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1.  Developing an efficient scheduling template of a chemotherapy treatment unit 
The Australasian Medical Journal  2011;4(10):575-588.
This study was undertaken to improve the performance of a Chemotherapy Treatment Unit by increasing the throughput and reducing the average patient’s waiting time. In order to achieve this objective, a scheduling template has been built. The scheduling template is a simple tool that can be used to schedule patients' arrival to the clinic. A simulation model of this system was built and several scenarios, that target match the arrival pattern of the patients and resources availability, were designed and evaluated. After performing detailed analysis, one scenario provide the best system’s performance. A scheduling template has been developed based on this scenario. After implementing the new scheduling template, 22.5% more patients can be served.
Introduction
CancerCare Manitoba is a provincially mandated cancer care agency. It is dedicated to provide quality care to those who have been diagnosed and are living with cancer. MacCharles Chemotherapy unit is specially built to provide chemotherapy treatment to the cancer patients of Winnipeg. In order to maintain an excellent service, it tries to ensure that patients get their treatment in a timely manner. It is challenging to maintain that goal because of the lack of a proper roster, the workload distribution and inefficient resource allotment. In order to maintain the satisfaction of the patients and the healthcare providers, by serving the maximum number of patients in a timely manner, it is necessary to develop an efficient scheduling template that matches the required demand with the availability of resources. This goal can be reached using simulation modelling. Simulation has proven to be an excellent modelling tool. It can be defined as building computer models that represent real world or hypothetical systems, and hence experimenting with these models to study system behaviour under different scenarios.1, 2
A study was undertaken at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario to identify the issues behind the long waiting time of a emergency room.3 A 20-­‐day field observation revealed that the availability of the staff physician and interaction affects the patient wait time. Jyväskylä et al.4 used simulation to test different process scenarios, allocate resources and perform activity-­‐based cost analysis in the Emergency Department (ED) at the Central Hospital. The simulation also supported the study of a new operational method, named "triage-team" method without interrupting the main system. The proposed triage team method categorises the entire patient according to the urgency to see the doctor and allows the patient to complete the necessary test before being seen by the doctor for the first time. The simulation study showed that it will decrease the throughput time of the patient and reduce the utilisation of the specialist and enable the ordering all the tests the patient needs right after arrival, thus quickening the referral to treatment.
Santibáñez et al.5 developed a discrete event simulation model of British Columbia Cancer Agency"s ambulatory care unit which was used to study the impact of scenarios considering different operational factors (delay in starting clinic), appointment schedule (appointment order, appointment adjustment, add-­‐ons to the schedule) and resource allocation. It was found that the best outcomes were obtained when not one but multiple changes were implemented simultaneously. Sepúlveda et al.6 studied the M. D. Anderson Cancer Centre Orlando, which is a cancer treatment facility and built a simulation model to analyse and improve flow process and increase capacity in the main facility. Different scenarios were considered like, transferring laboratory and pharmacy areas, adding an extra blood draw room and applying different scheduling techniques of patients. The study shows that by increasing the number of short-­‐term (four hours or less) patients in the morning could increase chair utilisation.
Discrete event simulation also helps improve a service where staff are ignorant about the behaviour of the system as a whole; which can also be described as a real professional system. Niranjon et al.7 used simulation successfully where they had to face such constraints and lack of accessible data. Carlos et al. 8 used Total quality management and simulation – animation to improve the quality of the emergency room. Simulation was used to cover the key point of the emergency room and animation was used to indicate the areas of opportunity required. This study revealed that a long waiting time, overload personnel and increasing withdrawal rate of patients are caused by the lack of capacity in the emergency room.
Baesler et al.9 developed a methodology for a cancer treatment facility to find stochastically a global optimum point for the control variables. A simulation model generated the output using a goal programming framework for all the objectives involved in the analysis. Later a genetic algorithm was responsible for performing the search for an improved solution. The control variables that were considered in this research are number of treatment chairs, number of drawing blood nurses, laboratory personnel, and pharmacy personnel. Guo et al. 10 presented a simulation framework considering demand for appointment, patient flow logic, distribution of resources, scheduling rules followed by the scheduler. The objective of the study was to develop a scheduling rule which will ensure that 95% of all the appointment requests should be seen within one week after the request is made to increase the level of patient satisfaction and balance the schedule of each doctor to maintain a fine harmony between "busy clinic" and "quiet clinic".
Huschka et al.11 studied a healthcare system which was about to change their facility layout. In this case a simulation model study helped them to design a new healthcare practice by evaluating the change in layout before implementation. Historical data like the arrival rate of the patients, number of patients visited each day, patient flow logic, was used to build the current system model. Later, different scenarios were designed which measured the changes in the current layout and performance.
Wijewickrama et al.12 developed a simulation model to evaluate appointment schedule (AS) for second time consultations and patient appointment sequence (PSEQ) in a multi-­‐facility system. Five different appointment rule (ARULE) were considered: i) Baily; ii) 3Baily; iii) Individual (Ind); iv) two patients at a time (2AtaTime); v) Variable Interval and (V-­‐I) rule. PSEQ is based on type of patients: Appointment patients (APs) and new patients (NPs). The different PSEQ that were studied in this study were: i) first-­‐ come first-­‐serve; ii) appointment patient at the beginning of the clinic (APBEG); iii) new patient at the beginning of the clinic (NPBEG); iv) assigning appointed and new patients in an alternating manner (ALTER); v) assigning a new patient after every five-­‐appointment patients. Also patient no show (0% and 5%) and patient punctuality (PUNCT) (on-­‐time and 10 minutes early) were also considered. The study found that ALTER-­‐Ind. and ALTER5-­‐Ind. performed best on 0% NOSHOW, on-­‐time PUNCT and 5% NOSHOW, on-­‐time PUNCT situation to reduce WT and IT per patient. As NOSHOW created slack time for waiting patients, their WT tends to reduce while IT increases due to unexpected cancellation. Earliness increases congestion whichin turn increases waiting time.
