMD testing and 41% received osteoporosis treatment during the year following a fracture.
Men accounted for 24% of all hip fractures and 21 % of all wrist fractures, but only 10% of BMD tests. The rates of BMD tests and treatment in men after a fracture were only half of those in women.
In both men and women, the rate of hip and wrist fractures mainly increased after age 65 with the sharpest increase occurring after age 80 years.
Findings of Systematic Review and Analysis
Serial Bone Mineral Density Testing for People Not Receiving Osteoporosis Treatment
A systematic review showed that the mean rate of bone loss in people not receiving osteoporosis treatment (including postmenopausal women) is generally less than 1% per year. Higher rates of bone loss were reported for people with disease conditions or on medications that affect bone metabolism. In order to be considered a genuine biological change, the change in BMD between serial measurements must exceed the least significant change (variability) of the testing, ranging from 2.77% to 8% for precisions ranging from 1% to 3% respectively. Progression in BMD was analyzed, using different rates of baseline BMD values, rates of bone loss, precision, and BMD value for initiating treatment. The analyses showed that serial BMD measurements every 24 months (as per OHIP policy for low-risk individuals) is not necessary for people with no major risk factors for osteoporosis, provided that the baseline BMD is normal (T-score ≥ –1), and the rate of bone loss is less than or equal to 1% per year. The analyses showed that for someone with a normal baseline BMD and a rate of bone loss of less than 1% per year, the change in BMD is not likely to exceed least significant change (even for a 1% precision) in less than 3 years after the baseline test, and is not likely to drop to a BMD level that requires initiation of treatment in less than 16 years after the baseline test.
Serial Bone Mineral Density Testing in People Receiving Osteoporosis Therapy
Seven published meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and 2 recent RCTs on BMD monitoring during osteoporosis therapy showed that although higher increases in BMD were generally associated with reduced risk of fracture, the change in BMD only explained a small percentage of the fracture risk reduction.
Studies showed that some people with small or no increase in BMD during treatment experienced significant fracture risk reduction, indicating that other factors such as improved bone microarchitecture might have contributed to fracture risk reduction.
There is conflicting evidence relating to the role of BMD testing in improving patient compliance with osteoporosis therapy.
Even though BMD may not be a perfect surrogate for reduction in fracture risk when monitoring responses to osteoporosis therapy, experts advised that it is still the only reliable test available for this purpose.
A systematic review conducted by the Medical Advisory Secretariat showed that the magnitude of increases in BMD during osteoporosis drug therapy varied among medications. Although most of the studies yielded mean percentage increases in BMD from baseline that did not exceed the least significant change for a 2% precision after 1 year of treatment, there were some exceptions.
Bone Mineral Density Testing and Treatment After a Fragility Fracture
A review of 3 published pooled analyses of observational studies and 12 prospective population-based observational studies showed that the presence of any prevalent fracture increases the relative risk for future fractures by approximately 2-fold or more. A review of 10 systematic reviews of RCTs and 3 additional RCTs showed that therapy with antiresorptive drugs significantly reduced the risk of vertebral fractures by 40 to 50% in postmenopausal osteoporotic women and osteoporotic men, and 2 antiresorptive drugs also reduced the risk of nonvertebral fractures by 30 to 50%. Evidence from observational studies in Canada and other jurisdictions suggests that patients who had undergone BMD measurements, particularly if a diagnosis of osteoporosis is made, were more likely to be given pharmacologic bone-sparing therapy. Despite these findings, the rate of BMD investigation and osteoporosis treatment after a fracture remained low (<20%) in Ontario as well as in other jurisdictions.
Bone Mineral Density Testing in Men
There are presently no specific Canadian guidelines for BMD screening in men. A review of the literature suggests that risk factors for fracture and the rate of vertebral deformity are similar for men and women, but the mortality rate after a hip fracture is higher in men compared with women. Two bisphosphonates had been shown to reduce the risk of vertebral and hip fractures in men. However, BMD testing and osteoporosis treatment were proportionately low in Ontario men in general, and particularly after a fracture, even though men accounted for 25% of the hip and wrist fractures. The Ontario data also showed that the rates of wrist fracture and hip fracture in men rose sharply in the 75- to 80-year age group.
Ontario-Based Economic Analysis
The economic analysis focused on analyzing the economic impact of decreasing future hip fractures by increasing the rate of BMD testing in men and women age greater than or equal to 65 years following a hip or wrist fracture. A decision analysis showed the above strategy, especially when enhanced by improved reporting of BMD tests, to be cost-effective, resulting in a cost-effectiveness ratio ranging from $2,285 (Cdn) per fracture avoided (worst-case scenario) to $1,981 (Cdn) per fracture avoided (best-case scenario). A budget impact analysis estimated that shifting utilization of BMD testing from the low risk population to high risk populations within Ontario would result in a saving of $0.85 million to $1.5 million (Cdn) to the health system. The potential net saving was estimated at $1.2 million to $5 million (Cdn) when the downstream cost-avoidance due to prevention of future hip fractures was factored into the analysis.
Other Factors for Consideration
There is a lack of standardization for BMD testing in Ontario. Two different standards are presently being used and experts suggest that variability in results from different facilities may lead to unnecessary testing. There is also no requirement for standardized equipment, procedure or reporting format. The current reimbursement policy for BMD testing encourages serial testing in people at low risk of accelerated bone loss. This review showed that biannual testing is not necessary for all cases. The lack of a database to collect clinical data on BMD testing makes it difficult to evaluate the clinical profiles of patients tested and outcomes of the BMD tests. There are ministry initiatives in progress under the Osteoporosis Program to address the development of a mandatory standardized requisition form for BMD tests to facilitate data collection and clinical decision-making. Work is also underway for developing guidelines for BMD testing in men and in perimenopausal women.
