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1.  Task Shifting for Scale-up of HIV Care: Evaluation of Nurse-Centered Antiretroviral Treatment at Rural Health Centers in Rwanda 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(10):e1000163.
Fabienne Shumbusho and colleagues evaluate a task-shifting model of nurse-centered antiretroviral treatment prescribing in rural primary health centers in Rwanda and find that nurses can effectively and safely prescribe ART when given adequate training, mentoring, and support.
Background
The shortage of human resources for health, and in particular physicians, is one of the major barriers to achieve universal access to HIV care and treatment. In September 2005, a pilot program of nurse-centered antiretroviral treatment (ART) prescription was launched in three rural primary health centers in Rwanda. We retrospectively evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of this task-shifting model using descriptive data.
Methods and Findings
Medical records of 1,076 patients enrolled in HIV care and treatment services from September 2005 to March 2008 were reviewed to assess: (i) compliance with national guidelines for ART eligibility and prescription, and patient monitoring and (ii) key outcomes, such as retention, body weight, and CD4 cell count change at 6, 12, 18, and 24 mo after ART initiation. Of these, no ineligible patients were started on ART and only one patient received an inappropriate ART prescription. Of the 435 patients who initiated ART, the vast majority had adherence and side effects assessed at each clinic visit (89% and 84%, respectively). By March 2008, 390 (90%) patients were alive on ART, 29 (7%) had died, one (<1%) was lost to follow-up, and none had stopped treatment. Patient retention was about 92% by 12 mo and 91% by 24 mo. Depending on initial stage of disease, mean CD4 cell count increased between 97 and 128 cells/µl in the first 6 mo after treatment initiation and between 79 and 129 cells/µl from 6 to 24 mo of treatment. Mean weight increased significantly in the first 6 mo, between 1.8 and 4.3 kg, with no significant increases from 6 to 24 mo.
Conclusions
Patient outcomes in our pilot program compared favorably with other ART cohorts in sub-Saharan Africa and with those from a recent evaluation of the national ART program in Rwanda. These findings suggest that nurses can effectively and safely prescribe ART when given adequate training, mentoring, and support.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a serious health problem in sub-Saharan Africa. The virus attacks white blood cells that protect against infection, most commonly a type of white blood cell called CD4. When a person has been infected with HIV for a long time, the number of CD4 cells they have goes down, resulting in acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), in which the person's immune system no longer functions effectively.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has divided the disease into four stages as it progresses, according to symptoms including weight loss and so-called opportunistic infections. These are known as clinical stage I, II, III, or IV but were revised and renamed 1, 2, 3, and 4 in September 2005. HIV infection and AIDS cannot be cured but they can be managed with antiretroviral treatment (ART). The WHO currently recommends that ART is begun when the CD4 count falls below 350.
Rwanda is a country situated in the central Africa with a population of around 9 million inhabitants; over 3% of the rural population and 7% of the urban population are infected with HIV. In 2007, the WHO estimated that 220,000 Rwandan children had lost one or both parents to AIDS.
Why Was This Study Done?
The WHO estimates that 9.7 million people with HIV in low- to middle-income countries need ART but at the end of 2007, only 30% of these, including in Rwanda, had access to treatment. In many low-income countries a major factor in this is a lack of doctors. Rwanda, for example, has one doctor per 50,000 inhabitants and one nurse per 3,900 inhabitants.
This situation has led the WHO to recommend “task shifting,” i.e., that the task of prescribing ART should be shifted from doctors to nurses so that more patients can be treated. This type of reorganization is well studied in high-income countries, but the researchers wanted to help develop a system for treating AIDS that would be effective and timely in a predominantly rural, low-income setting such as Rwanda.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In conjunction with the Rwandan Ministry of Health, the researchers developed and piloted a task-shifting program, in which one nurse in each of three rural Rwandan primary health centers (PHCs) was trained to examine HIV patients and prescribe ART in simple cases. Nurses had to complete more than 50 consultations observed by the doctor before being permitted to consult patients independently. More complex cases were referred to a doctor. The authors developed standard checklists, instructions, and evaluation forms to guide nurses and the doctors who supervised them once a week.
The authors evaluated the pilot program by reviewing the records of 1,076 patients who enrolled on it between September 2005 and March 2008. They looked to see whether the nurses had followed guidelines and monitored the patients correctly. They also considered health outcomes for the patients, such as their death rate, their body weight, their CD4 cell count, and whether they maintained contact with caregivers.
They found that by March 2008, 451 patients had been eligible for ART. 435 received treatment and none of the patients were prescribed ART when they should not have been. Only one prescription did not follow national guidelines.
At every visit, nurses were supposed to assess whether patients were taking their drugs and to monitor side effects. They did this and maintained records correctly for the vast majority of the 435 patients who were prescribed ART. 390 patients (over 90%) of the 435 prescribed receiving ART continued to take it and maintain contact with the pilot PHC's program. 29 patients died. Only one was lost to follow up and the others transferred to another ART site. The majority gained weight in the first six months and their CD4 cell counts rose. Outcomes, including death rate, were similar to those treated on the (doctor-led) Rwandan national ART program and other sub-Saharan African national (doctor-led) programs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The study suggests that nurses are able to prescribe ART safely and effectively in a rural sub-Saharan setting, given sufficient training, mentoring, and support. Nurse-led prescribing of ART could mean that timely, appropriate treatment reaches many more HIV patients. It would reduce the burden of HIV care for doctors, freeing their time for other duties, and the study is already being used by the Rwandan Ministry of Health as a basis for plans to adopt a task-shifting strategy for the national ART program.
The study does have some limitations. The pilot program was funded and designed as a health project to deliver ART in rural areas, rather than a research project to compare nurse-led and doctor-led ART programs. There was no group of equivalent patients treated by doctors rather than nurses for direct comparison, although the authors did compare outcomes with those achieved nationally for doctor-led ART. The most promising sites, nurses, and patients were selected for the pilot and careful monitoring may have been an additional motivation for the nurses and doctors taking part. Health professionals in a scaled-up program may not be as committed as those in the pilot, who were carefully monitored. In addition, the nature of the pilot, which lasted for under three years and recruited new patients throughout, meant that patients were followed up for relatively short periods.
The authors also warn that they did not consider in this study the changes task shifting will make to doctors' roles and the skills required of both doctors and nurses. They recommend that task shifting should be implemented as part of a wider investment in health systems, human resources, training, adapted medical records, tools, and protocols.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000163.
PLoS Medicine includes a page collecting together its recent articles on HIV infection and AIDS that includes research articles, perspectives, editorials, and policy forums
SciDev.net provides news, views, and information about science, technology, and the developing world, including a section specific to HIV/AIDs
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a downloadable booklet Task Shifting to Tackle Health Worker Shortages
The WHO offers information on HIV and AIDS (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish) as well as health information and fact sheets on individual countries, including on Rwanda
The UNAIDS/WHO working group on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Surveillance gathers and publishes data on the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in individual countries, including on Rwanda
AIDS.ORG provides information to help prevent HIV infections and to improve the lives of those affected by HIV and AIDS. Factsheets on many aspects of HIV and AIDS are available. It is the official online publisher of AIDS Treatment News
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000163
PMCID: PMC2752160  PMID: 19823569
2.  A survey on doctors’ knowledge and attitude of treating chronic pain in three tertiary hospitals in Nigeria 
Background:
Chronic non-cancer pain (CP) is one of the most common complaints that bring patients to the hospital. When pain persists, people move from doctor-to-doctor seeking for help, thus the burden of CP is huge. This study, therefore was aimed at assessing attitude and knowledge of doctors in three teaching hospitals in Nigeria to CP.
Materials and Methods:
Structured questionnaire was administered to doctors practicing at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Usmanu Danfodio University Teaching Hospital and University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital. Responses were graded on maximum scale of five.