Ramis et al.13 conducted a study of a Medical Imaging Center (MIC) to build a simulation model which was used to improve the patient journey through an imaging centre by reducing the wait time and making better use of the resources. The simulation model also used a Graphic User Interface (GUI) to provide the parameters of the centre, such as arrival rates, distances, processing times, resources and schedule. The simulation was used to measure the waiting time of the patients in different case scenarios. The study found that assigning a common function to the resource personnel could improve the waiting time of the patients.
The objective of this study is to develop an efficient scheduling template that maximises the number of served patients and minimises the average patient's waiting time at the given resources availability. To accomplish this objective, we will build a simulation model which mimics the working conditions of the clinic. Then we will suggest different scenarios of matching the arrival pattern of the patients with the availability of the resources. Full experiments will be performed to evaluate these scenarios. Hence, a simple and practical scheduling template will be built based on the indentified best scenario. The developed simulation model is described in section 2, which consists of a description of the treatment room, and a description of the types of patients and treatment durations. In section 3, different improvement scenarios are described and their analysis is presented in section 4. Section 5 illustrates a scheduling template based on one of the improvement scenarios. Finally, the conclusion and future direction of our work is exhibited in section 6.
Simulation Model
A simulation model represents the actual system and assists in visualising and evaluating the performance of the system under different scenarios without interrupting the actual system. Building a proper simulation model of a system consists of the following steps.
Observing the system to understand the flow of the entities, key players, availability of resources and overall generic framework.
Collecting the data on the number and type of entities, time consumed by the entities at each step of their journey, and availability of resources.
After building the simulation model it is necessary to confirm that the model is valid. This can be done by confirming that each entity flows as it is supposed to and the statistical data generated by the simulation model is similar to the collected data.
Figure 1 shows the patient flow process in the treatment room. On the patient's first appointment, the oncologist comes up with the treatment plan. The treatment time varies according to the patient’s condition, which may be 1 hour to 10 hours. Based on the type of the treatment, the physician or the clinical clerk books an available treatment chair for that time period.
On the day of the appointment, the patient will wait until the booked chair is free. When the chair is free a nurse from that station comes to the patient, verifies the name and date of birth and takes the patient to a treatment chair. Afterwards, the nurse flushes the chemotherapy drug line to the patient's body which takes about five minutes and sets up the treatment. Then the nurse leaves to serve another patient. Chemotherapy treatment lengths vary from less than an hour to 10 hour infusions. At the end of the treatment, the nurse returns, removes the line and notifies the patient about the next appointment date and time which also takes about five minutes. Most of the patients visit the clinic to take care of their PICC line (a peripherally inserted central catheter). A PICC is a line that is used to inject the patient with the chemical. This PICC line should be regularly cleaned, flushed to maintain patency and the insertion site checked for signs of infection. It takes approximately 10–15 minutes to take care of a PICC line by a nurse.
Cancer Care Manitoba provided access to the electronic scheduling system, also known as "ARIA" which is comprehensive information and image management system that aggregates patient data into a fully-­‐electronic medical chart, provided by VARIAN Medical System. This system was used to find out how many patients are booked in every clinic day. It also reveals which chair is used for how many hours. It was necessary to search a patient's history to find out how long the patient spends on which chair. Collecting the snapshot of each patient gives the complete picture of a one day clinic schedule.
The treatment room consists of the following two main limited resources:
Treatment Chairs: Chairs that are used to seat the patients during the treatment.
Nurses: Nurses are required to inject the treatment line into the patient and remove it at the end of the treatment. They also take care of the patients when they feel uncomfortable.
Mc Charles Chemotherapy unit consists of 11 nurses, and 5 stations with the following description:
Station 1: Station 1 has six chairs (numbered 1 to 6) and two nurses. The two nurses work from 8:00 to 16:00.
Station 2: Station 2 has six chairs (7 to 12) and three nurses. Two nurses work from 8:00 to 16:00 and one nurse works from 12:00 to 20:00.
Station 3: Station 4 has six chairs (13 to 18) and two nurses. The two nurses work from 8:00 to 16:00.
Station 4: Station 4 has six chairs (19 to 24) and three nurses. One nurse works from 8:00 to 16:00. Another nurse works from 10:00 to 18:00.
Solarium Station: Solarium Station has six chairs (Solarium Stretcher 1, Solarium Stretcher 2, Isolation, Isolation emergency, Fire Place 1, Fire Place 2). There is only one nurse assigned to this station that works from 12:00 to 20:00. The nurses from other stations can help when need arises.
There is one more nurse known as the "float nurse" who works from 11:00 to 19:00. This nurse can work at any station. Table 1 summarises the working hours of chairs and nurses. All treatment stations start at 8:00 and continue until the assigned nurse for that station completes her shift.
Currently, the clinic uses a scheduling template to assign the patients' appointments. But due to high demand of patient appointment it is not followed any more. We believe that this template can be improved based on the availability of nurses and chairs. Clinic workload was collected from 21 days of field observation. The current scheduling template has 10 types of appointment time slot: 15-­‐minute, 1-­‐hour, 1.5-­‐hour, 2-­‐hour, 3-­‐hour, 4-­‐hour, 5-­‐hour, 6-­‐hour, 8-­‐hour and 10-­‐hour and it is designed to serve 95 patients. But when the scheduling template was compared with the 21 days observations, it was found that the clinic is serving more patients than it is designed for. Therefore, the providers do not usually follow the scheduling template. Indeed they very often break the time slots to accommodate slots that do not exist in the template. Hence, we find that some of the stations are very busy (mostly station 2) and others are underused. If the scheduling template can be improved, it will be possible to bring more patients to the clinic and reduce their waiting time without adding more resources.