Conclusion
Increased use of BMD in Ontario since 1996 appears to be associated with increased use of antiresorptive medication and a decrease in hip and wrist fractures.
Data suggest that as many as 20% (98,000) of the DXA BMD tests in Ontario in 2005/06 were performed in people aged less than 65 years, with no fracture in the current year, and coded as being at low risk for accelerated bone loss; this is not consistent with current guidelines. Even though some of these people might have been incorrectly coded as low-risk, the number of tests in people truly at low risk could still be substantial.
Approximately 4% (21,000) of the DXA BMD tests in 2005/06 were repeat BMDs in low-risk individuals within a 24-month period. Even though this is in compliance with current OHIP reimbursement policies, evidence showed that biannual serial BMD testing is not necessary in individuals without major risk factors for fractures, provided that the baseline BMD is normal (T-score < –1). In this population, BMD measurements may be repeated in 3 to 5 years after the baseline test to establish the rate of bone loss, and further serial BMD tests may not be necessary for another 7 to 10 years if the rate of bone loss is no more than 1% per year. Precision of the test needs to be considered when interpreting serial BMD results.
Although changes in BMD may not be the perfect surrogate for reduction in fracture risk as a measure of response to osteoporosis treatment, experts advised that it is presently the only reliable test for monitoring response to treatment and to help motivate patients to continue treatment. Patients should not discontinue treatment if there is no increase in BMD after the first year of treatment. Lack of response or bone loss during treatment should prompt the physician to examine whether the patient is taking the medication appropriately.
Men and women who have had a fragility fracture at the hip, spine, wrist or shoulder are at increased risk of having a future fracture, but this population is presently under investigated and under treated. Additional efforts have to be made to communicate to physicians (particularly orthopaedic surgeons and family physicians) and the public about the need for a BMD test after fracture, and for initiating treatment if low BMD is found.
Men had a disproportionately low rate of BMD tests and osteoporosis treatment, especially after a fracture. Evidence and fracture data showed that the risk of hip and wrist fractures in men rises sharply at age 70 years.
Some counties had BMD utilization rates that were only 10% of that of the county with the highest utilization. The reasons for low utilization need to be explored and addressed.
Initiatives such as aligning reimbursement policy with current guidelines, developing specific guidelines for BMD testing in men and perimenopausal women, improving BMD reports to assist in clinical decision making, developing a registry to track BMD tests, improving access to BMD tests in remote/rural counties, establishing mechanisms to alert family physicians of fractures, and educating physicians and the public, will improve the appropriate utilization of BMD tests, and further decrease the rate of fractures in Ontario. Some of these initiatives such as developing guidelines for perimenopausal women and men, and developing a standardized requisition form for BMD testing, are currently in progress under the Ontario Osteoporosis Strategy.
PMCID: PMC3379167  PMID: 23074491
25.  South Asian women with diabetes: Psychosocial challenges and management: Consensus statement 
Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally. In South Asians mortality in women with diabetes stands second highest. There is a marked gender discrimination which is faced by women across South Asia esp in access to services and support for diabetes, resulting in high rates of morbidity and mortality in women with diabetes. The most important risk factor identified for the diabetes epidemic is obesity along with genetic susceptibility. Lack of health care, social and cultural disparity, discrimination at work, disparity in marriage, restricted medical facilities are prevalent. Diabetes and depression are common in women. Increasing age, low level of education, low socioeconomic conditions, difficulties posed in finding partners, frequent divorce and family history of psychiatric illness are significant risk factors for diabetes and depression. Such patients usually have poor metabolic control, higher complication rates, increased healthcare costs, lost productivity, lower quality of life as well as increased risk of death. Preconception counseling should be incorporated in the routine diabetes clinic visit for all women of childbearing potential. Women with diabetes should have information and access to contraception. Proper family planning counseling and psychological support can help stop practices such as female foeticide and multiple pregnancies. Psychological support to patients and their families are needed to break the barrier. There is emerging evidence that women with diabetes are more prone to untoward outcomes as compared to men. Central obesity, metabolic syndrome and the polycystic ovary syndrome show ethnic specific differences in South Asian women. Optimal sexuality is an integral part of holistic health. Shortage of trained female health care professionals, lack of privacy in over-crowded health care facilities, a social taboo attached to such matters, and lack of confidence in patients contribute to the neglect of sexual issues in women attending diabetes clinics across South Asia. Guidelines for counselling in female sexual dysfunction, written in culturally appropriate manner for South Asia, are needed. Diabetes affects women more severely because of their unique biological, cultural and socioeconomic circumstances. Women have limited access to health care facilities because of illiteracy, ignorance and negative social customs. Transcending the gender hierarchy and inequality is a formidable challenge. Sensitising men, empowering women on self care and providing peer support maybe the answer to this challenge. It is essential for health care providers to use appropriate coping mechanism such as building psychological contact with the patient, including family and friends as part of social support and empower patient with complete process of managing diabetes. Increasing awareness through the media, seminars, posters, group discussions and education, regular monitoring and consulting the doctor, support group for women and facilities for aerobic exercises are recommended. The health care systems should consider custom-designed prevention and control programs tailored for women based on local and regional attitudes on health care, cultural beliefs, and available social support systems. Policies that empower adolescent girls and young women to take control of their metabolic management must be encouraged. Provision of gender specific diabetes education with a holistic life-cycle approach is recommended.
doi:10.4103/2230-8210.113720
PMCID: PMC3743353  PMID: 23961469
South Asian region; Women with diabetes; gender disparity; health care access; social & cultural factors; Women empowerment

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