Results:
Of the 410 doctors who participated in study, 79.7% were men. Their years of practice varied from 1 year to 20 years (mean SD = 4.5 ± 1.7 years). Close to 58% of participants were resident doctors, 36.4% medical officers and 8.6% consultants. Only 23.3% of participants had basic medical or postgraduate training on pain management. The physicians’ mean goal of treating CP in patients was 3.7 ± 1.1, compared to 4.0 ± 1.1 in close relative and 4.1 ± 0.9 for doctors’-self pain. Only 9.5% of doctors use opioids for CP compared to 73% who use Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Few doctors (23%) use ≥2 drugs to treat CP. Doctors were indifferent on the appropriateness of patients with CP to request for additional analgesics (mean score = 3.1 + 1.4). Doctors’ self-rated knowledge of CP was 1.8 ± 0.7 compared to 4.1 ± 0.9 for acute and 0.8 ± 0.3 for cancer pains (P = 0. 003).
Conclusion:
Incorporation of pain management into continuing medical education could help improve observed deficiency in doctors’ knowledge of pain treatment which resulted from lack of basic medical education on pain.
doi:10.4103/0300-1652.129635
PMCID: PMC4003710  PMID: 24791041
Attitude; chronic pain; doctors; knowledge; treatment
3.  Should doctors wear white coats? 
Postgraduate Medical Journal  2004;80(943):284-286.
Objective: To compare the views of doctors and patients on whether doctors should wear white coats and to determine what shapes their views.
Methods: A questionnaire study of 400 patients and 86 doctors was performed.
Results: All 86 of the doctors' questionnaires were included in the analysis but only 276 of the patients were able to complete a questionnaire. Significantly more patients (56%) compared with their doctors (24%) felt that doctors should wear white coats (p<0.001). Only age (>70 years) (p<0.001) and those patients whose doctors actually wore white coats (p<0.001) were predictive of whether patients favoured white coats. The most common reason given by patients was for easy identification (54%). Less than 1% of patients believed that white coats spread infection.
Only 13% of doctors wore white coats as they were felt to be an infection risk (70%) or uncomfortable (60%). There was no significant difference between doctor subgroups when age, sex, grade, and specialty were analysed.
Conclusion: In contrast to doctors, who view white coats as an infection risk, most patients, and especially those older than 70 years, feel that doctors should wear them for easy identification. Further studies are needed to assess whether this affects patients' perceived quality of care and whether patient education will alter this view.
doi:10.1136/pgmj.2003.017483
PMCID: PMC1743003  PMID: 15138319
4.  Importance of patient pressure and perceived pressure and perceived medical need for investigations, referral, and prescribing in primary care: nested observational study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2004;328(7437):444.
Objective To assess how pressures from patients on doctors in the consultation contribute to referral and investigation.
Design Observational study nested within a randomised controlled trial.
Setting Five general practices in three settings in the United Kingdom.
Participants 847 consecutive patients, aged 16-80 years.
Main outcomes measures Patient preferences and doctors' perception of patient pressure and medical need.
Results Perceived medical need was the strongest independent predictor of all behaviours and confounded all other predictors. The doctors thought, however, there was no or only a slight indication for medical need among a significant minority of those who were examined (89/580, 15%), received a prescription (74/394, 19%), or were referred (27/125, 22%) and almost half of those investigated (99/216, 46%). After controlling for patient preference, medical need, and clustering by doctor, doctors' perceptions of patient pressure were strongly associated with prescribing (adjusted odds ratio 2.87, 95% confidence interval 1.16 to 7.08) and even more strongly associated with examination (4.38, 1.24 to 15.5), referral (10.72, 2.08 to 55.3), and investigation (3.18, 1.31 to 7.70). In all cases, doctors' perception of patient pressure was a stronger predictor than patients' preferences. Controlling for randomisation group, mean consultation time, or patient variables did not alter estimates or inferences.
Conclusions Doctors' behaviour in the consultation is most strongly associated with perceived medical need of the patient, which strongly confounds other predictors. However, a significant minority of examining, prescribing, and referral, and almost half of investigations, are still thought by the doctor to be slightly needed or not needed at all, and perceived patient pressure is a strong independent predictor of all doctor behaviours. To limit unnecessary resource use and iatrogenesis, when management decisions are not thought to be medically needed, doctors need to directly ask patients about their expectations.
doi:10.1136/bmj.38013.644086.7C
PMCID: PMC344266  PMID: 14966079
5.  How Doctors View and Use Social Media: A National Survey 
Background
Doctors are uncertain of their ethical and legal obligations when communicating with patients online. Professional guidelines for patient-doctor interaction online have been written with limited quantitative data about doctors’ current usage and attitudes toward the medium. Further research into these trends will help to inform more focused policy and guidelines for doctors communicating with patients online.
Objective
The intent of the study was to provide the first national profile of Australian doctors’ attitudes toward and use of online social media.
Methods
The study involved a quantitative, cross-sectional online survey of Australian doctors using a random sample from a large representative database.
Results
Of the 1500 doctors approached, 187 participated (12.47%). Most participants used social media privately, with only one-quarter not using any social media websites at all (48/187, 25.7%). One in five participants (30/155, 19.4%) had received a “friend request” from a patient. There was limited use of online communication in clinical practice: only 30.5% (57/187) had communicated with a patient through email and fewer than half (89/185, 48.1%) could offer their patients electronic forms of information if that were the patients’ preference. Three in five participants (110/181, 60.8%) reported not being uncomfortable about interacting with patients who had accessed personal information about them online, prior to the consultation. Most of the participants (119/181, 65.8%) were hesitant to immerse themselves more fully in social media and online communication due to worries about public access and legal concerns.
Conclusions
Doctors have different practices and views regarding whether or how to communicate appropriately with patients on the Internet, despite online and social media becoming an increasingly common feature of clinical practice. Additional training would assist doctors in protecting their personal information online, integrating online communication in patient care, and guidance on the best approach in ethically difficult online situations.
doi:10.2196/jmir.3589
PMCID: PMC4275505  PMID: 25470407
social media; Internet; professional practice; health communication; ethics; health policy; patient-physician relations
6.  The Effect of Alternative Graphical Displays Used to Present the Benefits of Antibiotics for Sore Throat on Decisions about Whether to Seek Treatment: A Randomized Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(8):e1000140.
In a randomized trial, Cheryl Carling and colleagues evaluate how people respond to different statistical presentations regarding the consequences of taking antibiotic treatment for sore throat.
Background
We conducted an Internet-based randomized trial comparing four graphical displays of the benefits of antibiotics for people with sore throat who must decide whether to go to the doctor to seek treatment. Our objective was to determine which display resulted in choices most consistent with participants' values.
Methods and Findings
This was the first of a series of televised trials undertaken in cooperation with the Norwegian Broadcasting Company. We recruited adult volunteers in Norway through a nationally televised weekly health program. Participants went to our Web site and rated the relative importance of the consequences of treatment using visual analogue scales (VAS). They viewed the graphical display (or no information) to which they were randomized and were asked to decide whether to go to the doctor for an antibiotic prescription. We compared four presentations: face icons (happy/sad) or a bar graph showing the proportion of people with symptoms on day three with and without treatment, a bar graph of the average duration of symptoms, and a bar graph of proportion with symptoms on both days three and seven. Before completing the study, all participants were shown all the displays and detailed patient information about the treatment of sore throat and were asked to decide again. We calculated a relative importance score (RIS) by subtracting the VAS scores for the undesirable consequences of antibiotics from the VAS score for the benefit of symptom relief. We used logistic regression to determine the association between participants' RIS and their choice. 1,760 participants completed the study. There were statistically significant differences in the likelihood of choosing to go to the doctor in relation to different values (RIS). Of the four presentations, the bar graph of duration of symptoms resulted in decisions that were most consistent with the more fully informed second decision. Most participants also preferred this presentation (38%) and found it easiest to understand (37%). Participants shown the other three presentations were more likely to decide to go to the doctor based on their first decision than everyone based on the second decision. Participants preferred the graph using faces the least (14.4%).