In order to build or develop a simulation model of the existing system, it is necessary to collect the following data:
Types of treatment durations.
Numbers of patients in each treatment type.
Arrival pattern of the patients.
Steps that the patients have to go through in their treatment journey and required time of each step.
Using the observations of 2,155 patients over 21 days of historical data, the types of treatment durations and the number of patients in each type were estimated. This data also assisted in determining the arrival rate and the frequency distribution of the patients. The patients were categorised into six types. The percentage of these types and their associated service times distributions are determined too.
ARENA Rockwell Simulation Software (v13) was used to build the simulation model. Entities of the model were tracked to verify that the patients move as intended. The model was run for 30 replications and statistical data was collected to validate the model. The total number of patients that go though the model was compared with the actual number of served patients during the 21 days of observations.
Improvement Scenarios
After verifying and validating the simulation model, different scenarios were designed and analysed to identify the best scenario that can handle more patients and reduces the average patient's waiting time. Based on the clinic observation and discussion with the healthcare providers, the following constraints have been stated:
The stations are filled up with treatment chairs. Therefore, it is literally impossible to fit any more chairs in the clinic. Moreover, the stakeholders are not interested in adding extra chairs.
The stakeholders and the caregivers are not interested in changing the layout of the treatment room.
Given these constraints the options that can be considered to design alternative scenarios are:
Changing the arrival pattern of the patients: that will fit over the nurses' availability.
Changing the nurses' schedule.
Adding one full time nurse at different starting times of the day.
Figure 2 compares the available number of nurses and the number of patients' arrival during different hours of a day. It can be noticed that there is a rapid growth in the arrival of patients (from 13 to 17) between 8:00 to 10:00 even though the clinic has the equal number of nurses during this time period. At 12:00 there is a sudden drop of patient arrival even though there are more available nurses. It is clear that there is an imbalance in the number of available nurses and the number of patient arrivals over different hours of the day. Consequently, balancing the demand (arrival rate of patients) and resources (available number of nurses) will reduce the patients' waiting time and increases the number of served patients. The alternative scenarios that satisfy the above three constraints are listed in Table 2. These scenarios respect the following rules:
Long treatments (between 4hr to 11hr) have to be scheduled early in the morning to avoid working overtime.
Patients of type 1 (15 minutes to 1hr treatment) are the most common. They can be fitted in at any time of the day because they take short treatment time. Hence, it is recommended to bring these patients in at the middle of the day when there are more nurses.
Nurses get tired at the end of the clinic day. Therefore, fewer patients should be scheduled at the late hours of the day.
In Scenario 1, the arrival pattern of the patient was changed so that it can fit with the nurse schedule. This arrival pattern is shown Table 3. Figure 3 shows the new patients' arrival pattern compared with the current arrival pattern. Similar patterns can be developed for the remaining scenarios too.
Analysis of Results
ARENA Rockwell Simulation software (v13) was used to develop the simulation model. There is no warm-­‐up period because the model simulates day-­‐to-­‐day scenarios. The patients of any day are supposed to be served in the same day. The model was run for 30 days (replications) and statistical data was collected to evaluate each scenario. Tables 4 and 5 show the detailed comparison of the system performance between the current scenario and Scenario 1. The results are quite interesting. The average throughput rate of the system has increased from 103 to 125 patients per day. The maximum throughput rate can reach 135 patients. Although the average waiting time has increased, the utilisation of the treatment station has increased by 15.6%. Similar analysis has been performed for the rest of the other scenarios. Due to the space limitation the detailed results are not given. However, Table 6 exhibits a summary of the results and comparison between the different scenarios. Scenario 1 was able to significantly increase the throughput of the system (by 21%) while it still results in an acceptable low average waiting time (13.4 minutes). In addition, it is worth noting that adding a nurse (Scenarios 3, 4, and 5) does not significantly reduce the average wait time or increase the system's throughput. The reason behind this is that when all the chairs are busy, the nurses have to wait until some patients finish the treatment. As a consequence, the other patients have to wait for the commencement of their treatment too. Therefore, hiring a nurse, without adding more chairs, will not reduce the waiting time or increase the throughput of the system. In this case, the only way to increase the throughput of the system is by adjusting the arrival pattern of patients over the nurses' schedule.
Developing a Scheduling Template based on Scenario 1
Scenario 1 provides the best performance. However a scheduling template is necessary for the care provider to book the patients. Therefore, a brief description is provided below on how scheduling the template is developed based on this scenario.
Table 3 gives the number of patients that arrive hourly, following Scenario 1. The distribution of each type of patient is shown in Table 7. This distribution is based on the percentage of each type of patient from the collected data. For example, in between 8:00-­‐9:00, 12 patients will come where 54.85% are of Type 1, 34.55% are of Type 2, 15.163% are of Type 3, 4.32% are of Type 4, 2.58% are of Type 5 and the rest are of Type 6. It is worth noting that, we assume that the patients of each type arrive as a group at the beginning of the hourly time slot. For example, all of the six patients of Type 1 from 8:00 to 9:00 time slot arrive at 8:00.
The numbers of patients from each type is distributed in such a way that it respects all the constraints described in Section 1.3. Most of the patients of the clinic are from type 1, 2 and 3 and they take less amount of treatment time compared with the patients of other types. Therefore, they are distributed all over the day. Patients of type 4, 5 and 6 take a longer treatment time. Hence, they are scheduled at the beginning of the day to avoid overtime. Because patients of type 4, 5 and 6 come at the beginning of the day, most of type 1 and 2 patients come at mid-­‐day (12:00 to 16:00). Another reason to make the treatment room more crowded in between 12:00 to 16:00 is because the clinic has the maximum number of nurses during this time period. Nurses become tired at the end of the clinic which is a reason not to schedule any patient after 19:00.