Conclusions
For decisions about going to the doctor to get antibiotics for sore throat, treatment effects presented by a bar graph showing the duration of symptoms helped people make decisions more consistent with their values than treatment effects presented as graphical displays of proportions of people with sore throat following treatment.
Clinical Trials Registration
ISRCTN58507086
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In the past, patients usually believed that their doctor knew what was best for them and that they had little say in deciding what treatment they would receive. But many modern interventions have complex trade-offs. Patients' opinions about the relative desirability of the possible outcomes of health care interventions depend on their lifestyle and expectations, and these “values” need to be considered when making decisions about medical treatments. Consequently, shared decision-making is increasingly superseding the traditional, paternalistic approach to medical decision-making. In shared decision-making, health care professionals talk to their patients about the risks and benefits of the various treatment options, and patients tell the health care professionals what they expect and/or require from their treatment.
Why Was This Study Done?
Shared decision-making can only succeed if patients know about the treatment options that are available for their medical condition and understand the consequences of each option. But how does the presentation of information about treatment options to patients affect their decisions? In 2002, a series of internet-based randomized trials (studies in which participants are randomly allocated to different “treatment” groups) called the Health Information Project: Presentation Online (HIPPO) was initiated to answer this question. Here, the researchers describe HIPPO 3, a trial that investigates how alternative graphical displays of the benefits of antibiotics for the treatment of sore throat affect whether people decide to seek treatment. In particular, the researchers ask which display results in people making a treatment decision most consistent with their values, i.e., in terms of the relative importance to them of the treatment's desirable and undesirable outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Adult Norwegians recruited through a television health program numerically rated the importance of symptom relief and of several negative consequences (for example, side effects) of antibiotic treatment for sore throat on the trial's Web site. Relative importance scores (which indicate the participants' values) were calculated for each participant by subtracting their ratings for the importance of the negative consequences of seeking antibiotic treatment from his or her rating for the importance of symptom relief. The participants were then asked to decide whether to visit a doctor for antibiotics without receiving any further information or after being shown one of four graphical displays illustrating the benefits of antibiotic treatment. Two bar charts and one display of happy- and sad-face icons showed the proportion of people with symptoms at specific times after sore throat onset with and without treatment. A third bar chart indicated symptom duration with and without antibiotics. Finally, all the participants were shown all the displays and other information about sore throat and were asked to decide again about seeking treatment. The researchers found a clear association between the participants' values and the likelihood of their deciding to go to the doctor, and this likelihood depended on which graphical display the participants saw. People shown information on the proportion of patients with symptoms were more likely to decide to visit a doctor than those shown information on symptom duration. Furthermore, first decisions reached after being given information on symptom duration or no information were more consistent with the fully informed second decision than first decisions reached after seeing the other displays.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, for people considering whether to seek antibiotic treatment for sore throat, a bar graph showing the duration of symptoms is more likely to help them make a decision that is consistent with their own values than a bar chart showing the proportions of people with sore throat following treatment. The researchers also found that the bar chart showing symptom duration was preferred by more of the participants than any of the other representations. Whether these results can be applied to other health care decisions or in other settings is not known. However, the researchers suggest that these findings may be most relevant to treatments that, like antibiotic treatment of sore throat, have a short-lived benefit and relatively important downsides.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000140.
A PLoS Medicine Editorial discusses this trial and the results of another HIPPO trial that are presented in a separate PLoS Medicine Research Article by Carling et al.; details of a pilot HIPPO trial are also available
The Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making (a US-based nonprofit organization) provides information on many aspects of medical decision making
The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center provides information to help people make health care decisions through its Center for Shared Decision Making
The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute provides information on patient decision aids, including an inventory of decision aids available on the Web (in English and French)
MedlinePlus provides links to information and advice about sore throat (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000140
PMCID: PMC2726763  PMID: 19707579
7.  Mobile and Fixed Computer Use by Doctors and Nurses on Hospital Wards: Multi-method Study on the Relationships Between Clinician Role, Clinical Task, and Device Choice 
Background
Selecting the right mix of stationary and mobile computing devices is a significant challenge for system planners and implementers. There is very limited research evidence upon which to base such decisions.
Objective
We aimed to investigate the relationships between clinician role, clinical task, and selection of a computer hardware device in hospital wards.
Methods
Twenty-seven nurses and eight doctors were observed for a total of 80 hours as they used a range of computing devices to access a computerized provider order entry system on two wards at a major Sydney teaching hospital. Observers used a checklist to record the clinical tasks completed, devices used, and location of the activities. Field notes were also documented during observations. Semi-structured interviews were conducted after observation sessions. Assessment of the physical attributes of three devices—stationary PCs, computers on wheels (COWs) and tablet PCs—was made. Two types of COWs were available on the wards: generic COWs (laptops mounted on trolleys) and ergonomic COWs (an integrated computer and cart device). Heuristic evaluation of the user interfaces was also carried out.
Results
The majority (93.1%) of observed nursing tasks were conducted using generic COWs. Most nursing tasks were performed in patients’ rooms (57%) or in the corridors (36%), with a small percentage at a patient’s bedside (5%). Most nursing tasks related to the preparation and administration of drugs. Doctors on ward rounds conducted 57.3% of observed clinical tasks on generic COWs and 35.9% on tablet PCs. On rounds, 56% of doctors’ tasks were performed in the corridors, 29% in patients’ rooms, and 3% at the bedside. Doctors not on a ward round conducted 93.6% of tasks using stationary PCs, most often within the doctors’ office. Nurses and doctors were observed performing workarounds, such as transcribing medication orders from the computer to paper.
Conclusions
The choice of device was related to clinical role, nature of the clinical task, degree of mobility required, including where task completion occurs, and device design. Nurses’ work, and clinical tasks performed by doctors during ward rounds, require highly mobile computer devices. Nurses and doctors on ward rounds showed a strong preference for generic COWs over all other devices. Tablet PCs were selected by doctors for only a small proportion of clinical tasks. Even when using mobile devices clinicians completed a very low proportion of observed tasks at the bedside. The design of the devices and ward space configurations place limitations on how and where devices are used and on the mobility of clinical work. In such circumstances, clinicians will initiate workarounds to compensate. In selecting hardware devices, consideration should be given to who will be using the devices, the nature of their work, and the physical layout of the ward.
doi:10.2196/jmir.1221
PMCID: PMC2762853  PMID: 19674959
Study; multi-method study; observational study; mobility; mobile computers; computers; computer hardware; medical order entry systems; computerized physician order entry system; computerized provider order entry (CPOE)
8.  Rational Prescribing in Primary Care (RaPP): A Cluster Randomized Trial of a Tailored Intervention 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(6):e134.
Background
A gap exists between evidence and practice regarding the management of cardiovascular risk factors. This gap could be narrowed if systematically developed clinical practice guidelines were effectively implemented in clinical practice. We evaluated the effects of a tailored intervention to support the implementation of systematically developed guidelines for the use of antihypertensive and cholesterol-lowering drugs for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cluster-randomized trial comparing a tailored intervention to passive dissemination of guidelines in 146 general practices in two geographical areas in Norway. Each practice was randomized to either the tailored intervention (70 practices; 257 physicians) or control group (69 practices; 244 physicians). Patients started on medication for hypertension or hypercholesterolemia during the study period and all patients already on treatment that consulted their physician during the trial were included. A multifaceted intervention was tailored to address identified barriers to change. Key components were an educational outreach visit with audit and feedback, and computerized reminders linked to the medical record system. Pharmacists conducted the visits. Outcomes were measured for all eligible patients seen in the participating practices during 1 y before and after the intervention. The main outcomes were the proportions of (1) first-time prescriptions for hypertension where thiazides were prescribed, (2) patients assessed for cardiovascular risk before prescribing antihypertensive or cholesterol-lowering drugs, and (3) patients treated for hypertension or hypercholesterolemia for 3 mo or more who had achieved recommended treatment goals.
The intervention led to an increase in adherence to guideline recommendations on choice of antihypertensive drug. Thiazides were prescribed to 17% of patients in the intervention group versus 11% in the control group (relative risk 1.94; 95% confidence interval 1.49–2.49, adjusted for baseline differences and clustering effect). Little or no differences were found for risk assessment prior to prescribing and for achievement of treatment goals.
Conclusions
Our tailored intervention had a significant impact on prescribing of antihypertensive drugs, but was ineffective in improving the quality of other aspects of managing hypertension and hypercholesterolemia in primary care.
Editors' Summary
Background.
An important issue in health care is “getting research into practice,” in other words, making sure that, when evidence from research has established the best way to treat a disease, doctors actually use that approach with their patients. In reality, there is often a gap between evidence and practice.
  An example concerns the treatment of people who have high blood pressure (hypertension) and/or high cholesterol. These are common conditions, and both increase the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. Research has shown that the risks can be lowered if patients with these conditions are given drugs that lower blood pressure (antihypertensives) and drugs that lower cholesterol. There are many types of these drugs now available. In many countries, the health authorities want family doctors (general practitioners) to make better use of these drugs. They want doctors to prescribe them to everyone who would benefit, using the type of drugs found to be most effective. When there is a choice of drugs that are equally effective, they want doctors to use the cheapest type. (In the case of antihypertensives, an older type, known as thiazides, is very effective and also very cheap, but many doctors prefer to give their patients newer, more expensive alternatives.) Health authorities have issued guidelines to doctors that address these issues. However, it is not easy to change prescribing practices, and research in several countries has shown that issuing guidelines has only limited effects.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted—in two parts of Norway—to compare the effects on prescribing practices of what they called the “passive dissemination of guidelines” with a more active approach, where the use of the guidelines was strongly promoted and encouraged.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They worked with 146 general practices. In half of them the guidelines were actively promoted. The remaining were regarded as a control group; they were given the guidelines but no special efforts were made to encourage their use. It was decided at random which practices would be in which group; this approach is called a randomized controlled trial. The methods used to actively promote use of the guidelines included personal visits to the practices by pharmacists and use of a computerized reminder system. Information was then collected on the number of patients who, when first treated for hypertension, were prescribed a thiazide. Other information collected included whether patients had been properly assessed for their level of risk (for strokes and heart attacks) before antihypertensive or cholesterol-lowering drugs were given. In addition, the researchers recorded whether the recommended targets for improvement in blood pressure and cholesterol level had been reached.
Only 11% of those patients visiting the control group of practices who should have been prescribed thiazides, according to the guidelines, actually received them. Of those seen by doctors in the practices where the guidelines were actively promoted, 17% received thiazides. According to statistical analysis, the increase achieved by active promotion is significant. Little or no differences were found for risk assessment prior to prescribing and for achievement of treatment goals.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Even in the active promotion group, the great majority of patients (83%) were still not receiving treatment according to the guidelines. However, active promotion of guidelines is more effective than simply issuing the guidelines by themselves. The study also demonstrates that it is very hard to change prescribing practices. The efforts made here to encourage the doctors to change were considerable, and although the results were significant, they were still disappointing. Also disappointing is the fact that achievement of treatment goals was no better in the active-promotion group. These issues are discussed further in a Perspective about this study (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0030229).
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030134.
• The Web site of the American Academy of Family Physicians has a page on heart disease
• The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia's pages on heart diseases and vascular diseases
• Information from NHS Direct (UK National Health Service) about heart attack and stroke
• Another PLoS Medicine article has also addressed trends in thiazide prescribing
Passive dissemination of management guidelines for hypertension and hypercholesterolaemia was compared with active promotion. Active promotion led to significant improvement in antihypertensive prescribing but not other aspects of management.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030134
PMCID: PMC1472695  PMID: 16737346
9.  Strengths and weaknesses of parent–staff communication in the NICU: a survey assessment 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:71.
Background
Parents of infants hospitalized in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) find themselves in a situation of emotional strain. Communication in the NICU presents special challenges due to parental stress and the complexity of the highly technologized environment. Parents’ need for communication may not always be met by the NICU staff. This study aimed to describe strengths and weaknesses of parent–nurse and parent–doctor communication in a large level III NICU in Sweden in order to improve our understanding of parents’ communication needs.
Methods
Parents were asked to complete a survey consisting of sixteen questions about their experiences of communication with nurses and doctors in the NICU. In each question the parents evaluated some aspect of communication on a five- or six-point Likert scale. They also had the opportunity on each question to comment on their experiences in their own words. Data were analyzed using IBM SPSS Statistics 20.0 and qualitative manifest content analysis.
Results
270 parents (71.4%) completed the survey. Parents generally rated communication with the staff in the NICU positively and appreciated having received emotional support and regular information about their child´s care. Although a large majority of the parents were satisfied with their communication with doctors and nurses, only about half of the parents felt the nurses and doctors understood their emotional situation very well. Some parents would have desired easier access to conversations with doctors and wanted medical information to be given directly by doctors rather than by nurses. Parents’ communication with the staff was hampered when many different nurses were involved in caring for the infant or when the transfer of information in connection with shift changes or between the maternity ward and NICU was poor. Parents also desired to be present during doctors’ rounds on their infant.
Conclusions
Training both doctors and nurses in communication skills, especially in how to meet parents’ emotional needs better, could make communication at the NICU more effective and improve parental well-being. Creating a framework for the parents of what to expect from NICU communication might also be helpful. In addition, our results support the use of primary nurse teams to improve continuity of care and thereby promote successful communication.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-13-71
PMCID: PMC3651269  PMID: 23651578
Parents’ experiences; Communication; Neonatal intensive care unit; Survey assessment
10.  Mobile Technologies: Expectancy, Usage, and Acceptance of Clinical Staff and Patients at a University Medical Center 
JMIR mHealth and uHealth  2014;2(4):e42.
Background
Despite their increasing popularity, little is known about how users perceive mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs in medical contexts. Available studies are often restricted to evaluating the success of specific interventions and do not adequately cover the users’ basic attitudes, for example, their expectations or concerns toward using mobile devices in medical settings.
Objective
The objective of the study was to obtain a comprehensive picture, both from the perspective of the patients, as well as the doctors, regarding the use and acceptance of mobile devices within medical contexts in general well as the perceived challenges when introducing the technology.
Methods
Doctors working at Hannover Medical School (206/1151, response 17.90%), as well as patients being admitted to this facility (213/279, utilization 76.3%) were surveyed about their acceptance and use of mobile devices in medical settings. Regarding demographics, both samples were representative of the respective study population. GNU R (version 3.1.1) was used for statistical testing. Fisher’s exact test, two-sided, alpha=.05 with Monte Carlo approximation, 2000 replicates, was applied to determine dependencies between two variables.
Results
The majority of participants already own mobile devices (doctors, 168/206, 81.6%; patients, 110/213, 51.6%). For doctors, use in a professional context does not depend on age (P=.66), professional experience (P=.80), or function (P=.34); gender was a factor (P=.009), and use was more common among male (61/135, 45.2%) than female doctors (17/67, 25%). A correlation between use of mobile devices and age (P=.001) as well as education (P=.002) was seen for patients. Minor differences regarding how mobile devices are perceived in sensitive medical contexts mostly relate to data security, patients are more critical of the devices being used for storing and processing patient data; every fifth patient opposed this, but nevertheless, 4.8% of doctors (10/206) use their devices for this purpose. Both groups voiced only minor concerns about the credibility of the provided content or the technical reliability of the devices. While 8.3% of the doctors (17/206) avoided use during patient contact because they thought patients might be unfamiliar with the devices, (25/213) 11.7% of patients expressed concerns about the technology being too complicated to be used in a health context.