Based on the patient arrival schedule and nurse availability a scheduling template is built and shown in Figure 4. In order to build the template, if a nurse is available and there are patients waiting for service, a priority list of these patients will be developed. They are prioritised in a descending order based on their estimated slack time and secondarily based on the shortest service time. The secondary rule is used to break the tie if two patients have the same slack. The slack time is calculated using the following equation:
Slack time = Due time - (Arrival time + Treatment time)
Due time is the clinic closing time. To explain how the process works, assume at hour 8:00 (in between 8:00 to 8:15) two patients in station 1 (one 8-­‐hour and one 15-­‐ minute patient), two patients in station 2 (two 12-­‐hour patients), two patients in station 3 (one 2-­‐hour and one 15-­‐ minute patient) and one patient in station 4 (one 3-­‐hour patient) in total seven patients are scheduled. According to Figure 2, there are seven nurses who are available at 8:00 and it takes 15 minutes to set-­‐up a patient. Therefore, it is not possible to schedule more than seven patients in between 8:00 to 8:15 and the current scheduling is also serving seven patients by this time. The rest of the template can be justified similarly.
doi:10.4066/AMJ.2011.837
PMCID: PMC3562880  PMID: 23386870
2.  Canadians’ willingness to receive care from physician assistants 
Canadian Family Physician  2012;58(8):e459-e464.
Abstract
Objective
To determine the willingness of Canadians to accept treatment from physician assistants (PAs).
Design
Respondents were asked to be surrogate patients or parents under 1 of 3 conditions selected at random. Two scenarios involved injury to themselves, with the third involving injury to their children. The wait time for a physician was assumed to be 4 hours, whereas to explore the sensitivity of patients’ preferences for a range of times, PA wait times were 30 minutes, 1 hour, and 2 hours.
Setting
Vancouver, BC.
Participants
Two hundred twenty-nine mothers attending a hospital with their children.
Main outcome measures
The main outcome measure was the proportion of individuals in each scenario who were willing to be treated by PAs for at least one of the time trade-off options offered. A secondary outcome was the proportion of individuals who changed their answers when the waiting time to see the PA varied.
Results
Regardless of the scenarios, 99% of participants opted for PAs under the personal circumstances; 96% opted for PAs when the issue involved their children. The choice favouring the PA persisted, albeit at slightly lower proportions, as the difference in wait time between PAs and physicians decreased (85% and 67% for a difference in PA and physician wait time of 3 and 2 hours, respectively).
Conclusion
These findings suggest that British Columbians are willing to be treated by PAs under most circumstances, whether this includes themselves or their children. The high level of willingness to be treated by PAs demonstrates public confidence in PA care, and suggests that the use of PAs in Canadian emergency departments or clinics is a viable policy response to decreasing primary care capacity.
PMCID: PMC3419003  PMID: 22893348
3.  Implementing the 2009 Institute of Medicine recommendations on resident physician work hours, supervision, and safety 
Long working hours and sleep deprivation have been a facet of physician training in the US since the advent of the modern residency system. However, the scientific evidence linking fatigue with deficits in human performance, accidents and errors in industries from aeronautics to medicine, nuclear power, and transportation has mounted over the last 40 years. This evidence has also spawned regulations to help ensure public safety across safety-sensitive industries, with the notable exception of medicine.
In late 2007, at the behest of the US Congress, the Institute of Medicine embarked on a year-long examination of the scientific evidence linking resident physician sleep deprivation with clinical performance deficits and medical errors. The Institute of Medicine’s report, entitled “Resident duty hours: Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety”, published in January 2009, recommended new limits on resident physician work hours and workload, increased supervision, a heightened focus on resident physician safety, training in structured handovers and quality improvement, more rigorous external oversight of work hours and other aspects of residency training, and the identification of expanded funding sources necessary to implement the recommended reforms successfully and protect the public and resident physicians themselves from preventable harm.
Given that resident physicians comprise almost a quarter of all physicians who work in hospitals, and that taxpayers, through Medicare and Medicaid, fund graduate medical education, the public has a deep investment in physician training. Patients expect to receive safe, high-quality care in the nation’s teaching hospitals. Because it is their safety that is at issue, their voices should be central in policy decisions affecting patient safety. It is likewise important to integrate the perspectives of resident physicians, policy makers, and other constituencies in designing new policies. However, since its release, discussion of the Institute of Medicine report has been largely confined to the medical education community, led by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
To begin gathering these perspectives and developing a plan to implement safer work hours for resident physicians, a conference entitled “Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety: What will it take to implement the Institute of Medicine recommendations?” was held at Harvard Medical School on June 17–18, 2010. This White Paper is a product of a diverse group of 26 representative stakeholders bringing relevant new information and innovative practices to bear on a critical patient safety problem. Given that our conference included experts from across disciplines with diverse perspectives and interests, not every recommendation was endorsed by each invited conference participant. However, every recommendation made here was endorsed by the majority of the group, and many were endorsed unanimously. Conference members participated in the process, reviewed the final product, and provided input before publication. Participants provided their individual perspectives, which do not necessarily represent the formal views of any organization.
In September 2010 the ACGME issued new rules to go into effect on July 1, 2011. Unfortunately, they stop considerably short of the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations and those endorsed by this conference. In particular, the ACGME only applied the limitation of 16 hours to first-year resident physicans. Thus, it is clear that policymakers, hospital administrators, and residency program directors who wish to implement safer health care systems must go far beyond what the ACGME will require. We hope this White Paper will serve as a guide and provide encouragement for that effort.