Conclusions
Differences in how patients and doctors perceive the use of mobile devices can be attributed to age and level of education; these factors are often mentioned as contributors of the problems with (mobile) technologies. To fully realize the potential of mobile technologies in a health care context, the needs of both the elderly as well as those who are educationally disadvantaged need to be carefully addressed in all strategies relating to mobile technology in a health context.
doi:10.2196/mhealth.3799
PMCID: PMC4259908  PMID: 25338094
survey; mobile health; mobile apps; health care; privacy; data protection; patients; medical staff; staff attitude
11.  Career destinations, views and future plans of the UK medical qualifiers of 1988 
Summary
Objectives
To report the career destinations, views and future plans of a cohort of senior doctors who qualified in the 1980s.
Methods
Postal questionnaire survey of all doctors who qualified from all UK medical schools in 1988.
Results
The response rate was 69%. We estimated that 81% of the total cohort was working in the NHS, 16 years after qualification; and that at least 94% of graduates who, when students, were from UK homes, were working in medicine. Of NHS doctors, 30% worked part-time. NHS doctors rated their job satisfaction highly (median score 19.9, scale 5–25) but were less satisfied with the amount of leisure time available to them (median score 5.4, scale 1–10). NHS doctors were very positive about their careers, but were less positive about working hours and some other aspects of the NHS. Women were more positive than men about working conditions; general practitioners were more positive than hospital doctors. Twenty-five percent reported unmet needs for further training or career-related advice, particularly about career development. Twenty-nine percent intended to reduce their hours in future, while 6%, mainly part-time women, planned to increase their hours. Overall, 10% of NHS doctors planned to do more service work in future and 24% planned to do less; among part-time women, 18% planned to do more and only 14% less.
Conclusions
These NHS doctors, now in their 40s, had a high level of satisfaction with their jobs and their careers but were less satisfied with some other aspects of their working environment. A substantial percentage had expectations about future career development and change.
doi:10.1258/jrsm.2009.090282
PMCID: PMC2802712  PMID: 20056666
12.  Editorial 
Interventional Neuroradiology  2001;6(4):269-276.
Summary
The 20 key points of the AP-HP document (Assistance Publique des Hopitaux de Paris)
1) Hospital doctors must provide health care recipients with information in compliance with standards laid down by the medical code of ethics.
2) Radiographers and nursing staff must contribute to the provision of information within the framework of their assigned responsibilities and in compliance with their professional rules.
3) Doctors must draft prescriptions clearly, ensure that the patient and immediate family circle understand them and encourage compliance.
4) Doctors have a duty when examining, treating or advising to provide clear, appropriate and fair information regarding the patienťs condition and the investigations and treatment proposed. During the course of the illness, physicians must take into account their patients' individual personalities when providing explanation and ensure these are understood.
5) Unless the condition places others at risk, a particularly grave diagnosis or prognosis may be withheld from a patient if the doctor, in good faith and for legitimate reasons, believes this to be in the best interests of the patient.
6) A patient should be informed of a fatal illness only after due consideration by the physician. Close relatives must always be informed, however, unless the patient has previously forbidden this or designated third parties to impart the information.
7) When several doctors collaborate on a diagnostic or treatment procedure, they must keep each other updated on the case. Each practitioner shall assume personal responsibility and inform the patient within the realm of his/her competence.
8) Oral information is priority and must be clear; fair, understandable and ordered.
9) The duty to inform is continuous. Consistent and constant information must be provided at all stages and, where possible, by the same physician.
10) Information must be provided on the benefits expected from a procedure and possible serious attendant risks; however exceptional.
11) Where possible, the practitioner should always verify that the information imparted has been properly understood.
12) It is recommended that:
- hospital doctors accompany oral information with printed leaflets where these aid understanding;
- departments set down a list of those invasive procedures requiring information leaflets. This practice will also help to standardise presentation of the risks and benefits.
13) Patients should not be requested to sign information sheets.
14) It is recommended that for each patient, one member of the medical team be designated, with responsibility for informing the patient and close relatives.
15) On patient admission, details of the family members to be informed must be systematically collected. Similarly, parents or guardians must be systematically contacted on the admission of children.
16) What information is to be given the patient and close family must be discussed by the medical group and the decisions taken recorded in the patient's file.
17) Each department shall define rules on giving information over the telephone to the family or immediate circle. These rules must be set down in writing and understood by all staff concerned.
18) Any information given to the patient must be noted in the medical file. It is to be presumed that only the details noted have been communicated. In this way, the patients' medical record serves as a communication tool for the various members of the medical team regarding the information given to the patient.
19) Obtaining written patient consent (permission to operate and similar documents) is neither compulsory nor recommended, except where required by law. The law demands that written consent be obtained for the following: biomedical research, fertility treatment, termination of pregnancy, genetic research, harvesting of organs from a living donor; certain organ harvesting from a deceased person, surgical procedures on a child.
20) In the event of litigation centring around failure to inform, no evidence, not even written evidence, is a watertight guarantee that the doctor has fulfilled his obligation. Whether information has been correctly imparted or not will be assessed on the basis of a range of elements such as: the period allowed the patient to take an informed decision, the number of visits, practitioners consulted before proceeding, the systematic provision of information leaflets and the notes made on the patient record.
PMCID: PMC3679700  PMID: 20667205
information to patients, consent, legal issues, radiology, interventional procedures, French hospitals
13.  Clinical practice patterns among native and immigrant doctors doing out-of-hours work in Norway: a registry-based observational study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(4):e001153.
Objectives
To evaluate whether immigrant and native Norwegian doctors differ in their practice patterns.
Design
Observational study.
Setting
Out-of-hours (OOH) emergency primary healthcare in Norway, 2008.
Participants
All primary care physicians doing OOH work, altogether 4165 physicians.
Main outcome measures
Number of patient contacts per doctor. Use of laboratory tests, minor surgery, sickness certification and length of consultations. Use of diagnoses related to psychiatric and sexual health. Choice of management strategy with psychiatric patients (psychotherapy or hospitalisation).
Results
21.4% of the physicians were immigrants, and they had 30.6% of the patient contacts. Immigrant doctors from Asia, Africa and Latin America had most patient contacts, 633 (95% CI 549 to 716), while native Norwegian doctors had 306 (95% CI 288 to 325). In multivariate analyses, immigrant physicians did not differ significantly from native Norwegians regarding use of laboratory tests, minor surgery or length of consultations, but immigrant doctors wrote more sickness certificates, OR 1.75 (95% CI 1.24 to 2.47) for immigrant doctors from Europe, North America and Oceania versus native Norwegian doctors and OR 1.56 (95% CI 1.15 to 2.11) for immigrant doctors from Asia, Africa and Latin America versus native Norwegians. Immigrant physicians from Europe, North America and Oceania used more diagnoses related to pregnancy, family planning and female genitals, OR 1.55 (95% CI 1.11 to 2.16), versus native Norwegian physicians. Immigrant doctors from Asia, Africa and Latin America used less psychiatric diagnoses, OR 0.71 (95% CI 0.53 to 0.95), versus native Norwegian doctors but did not differ significantly in their management of recognised psychiatric illness.
Conclusions
Immigrant doctors make an important contribution to OOH emergency primary healthcare in Norway. The authors found only modest evidence that their clinical practice patterns are different from that of native Norwegian doctors.
Article summary
Article focus
Western countries receive an increasing number of immigrant doctors.
Concern has been raised regarding their skills.
We studied immigrant doctors' clinical performance.
Key messages
Immigrant doctors from Asia, Africa and Latin America did more OOH work than native Norwegian doctors.
Immigrant doctors wrote more sickness certificates per consultation.
Otherwise, there were only minor differences in practice patterns between immigrant and native Norwegian doctors.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Large and complete material.
Avoids problem with case mix.
Limited information about immigrant doctors' educational background.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001153
PMCID: PMC3400071  PMID: 22798255
14.  Duties of a doctor: UK doctors and Good Medical Practice 
Quality in Health Care : QHC  2000;9(1):14-22.
Objective—To assess the responses of UK doctors to the General Medical Council's (GMC) Good Medical Practice and the Duties of a Doctor, and to the GMC's performance procedures for which they provide the professional underpinning.
Design—Questionnaire study of a representative sample of UK doctors.
Subjects—794 UK doctors, stratified by year of qualification, sex, place of qualification (UK v non-UK), and type of practice (hospital v general practice) of whom 591/759 (78%) replied to the questionnaire (35 undelivered).
Main outcome measures—A specially written questionnaire asking about awareness of Good Medical Practice, agreement with Duties of a Doctor, amount heard about the performance procedures, changes in own practice, awareness of cases perhaps requiring performance procedures, and attitudes to the performance procedures. Background measures of stress (General Health Questionnaire, GHQ-12), burnout, responses to uncertainty, and social desirability.
Results—Most doctors were aware of Good Medical Practice, had heard the performance procedures being discussed or had received information about them, and agreed with the stated duties of a doctor, although some items to do with doctor-patient communication and attitudes were more controversial. Nearly half of the doctors had made or were contemplating some change in their practice because of the performance procedures; a third of doctors had come across a case in the previous two years in their own professional practice that they thought might merit the performance procedures. Attitudes towards the performance procedures were variable. On the positive side, 60% or more of doctors saw them as reassuring the general public, making it necessary for doctors to report deficient performance in their colleagues, did not think they would impair morale, were not principally window dressing, and were not only appropriate for problems of technical competence. On the negative side, 60% or more of doctors thought the performance procedures were not well understood by most doctors, were a reason for more defensive practice, and could not be used for problems of attitude. Few differences were found among older and younger doctors, hospital doctors, or general practitioners, or UK and non-UK graduates, although some differences were present.
Conclusions—Most doctors working in the UK are aware of Good Medical Practice and the performance procedures, and are in broad sympathy with Duties of a Doctor. Many attitudes expressed by doctors are not positive, however, and provide areas where the GMC in particular may wish to encourage further discussion and awareness. The present results provide a good baseline for assessing change as the performance procedures become active and cases come before the GMC over the next few years.
(Quality in Health Care 2000;9:14–22)
Key Words: performance procedures; good medical practice; duties; attitudes; knowledge
doi:10.1136/qhc.9.1.14
PMCID: PMC1743494  PMID: 10848365
15.  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
16.  Vasectomy: A Survey of Attitudes, Counseling Patterns and Acceptance among Nigerian Resident Gynaecologists 
Ghana Medical Journal  2011;45(3):101-104.
Summary
Objectives
Previous Nigerian studies show widespread ignorance and low acceptance of vasectomy among the male population. The objectives of this study were to determine the level of knowledge of, attitudes to, counselling pattern and acceptance of vasectomy among Nigerian Resident Gynaecologists.
Design
A cross-sectional questionnaire based survey.
Method
Resident Doctors attending a national update course in obstetrics and gynaecology.
Results
Most of the doctors had good knowledge of Vasectomy. More than four-fifth of the doctors were convinced that the average Nigerian male will not accept vasectomy when indicated while more than threefifth consider BTL a more appropriate option for permanent contraception in our setting. Forty one point three percent of the doctors will opt for vasectomy or urge their husbands to. Reasons for opposition to vasectomy were socio-cultural (21.3%), religious (13.1%) and psychological (41.0%), 24.6% had no specific reasons. While 89.4% of the doctors counselled often for BTL only 5.8% did for vasectomy.
Conclusion
The Doctors showed good knowledge of vasectomy but most were poorly disposed towards use of vasectomy. The findings suggest a need for effective national training programmes targeted at resident doctors to enhance their knowledge of vasectomy as well as break barriers to personal use of, and counselling for vasectomy.
PMCID: PMC3266141  PMID: 22282576
vasectomy; doctors; knowledge; counselling patterns; attitudes; acceptance
17.  Decision making concerning life-sustaining treatment in paediatric nephrology: professionals' experiences and values 
Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation   2005;20(12):2746-2750.
Background
In a previous paper, we studied decisions to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment (LST) taken between 1995 and 2001 in 31 French-speaking paediatric nephrology centres. Files were available for 18 of the 31 centres. A grid was used to analyse the criteria on which decisions were based, and the results were enriched by an analysis of interviews with the doctors in at these centres (31 interviews with doctors from the 18 centres). The goal was to describe in detail and to specify the criteria on which decisions to withhold or withdraw LST were based, extracted from the files.
The second paper deals exclusively with the interviews with doctors and analyses their lifetime’s experience and perception
Methods
We carried out semi-directed interviews with nephrologists from all the paediatric nephrology centres in France and the French-speaking regions of Switzerland and Belgium.
Results
We interviewed 46 paediatric nephrologists. Most were aware that decisions relating to LST are necessary and based on the assessment of the child’s quality of life. According to them, decisions are not based on scientific criteria, but on the capacity to accept handicap, the family’s past experiences and the doctor’s own projections. They report that their task is particularly difficult when their action may contribute to death (withdrawal of treatment, acceleration of the process). They feel that their duty is to help the families in the acceptation of the doctors’ decision rather than to encourage their participation in the decision-making process.
Conclusions
This paper shows that paediatric nephrologists differ in their opinions, mostly due to their own ethical convictions. This observation highlights the need to establish common rules taking into account the views held by doctors. This is the only way to establish an ethical code shared by professionals.
doi:10.1093/ndt/gfi160
PMCID: PMC1910593  PMID: 16204280
Adult; Aged; Child; Clinical Competence; Decision Making; Double-Blind Method; Europe; Female; Hospitals, Pediatric; Humans; International Cooperation; Kidney Diseases; therapy; Male; Middle Aged; Nephrology; methods; Questionnaires; Renal Dialysis; Retrospective Studies; dialysis; ethics; life-sustaining treatments; nephrology; paediatrics; treatment withholding or withdrawal
18.  Characteristics and Impact of Drug Detailing for Gabapentin 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(4):e134.
Background
Sales visits by pharmaceutical representatives (“drug detailing”) are common, but little is known about the content of these visits or about the impact of visit characteristics on prescribing behavior. In this study, we evaluated the content and impact of detail visits for gabapentin by analyzing market research forms completed by physicians after receiving a detail visit for this drug.
Methods and Findings
Market research forms that describe detail visits for gabapentin became available through litigation that alleged that gabapentin was promoted for “off-label” uses. Forms were available for 97 physicians reporting on 116 detail visits between 1995 and 1999. Three-quarters of recorded visits (91/116) occurred in 1996. Two-thirds of visits (72/107) were 5 minutes or less in duration, 65% (73/113) were rated of high informational value, and 39% (42/107) were accompanied by the delivery or promise of samples. During the period of this study, gabapentin was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration only for the adjunctive treatment of partial seizures, but in 38% of visits (44/115) the “main message” of the visit involved at least one off-label use. After receiving the detail visit, 46% (50/108) of physicians reported the intention to increase their prescribing or recommending of gabapentin in the future. In multivariable analysis, intent to increase future use or recommendation of gabapentin was associated with receiving the detail in a small group (versus one-on-one) setting and with low or absent baseline use of the drug, but not with other factors such as visit duration, discussion of “on-label” versus “off-label” content, and the perceived informational value of the presentation.
Conclusions
Detail visits for gabapentin were of high perceived informational value and often involved messages about unapproved uses. Despite their short duration, detail visits were frequently followed by physician intentions to increase their future recommending or prescribing of the drug.
Visits from pharmaceutical representatives regarding gabapentin "detailing" were frequently followed by physician intentions to increase their future activity with the drug.
Editors' Summary
Background.