Resident physician workload and supervision
By the end of training, a resident physician should be able to practice independently. Yet much of resident physicians’ time is dominated by tasks with little educational value. The caseload can be so great that inadequate reflective time is left for learning based on clinical experiences. In addition, supervision is often vaguely defined and discontinuous. Medical malpractice data indicate that resident physicians are frequently named in lawsuits, most often for lack of supervision. The recommendations are: The ACGME should adjust resident physicians workload requirements to optimize educational value. Resident physicians as well as faculty should be involved in work redesign that eliminates nonessential and noneducational activity from resident physician dutiesMechanisms should be developed for identifying in real time when a resident physician’s workload is excessive, and processes developed to activate additional providersTeamwork should be actively encouraged in delivery of patient care. Historically, much of medical training has focused on individual knowledge, skills, and responsibility. As health care delivery has become more complex, it will be essential to train resident and attending physicians in effective teamwork that emphasizes collective responsibility for patient care and recognizes the signs, both individual and systemic, of a schedule and working conditions that are too demanding to be safeHospitals should embrace the opportunities that resident physician training redesign offers. Hospitals should recognize and act on the potential benefits of work redesign, eg, increased efficiency, reduced costs, improved quality of care, and resident physician and attending job satisfactionAttending physicians should supervise all hospital admissions. Resident physicians should directly discuss all admissions with attending physicians. Attending physicians should be both cognizant of and have input into the care patients are to receive upon admission to the hospitalInhouse supervision should be required for all critical care services, including emergency rooms, intensive care units, and trauma services. Resident physicians should not be left unsupervised to care for critically ill patients. In settings in which the acuity is high, physicians who have completed residency should provide direct supervision for resident physicians. Supervising physicians should always be physically in the hospital for supervision of resident physicians who care for critically ill patientsThe ACGME should explicitly define “good” supervision by specialty and by year of training. Explicit requirements for intensity and level of training for supervision of specific clinical scenarios should be providedCenters for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should use graduate medical education funding to provide incentives to programs with proven, effective levels of supervision. Although this action would require federal legislation, reimbursement rules would help to ensure that hospitals pay attention to the importance of good supervision and require it from their training programs
Resident physician work hours
Although the IOM “Sleep, supervision and safety” report provides a comprehensive review and discussion of all aspects of graduate medical education training, the report’s focal point is its recommendations regarding the hours that resident physicians are currently required to work. A considerable body of scientific evidence, much of it cited by the Institute of Medicine report, describes deteriorating performance in fatigued humans, as well as specific studies on resident physician fatigue and preventable medical errors.
The question before this conference was what work redesign and cultural changes are needed to reform work hours as recommended by the Institute of Medicine’s evidence-based report? Extensive scientific data demonstrate that shifts exceeding 12–16 hours without sleep are unsafe. Several principles should be followed in efforts to reduce consecutive hours below this level and achieve safer work schedules. The recommendations are: Limit resident physician work hours to 12–16 hour maximum shiftsA minimum of 10 hours off duty should be scheduled between shiftsResident physician input into work redesign should be actively solicitedSchedules should be designed that adhere to principles of sleep and circadian science; this includes careful consideration of the effects of multiple consecutive night shifts, and provision of adequate time off after night work, as specified in the IOM reportResident physicians should not be scheduled up to the maximum permissible limits; emergencies frequently occur that require resident physicians to stay longer than their scheduled shifts, and this should be anticipated in scheduling resident physicians’ work shiftsHospitals should anticipate the need for iterative improvement as new schedules are initiated; be prepared to learn from the initial phase-in, and change the plan as neededAs resident physician work hours are redesigned, attending physicians should also be considered; a potential consequence of resident physician work hour reduction and increased supervisory requirements may be an increase in work for attending physicians; this should be carefully monitored, and adjustments to attending physician work schedules made as needed to prevent unsafe work hours or working conditions for this group“Home call” should be brought under the overall limits of working hours; work load and hours should be monitored in each residency program to ensure that resident physicians and fellows on home call are getting sufficient sleepMedicare funding for graduate medical education in each hospital should be linked with adherence to the Institute of Medicine limits on resident physician work hours
Moonlighting by resident physicians
The Institute of Medicine report recommended including external as well as internal moonlighting in working hour limits. The recommendation is: All moonlighting work hours should be included in the ACGME working hour limits and actively monitored. Hospitals should formalize a moonlighting policy and establish systems for actively monitoring resident physician moonlighting
Safety of resident physicians
The “Sleep, supervision and safety” report also addresses fatigue-related harm done to resident physicians themselves. The report focuses on two main sources of physical injury to resident physicians impaired by fatigue, ie, needle-stick exposure to blood-borne pathogens and motor vehicle crashes. Providing safe transportation home for resident physicians is a logistical and financial challenge for hospitals. Educating physicians at all levels on the dangers of fatigue is clearly required to change driving behavior so that safe hospital-funded transport home is used effectively. Fatigue-related injury prevention (including not driving while drowsy) should be taught in medical school and during residency, and reinforced with attending physicians; hospitals and residency programs must be informed that resident physicians’ ability to judge their own level of impairment is impaired when they are sleep deprived; hence, leaving decisions about the capacity to drive to impaired resident physicians is not recommendedHospitals should provide transportation to all resident physicians who report feeling too tired to drive safely; in addition, although consecutive work should not exceed 16 hours, hospitals should provide transportation for all resident physicians who, because of unforeseen reasons or emergencies, work for longer than consecutive 24 hours; transportation under these circumstances should be automatically provided to house staff, and should not rely on self-identification or request
Training in effective handovers and quality improvement