In the US, before a pharmaceutical company can market a drug to doctors for use in a specific “indication” (meaning the treatment for a particular disease and group of patients), the drug has to be approved as safe and effective for that use by a government agency, the Food and Drug Administration. Once approved, doctors are allowed to use a drug for whatever nonapproved indications they think are appropriate, but the drug company cannot actively promote the drug for anything other than its approved use. However, many people are concerned that drug companies indirectly try to promote use of drugs for indications that are not approved. Such illegal activity would help a drug company increase its market share and sell more drugs. One tactic that drug companies use to sell drugs is “detailing.” Detailing involves direct visits from drug company representatives to individual doctors, during which the representative would provide information about their company's drugs. However, not a great deal is known about detail visits and the effect that they have on doctors' attitudes towards the drugs that are being promoted.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers carrying out this study wanted to learn more about what happens during detail visits and what impact these visits have on prescribing behavior. An opportunity for researching this came about as a result of a lawsuit during which drug company documents were subpoenaed (i.e., required by the court to be made available). In that lawsuit, it was alleged that a drug company, Parke-Davis, had promoted a drug, gabapentin, for many nonapproved uses. The company that subsequently took over Parke-Davis eventually made an out-of-court settlement. During the relevant time period, the only approved use of gabapentin was for treatment of partial seizures in adults with epilepsy, in combination with other drugs. However, gabapentin was used for many other conditions such as treatment of psychiatric disorders and management of pain. These researchers therefore used the documents available as a result of the lawsuit to research detailing and what impact detailing had on doctors' attitudes towards the drug being promoted.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The documents analyzed in this study were produced by Verispan, a market research company. Verispan asked doctors who had been visited by Parke-Davis sales representatives to fill out a standard form after each detail visit. These forms were then subpoenaed as part of the lawsuit against Parke-Davis. The researchers here focused specifically on data relating to visits made by a single sales representative to a doctor or small group of doctors, and collected 116 forms. The data available from these forms included the doctors' ratings and comments regarding the main message associated with the products; the informational value of the visit; the quality of the presentation; and whether the doctor currently prescribed or planned to prescribe the product. The researchers classified the information available from the forms, identifying whether the “main message” related to approved uses of the drug or not; and extracting data relating to whether doctors planned to increase, maintain, or decrease their use of the drug. The majority of the visits studied were to doctors who were not neurologists, and would therefore be unlikely to prescribe gabapentin for its approved use. Doctors reported that a substantial proportion of the detail visits contained messages relating to nonapproved uses of gabapentin. Nearly half the doctors stated in the forms that their use of gabapentin would increase in the future, and no doctors said that their use would decrease following the visit. Doctors' intention to increase their use of gabapentin in the future was similar regardless of whether the message of the visit involved an approved or unapproved use.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study shows that in the case of gabapentin, detail visits by drug company representatives frequently promoted nonapproved uses of the drug; these visits often resulted in doctors planning to increase their use of gabapentin. However, it is not clear whether these findings are also true for other drugs and drug companies, in part because these data came about as a result of a unique opportunity granted by the lawsuit against Parke-Davis.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040134.
Medline Plus (provided by the US National Library of Medicine) has an entry about gabapentin
Introductory information is available from the US FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research about the drug approvals process in the USA
Wikipedia has an entry on pharmaceutical marketing (Note that Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia anyone can edit)
The Drug Industry Document Archive is available at University of California, San Francisco; this internet archive holds documents relating to the lawsuit against Parke-Davis and from which the data presented in this paper derives
Guidance is available from the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations regarding ethical promotion of medicines
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040134
PMCID: PMC1855692  PMID: 17455990
19.  Influence of patients' expectations on antibiotic management of acute lower respiratory tract illness in general practice: questionnaire study. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1997;315(7117):1211-1214.
OBJECTIVE: To assess patients' views and expectations when they consult their general practitioner with acute lower respiratory symptoms and the influence these have on management. DESIGN: General practitioners studied consecutive, previously well adults and recorded clinical data, the certainty regarding their prescribing decision, and the influence of non-clinical factors on that decision. Patients completed a questionnaire at home after the consultation. SETTING: 76 doctors from suburban, inner city, and rural practices. SUBJECTS: 1014 eligible patients entered; 787 (78%) returned the questionnaire. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The views of the patient, the views of and antibiotic prescription by the doctor. RESULTS: Most patients thought that their symptoms were caused by an infection (662) and that antibiotics would help (656) and had both wanted (564) and expected (561) such a prescription. 146 requested an antibiotic, 587 received one. Of the 643 patients who thought they had an infection, 582 wanted an antibiotic and thought it would help. Severity of symptoms did not relate to wanting antibiotics. For those prescribed antibiotics, their doctor thought they were definitely indicated in only 116 cases and not indicated in 126. Patient pressure most commonly influenced the decision to prescribe even when the doctor thought antibiotics were not indicated. Doctors considered antibiotics definitely indicated in only 1% of the group in whom patient pressure influenced the prescribing decision. Patients who did not receive an antibiotic that they wanted were much more likely to express dissatisfaction. Dissatisfied patients reconsulted for the same symptoms twice as often as satisfied patients. CONCLUSION: Patients presenting with acute lower respiratory symptoms often believe that infection is the problem and antibiotics the answer. Patients' expectations have a significant influence on prescribing, even when their doctor judges that antibiotics are not indicated.
PMCID: PMC2127752  PMID: 9393228
20.  Influence of social problems on management in general practice: multipractice questionnaire survey 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1998;317(7150):28-32.
Objectives: To find how often social problems influence clinical management in general practice, how management is changed, and how the characteristics of patients, doctors, and the doctor-patient relationship influence this management.
Design: Multipractice survey of patients consulting general practitioners. Doctors completed a questionnaire for each patient.
Setting: General practices in Buskerud county, Norway.
Subjects: 1401 consecutive adult patients attending 89 general practitioners.
Main outcome measures: How often management of patients was influenced by different types of social problem and main reasons for consultation; frequency and intercorrelation of different types of management applied; odds ratios for social problems’ influence on management, controlled for by characteristics of doctors, patients, and their relationship.
Results: In 17% of all consultations the doctors’ knowledge of patients’ social problems influenced their management, stressful working conditions being the most frequent influencing type of problem. Knowledge of social problems influenced management more often when the doctor knew a patient well, but less often the longer a doctor had worked in a practice. When social problems influenced management, the commonest types of management offered were extra time for consultation (51%), advice (42%), authorisation of sick leave (28%), and prescription of a psychotropic drug (20%), while referral to community services was used in 2.6% of these consultations. Prescription of a psychotropic drug was positively correlated with use of extra time, and was made more often by female doctors.
Conclusions: Patients’ social problems influenced choice of management in at least a sixth of consultations. Prior knowledge of the patient, the doctor’s time in present practice, age and sex of the patient, and sex of the doctor significantly influenced management of patients.
Key messages We studied how patients’ social problems influenced their general practitioners’ management decisions In a sixth of consultations the doctors’ knowledge of social problems influenced management Extra time, advice, certifying a sick leave, and prescribing a psychotropic drug were the most common actions taken, while referral to other community services was seldom used Management was more often influenced by social problems if the doctor was recently established in the present practice or if the patient was well known to the doctor When influenced by social problems, female doctors prescribed a psychotropic drug three times as often as male doctors
PMCID: PMC28599  PMID: 9651266
21.  Prescription of respiratory medication without an asthma diagnosis in children: a population based study 
Background
In pre-school children a diagnosis of asthma is not easily made and only a minority of wheezing children will develop persistent atopic asthma. According to the general consensus a diagnosis of asthma becomes more certain with increasing age. Therefore the congruence between asthma medication use and doctor-diagnosed asthma is expected to increase with age. The aim of this study is to evaluate the relationship between prescribing of asthma medication and doctor-diagnosed asthma in children age 0–17.