Handover practice for resident physicians, attendings, and other health care providers has long been identified as a weak link in patient safety throughout health care settings. Policies to improve handovers of care must be tailored to fit the appropriate clinical scenario, recognizing that information overload can also be a problem. At the heart of improving handovers is the organizational effort to improve quality, an effort in which resident physicians have typically been insufficiently engaged. The recommendations are: Hospitals should train attending and resident physicians in effective handovers of careHospitals should create uniform processes for handovers that are tailored to meet each clinical setting; all handovers should be done verbally and face-to-face, but should also utilize written toolsWhen possible, hospitals should integrate hand-over tools into their electronic medical records (EMR) systems; these systems should be standardized to the extent possible across residency programs in a hospital, but may be tailored to the needs of specific programs and services; federal government should help subsidize adoption of electronic medical records by hospitals to improve signoutWhen feasible, handovers should be a team effort including nurses, patients, and familiesHospitals should include residents in their quality improvement and patient safety efforts; the ACGME should specify in their core competency requirements that resident physicians work on quality improvement projects; likewise, the Joint Commission should require that resident physicians be included in quality improvement and patient safety programs at teaching hospitals; hospital administrators and residency program directors should create opportunities for resident physicians to become involved in ongoing quality improvement projects and root cause analysis teams; feedback on successful quality improvement interventions should be shared with resident physicians and broadly disseminatedQuality improvement/patient safety concepts should be integral to the medical school curriculum; medical school deans should elevate the topics of patient safety, quality improvement, and teamwork; these concepts should be integrated throughout the medical school curriculum and reinforced throughout residency; mastery of these concepts by medical students should be tested on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) stepsFederal government should support involvement of resident physicians in quality improvement efforts; initiatives to improve quality by including resident physicians in quality improvement projects should be financially supported by the Department of Health and Human Services
Monitoring and oversight of the ACGME
While the ACGME is a key stakeholder in residency training, external voices are essential to ensure that public interests are heard in the development and monitoring of standards. Consequently, the Institute of Medicine report recommended external oversight and monitoring through the Joint Commission and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The recommendations are: Make comprehensive fatigue management a Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goal; fatigue is a safety concern not only for resident physicians, but also for nurses, attending physicians, and other health care workers; the Joint Commission should seek to ensure that all health care workers, not just resident physicians, are working as safely as possibleFederal government, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, should encourage development of comprehensive fatigue management programs which all health systems would eventually be required to implementMake ACGME compliance with working hours a “ condition of participation” for reimbursement of direct and indirect graduate medical education costs; financial incentives will greatly increase the adoption of and compliance with ACGME standards
Future financial support for implementation
The Institute of Medicine’s report estimates that $1.7 billion (in 2008 dollars) would be needed to implement its recommendations. Twenty-five percent of that amount ($376 million) will be required just to bring hospitals into compliance with the existing 2003 ACGME rules. Downstream savings to the health care system could potentially result from safer care, but these benefits typically do not accrue to hospitals and residency programs, who have been asked historically to bear the burden of residency reform costs. The recommendations are: The Institute of Medicine should convene a panel of stakeholders, including private and public funders of health care and graduate medical education, to lay down the concrete steps necessary to identify and allocate the resources needed to implement the recommendations contained in the IOM “Resident duty hours: Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety” report. Conference participants suggested several approaches to engage public and private support for this initiativeEfforts to find additional funding to implement the Institute of Medicine recommendations should focus more broadly on patient safety and health care delivery reform; policy efforts focused narrowly upon resident physician work hours are less likely to succeed than broad patient safety initiatives that include residency redesign as a key componentHospitals should view the Institute of Medicine recommendations as an opportunity to begin resident physician work redesign projects as the core of a business model that embraces safety and ultimately saves resourcesBoth the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should take the Institute of Medicine recommendations into consideration when promulgating rules for innovation grantsThe National Health Care Workforce Commission should consider the Institute of Medicine recommendations when analyzing the nation’s physician workforce needs
Recommendations for future research
Conference participants concurred that convening the stakeholders and agreeing on a research agenda was key. Some observed that some sectors within the medical education community have been reluctant to act on the data. Several logical funders for future research were identified. But above all agencies, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the only stakeholder that funds graduate medical education upstream and will reap savings downstream if preventable medical errors are reduced as a result of reform of resident physician work hours.
doi:10.2147/NSS.S19649
PMCID: PMC3630963  PMID: 23616719
resident; hospital; working hours; safety
4.  Analysis of a survey on young doctors' willingness to work in rural Hungary 
Background
The severe shortage of qualified healthcare staff in Hungary cannot be quickly or easily overcome. There is not only a lack of human resources for health, but significant inequalities are widespread, including in geographical distribution. This disparity results in severe problems regarding access to and performance of health care services. In this context, this report, based on research carried out in 2008, deals with a particularly relevant matter: the willingness of young doctors to work outside Budapest (the capital of Hungary).
Methods
We conducted a survey with voluntary questionnaires and focus group interviews at each of the four Hungarian medical schools, concerning career plans and related incentives among young medical doctors. In all, 524 residents responded to the question concerning their willingness to work in rural areas, and there were seven focus group interviews, with 3-7 participants in each group. The number of residents' places in Hungary were 832, 682, and 785 in 2006/2007, 2007/2008, and 2008/2009, respectively.
Results
The majority of those surveyed would like to work in Budapest or a large town. Fewer than 7% were willing to work in a town with less than 50 000 inhabitants. Most young doctors would like to work in a teaching hospital (i.e. an accredited training site for medical students and postgraduate trainees) or a major regional hospital.
Conclusions
The current system of medical training in Hungary tends to produce doctors who want to live in big cities and work in central hospitals. Rural regions and non-in-patient service alternatives seem either not to be targeted or seen as unattractive work places.