Methods
We studied all 74,580 children below 18 years of age, belonging to 95 GP practices within the second Dutch national survey of general practice (DNSGP-2), in which GPs registered all physician-patient contacts during the year 2001. Status on prescribing of asthma medication (at least one prescription for beta2-agonists, inhaled corticosteroids, cromones or montelukast) and doctor-diagnosed asthma (coded according to the International Classification of Primary Care) was determined.
Results
In total 7.5% of children received asthma medication and 4.1% had a diagnosis of asthma. Only 49% of all children receiving asthma medication was diagnosed as an asthmatic. Subgroup analyses on age, gender and therapy groups showed that the Positive Predictive Value (PPV) differs significantly between therapy groups only. The likelihood of having doctor-diagnosed asthma increased when a child received combination therapy of short acting beta2-agonists and inhaled corticosteroids (PPV = 0.64) and with the number of prescriptions (3 prescriptions or more, PPV = 0.66). Both prescribing of asthma medication and doctor-diagnosed asthma declined with age but the congruence between the two measures did not increase with age.
Conclusion
In this study, less than half of all children receiving asthma medication had a registered diagnosis of asthma. Detailed subgroup analyses show that a diagnosis of asthma was present in at most 66%, even in groups of children treated intensively with asthma medication. Although age strongly influences the chance of being treated, remarkably, the congruence between prescribing of asthma medication and doctor-diagnosed asthma does not increase with age.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-16
PMCID: PMC2245932  PMID: 18211673
22.  Should doctors inform terminally ill patients? The opinions of nationals and doctors in the United Arab Emirates. 
Journal of Medical Ethics  1997;23(2):101-107.
OBJECTIVES: To study the opinions of nationals (Emiratis) and doctors practising in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with regard to informing terminally ill patients. DESIGN: Structured questionnaires administered during January 1995. SETTING: The UAE, a federation of small, rich, developing Arabian Gulf states. PARTICIPANTS: Convenience samples of 100 Emiratis (minimum age 15 years) and of 50 doctors practising in government hospitals and clinics. RESULTS: Doctors emerged as consistently less in favour of informing than the Emiratis were, whether the patient was described as almost certain to die during the next six months or as having a 50% chance of surviving, and even when it was specified that the patient was requesting information. In the latter situation, a third of doctors maintained that the patient should not be told. Increasing survival odds reduced the number of doctors selecting to inform; but it had no significant impact on Emiratis' choices. When Emiratis were asked whether they would personally want to be informed if they had only a short time to live, less than half responded in the way they had done to the in principle question. CONCLUSIONS: The doctors' responses are of concern because of the lack of reference to ethical principles or dilemmas, the disregard of patients' wishes and dependency on survival odds. The heterogeneity of Emiratis' responses calls into question the usefulness of invoking norms to explain inter-society differences. In the current study, people's in principle choices did not provide a useful guide to how they said they would personally wish to be treated.
PMCID: PMC1377210  PMID: 9134491
23.  Medical migration and world health 
Journal of Medical Ethics  1977;3(4):179-182.
Everyone knows that British doctors are emigrating and that other doctors, mostly from the third world, are immigrating to Britain. Also everyone thinks that he knows the reasons why. However, the Edinburgh Medical Group thought the various reasons for this medical migration should be examined more closely, and held a symposium (Chairman, Professor A S Duncan, Professor Emeritus of Medical Education in the University of Edinburgh) to examine the causes for medical migration at the present time.
Medical teaching and practice is still basically as it has been developed in the West and so overseas doctors trained in Britain take with them not only the medical knowledge and skills but also the attitudes of the West when they return to their own countries. Consequently they wish to settle in the towns and practise as consultants when the real medical problems in many of the developing countries are those of a rural population needing health care rather than treatment in what have been called `disease palaces'. As speakers made clear, a new responsibility must fall on those training doctors from overseas in the British medical schools to fit them not for the dream world of the sophisticated medical scene but for the realities of working in often badly equipped clinics and dealing with common conditions such as malnutrition and other problems of maternity and child health.
The symposium also included discussions as to why British doctors wished to emigrate. Money seemed to be the most compelling motive, but opportunities were being limited for their migration for economic and political reasons.
Finally, a look at the whole of the medical scene in Britain: perhaps the standard sought in Britain both by the doctor and the patient is too high and too individualistic. Events will show if this be true.
PMCID: PMC1154599
24.  Use of SPRAT for peer review of paediatricians in training 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2005;330(7502):1251-1253.
Objective To determine whether a multisource feedback questionnaire, SPRAT (Sheffield peer review assessment tool), is a feasible and reliable assessment method to inform the record of in-training assessment for paediatric senior house officers and specialist registrars.
Design Trainees' clinical performance was evaluated using SPRAT sent to clinical colleagues of their choosing. Responses were analysed to determine variables that affected ratings and their measurement characteristics.
Setting Three tertiary hospitals and five secondary hospitals across a UK deanery.
Participants 112 paediatric senior house officers and middle grades.
Main outcome measures 95% confidence intervals for mean ratings; linear and hierarchical regression to explore potential biasing factors; time needed for the process per doctor.
Results 20 middle grades and 92 senior house officers were assessed using SPRAT to inform their record of in-training assessment; 921/1120 (82%) of their proposed raters completed a SPRAT form. As a group, specialist registrars (mean 5.22, SD 0.34) scored significantly higher (t = – 4.765) than did senior house officers (mean 4.81, SD 0.35) (P < 0.001). The grade of the doctor accounted for 7.6% of the variation in the mean ratings. The hierarchical regression showed that only 3.4% of the variation in the means could be additionally attributed to three main factors (occupation of rater, length of working relationship, and environment in which the relationship took place) when the doctor's grade was controlled for (significant F change < 0.001). 93 (83%) of the doctors in this study would have needed only four raters to achieve a reliable score if the intent was to determine if they were satisfactory. The mean time taken to complete the questionnaire by a rater was six minutes. Just over an hour of administrative time is needed for each doctor.
Conclusions SPRAT seems to be a valid way of assessing large numbers of doctors to support quality assurance procedures for training programmes. The feedback from SPRAT can also be used to inform personal development planning and focus quality improvements.
doi:10.1136/bmj.38447.610451.8F
PMCID: PMC558096  PMID: 15883137
25.  Questionnaire survey about use of an online appointment booking system in one large tertiary public hospital outpatient service center in China 
Background
As a part of nationwide healthcare reforms, the Chinese government launched web-based appointment systems (WAS) to provide a solution to problems around outpatient appointments and services. These have been in place in all Chinese public tertiary hospitals since 2009.
Methods
Questionnaires were collected from both patients and doctors in one large tertiary public hospital in Shanghai, China.Data were analyzed to measure their satisfaction and views about the WAS.
Results
The 1000 outpatients randomly selected for the survey were least satisfied about the waiting time to see a doctor. Even though the WAS provided a much more convenient booking method, only 17% of patients used it. Of the 197 doctors surveyed, over 90% thought it was necessary to provide alternative forms of appointment booking systems for outpatients. However, about 80% of those doctors who were not associated professors would like to provide an ‘on-the-spot’ appointment option, which would lead to longer waits for patients.
Conclusions
Patients were least satisfied about the waiting times. To effectively reduce appointment-waiting times is therefore an urgent issue. Despite the benefits of using the WAS, most patients still registered via the usual method of queuing, suggesting that hospitals and health service providers should promote and encourage the use of the WAS. Furthermore, Chinese health providers need to help doctors to take others’ opinions or feedback into consideration when treating patients to minimize the gap between patients’ and doctors’ opinions. These findings may provide useful information for both practitioners and regulators, and improve recognition of this efficient and useful booking system, which may have far-reaching and positive implications for China’s ongoing reforms.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-14-49
PMCID: PMC4059480  PMID: 24912568
outpatient care; Waiting list; Online appointment booking system; Questionnaire; Healthcare reform

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