More doctors would be willing to work in smaller towns and villages if in-hospital training was altered and if doctors were offered adequate incentives as part of a comprehensive human resource strategy (high salaries, high professional standards, good working environment, reasonable workload). If these changes do not occur, the existing geographical and structural imbalances will not be improved.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-8-13
PMCID: PMC2887778  PMID: 20482779
5.  Mobile technology supporting trainee doctors’ workplace learning and patient care: an evaluation 
Background
The amount of information needed by doctors has exploded. The nature of knowledge (explicit and tacit) and processes of knowledge acquisition and participation are complex. Aiming to assist workplace learning, Wales Deanery funded “iDoc”, a project offering trainee doctors a Smartphone library of medical textbooks.
Methods
Data on trainee doctors’ (Foundation Year 2) workplace information seeking practice was collected by questionnaire in 2011 (n = 260). iDoc baseline questionnaires (n = 193) collected data on Smartphone usage alongside other workplace information sources. Case reports (n = 117) detail specific instances of Smartphone use.
Results
Most frequently (daily) used information sources in the workplace: senior medical staff (80% F2 survey; 79% iDoc baseline); peers (70%; 58%); and other medical/nursing team staff (53% both datasets). Smartphones were used more frequently by males (p < 0.01). Foundation Year 1 (newly qualified) was judged the most useful time to have a Smartphone library because of increased responsibility and lack of knowledge/experience.
Preferred information source varied by question type: hard copy texts for information-based questions; varied resources for skills queries; and seniors for more complex problems. Case reports showed mobile technology used for simple (information-based), complex (problem-based) clinical questions and clinical procedures (skills-based scenarios). From thematic analysis, the Smartphone library assisted: teaching and learning from observation; transition from medical student to new doctor; trainee doctors’ discussions with seniors; independent practice; patient care; and this ‘just-in-time’ access to reliable information supported confident and efficient decision-making.
Conclusion
A variety of information sources are used regularly in the workplace. Colleagues are used daily but seniors are not always available. During transitions, constant access to the electronic library was valued. It helped prepare trainee doctors for discussions with their seniors, assisting the interchange between explicit and tacit knowledge.
By supporting accurate prescribing and treatment planning, the electronic library contributed to enhanced patient care. Trainees were more rapidly able to medicate patients to reduce pain and more quickly call for specific assessments. However, clinical decision-making often requires dialogue: what Smartphone technology can do is augment, not replace, discussion with their colleagues in the community of practice.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-6
PMCID: PMC3552772  PMID: 23336964
Technology enhanced learning; Workplace learning; Workplace information source; Trainee doctors; Smartphones; Transitions
6.  “It’s not just what the doctor tells me:” Factors that influence surrogate decision-makers’ perceptions of prognosis* 
Critical care medicine  2010;38(5):1270-1275.
Objective
Physicians and surrogate decision-makers for seriously ill patients often have different views of patients’ prognoses. We sought to understand what sources of knowledge surrogates rely on when estimating a patient’s prognosis.
Design
Prospective, mixed-methods study using face-to-face, semistructured interviews with surrogate decision-makers.
Setting
Four intensive care units at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center in 2006 to 2007.
Participants
Participants were 179 surrogate decision-makers for 142 incapacitated, critically ill patients at high risk for death.
Main Results
Less than 2% (3 of 179) of surrogates reported that their beliefs about the patients’ prognoses hinged exclusively on prognostic information provided to them by physicians. The majority cited other factors in addition to physicians’ predictions that also contributed to their beliefs about the patients’ prognoses, including perceptions of the patient’s individual strength of character and will to live; the patient’s unique history of illness and survival; the surrogate’s own observations of the patient’s physical appearance; the surrogate’s belief that their presence at the bedside may improve the prognosis; and the surrogate’s optimism, intuition, and faith. For some surrogates, these other sources of knowledge superseded the importance of the physician’s prognostication. However, most surrogates endeavored to balance their own knowledge of the patient with physicians’ biomedical knowledge.
Conclusions
Surrogates use diverse types of knowledge when estimating their loved ones’ prognoses, including individualized attributes of the patient, such as their strength of character and life history, of which physicians may be unaware. Attention to these considerations may help clinicians identify and overcome disagreements about prognosis.
doi:10.1097/CCM.0b013e3181d8a217
PMCID: PMC3530838  PMID: 20228686
7.  Evaluating the impact of patients' online access to doctors' visit notes: designing and executing the OpenNotes project 
Background
Providers and policymakers are pursuing strategies to increase patient engagement in health care. Increasingly, online sections of medical records are viewable by patients though seldom are clinicians' visit notes included. We designed a one-year multi-site trial of online patient accessible office visit notes, OpenNotes. We hypothesized that patients and primary care physicians (PCPs) would want it to continue and that OpenNotes would not lead to significant disruptions to doctors' practices.
Methods/Design
Using a mixed methods approach, we designed a quasi-experimental study in 3 diverse healthcare systems in Boston, Pennsylvania, and Seattle. Two sites had existing patient internet portals; the third used an experimental portal. We targeted 3 key areas where we hypothesized the greatest impacts: beliefs and attitudes about OpenNotes, use of the patient internet portals, and patient-doctor communication. PCPs in the 3 sites were invited to participate in the intervention. Patients who were registered portal users of participating PCPs were given access to their PCPs' visit notes for one year. PCPs who declined participation in the intervention and their patients served as the comparison groups for the study. We applied the RE-AIM framework to our design in order to capture as comprehensive a picture as possible of the impact of OpenNotes. We developed pre- and post-intervention surveys for online administration addressing attitudes and experiences based on interviews and focus groups with patients and doctors. In addition, we tracked use of the internet portals before and during the intervention.
Results
PCP participation varied from 19% to 87% across the 3 sites; a total of 114 PCPs enrolled in the intervention with their 22,000 patients who were registered portal users. Approximately 40% of intervention and non-intervention patients at the 3 sites responded to the online survey, yielding a total of approximately 38,000 patient surveys.
Discussion
Many primary care physicians were willing to participate in this "real world" experiment testing the impact of OpenNotes on their patients and their practices. Results from this trial will inform providers, policy makers, and patients who contemplate such changes at a time of exploding interest in transparency, patient safety, and improving the quality of care.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-12-32
PMCID: PMC3351950  PMID: 22500560
Patient access to records; Electronic health records; Primary care physicians; Internet; Medical records; Medical informatics; Patient participation
8.  GP recruitment and retention: a qualitative analysis of doctors' comments about training for and working in general practice. 
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: General practice in the UK is experiencing difficulty with medical staff recruitment and retention, with reduced numbers choosing careers in general practice or entering principalships, and increases in less-than-full-time working, career breaks, early retirement and locum employment. Information is scarce about the reasons for these changes and factors that could increase recruitment and retention. The UK Medical Careers Research Group (UKMCRG) regularly surveys cohorts of UK medical graduates to determine their career choices and progression. We also invite written comments from respondents about their careers and the factors that influence them. Most respondents report high levels of job satisfaction. A noteworthy minority, however, make critical comments about general practice. Although their views may not represent those of all general practitioners (GPs), they nonetheless indicate a range of concerns that deserve to be understood. This paper reports on respondents' comments about general practice. ANALYSIS OF DOCTORS' COMMENTS: Training Greater exposure to general practice at undergraduate level could help to promote general practice careers and better inform career decisions. Postgraduate general practice training in hospital-based posts was seen as poor quality, irrelevant and run as if it were of secondary importance to service commitments. In contrast, general practice-based postgraduate training was widely praised for good formal teaching that met educational needs. The quality of vocational training was dependent upon the skills and enthusiasm of individual trainers. Recruitment problems Perceived deterrents to choosing general practice were its portrayal, by some hospital-based teachers, as a second class career compared to hospital medicine, and a perception of low morale amongst current GPs. The choice of a career in general practice was commonly made for lifestyle reasons rather than professional aspirations. Some GPs had encountered difficulties in obtaining posts in general practice suited to their needs, while others perceived discrimination. Newly qualified GPs often sought work as non-principals because they felt too inexperienced for partnership or because their domestic situation prevented them from settling in a particular area. Changes to general practice The 1990 National Health Service (NHS) reforms were largely viewed unfavourably, partly because they had led to a substantial increase in GPs' workloads that was compounded by growing public expectations, and partly because the two-tier system of fund-holding was considered unfair. Fund-holding and, more recently, GP commissioning threatened the GP's role as patient advocate by shifting the responsibility for rationing of health care from government to GPs. Some concerns were also expressed about the introduction of primary care groups (PCGs) and trusts (PCTs). Together, increased workload and the continual process of change had, for some, resulted in work-related stress, low morale, reduced job satisfaction and quality of life. These problems had been partially alleviated by the formation of GP co-operatives. Retention difficulties Loss of GPs' time from the NHS workforce occurs in four ways: reduced working hours, temporary career breaks, leaving the NHS to work elsewhere and early retirement. Child rearing and a desire to pursue interests outside medicine were cited as reasons for seeking shorter working hours or career breaks. A desire to reduce pressure of work was a common reason for seeking shorter working hours, taking career breaks, early retirement or leaving NHS general practice. Other reasons for leaving NHS general practice, temporarily or permanently, were difficulty in finding a GP post suited to individual needs and a desire to work abroad. CONCLUSIONS: A cultural change amongst medical educationalists is needed to promote general practice as a career choice that is equally attractive as hospital practice. The introduction of Pre-Registration House Officer (PRHO) placements in general practice and improved flexibility of GP vocational training schemes, together with plans to improve the quality of Senior House Officer (SHO) training in the future, are welcome developments and should address some of the concerns about poor quality GP training raised by our respondents. The reluctance of newly qualified GPs to enter principalships, and the increasing demand from experienced GPs for less-than-full-time work, indicates a need for a greater variety of contractual arrangements to reflect doctors' desires for more flexible patterns of working in general practice.
PMCID: PMC2560447  PMID: 12049026
9.  General practice out-of-hours service, variations in use and equality in access to a doctor: a cross-sectional study. 
BACKGROUND: There is increasing dissatisfaction among general practitioners (GPs) with their 24 hour commitment despite the demand for GP services outside ordinary working hours. The creation of out-of-hours co-operatives has been welcomed by participating GPs and their families and patient satisfaction is generally high. However, there have been concerns about the lack of patient consultation in their development and on the quality of care provided. OBJECTIVES: To examine geographical variation in the rates of out-of-hours calls and to see if there is any systematic variation in how the co-operative that covers the area responds to calls. DESIGN OF STUDY: A secondary data analysis of 110,357 calls received by the co-operative during the second year of its operation. SETTING: A co-operative with four centres providing out-of-hours care for one mostly rural Health Board in Northern Ireland. METHOD: Deprivation score and mortality and long-term illness ratios provided indicators of need at an area level. Proximity to the four co-operative centres was measured as the distance in kilometres and estimated travel time (in minutes) along the road network. RESULTS: Out-of-hours call ratios were proportional to the area deprivation score and proximity to the co-operative centres, though not to area indicators of ill health. Older patients were more likely to be seen by the GP and females over the age of 15 years were more likely to receive telephone advice only (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 0.785, 95% confidence intervals [CI] 0.756-0.816, P < 0.001). Each kilometre from the centres reduced the likelihood of seeing the GP (OR = 0.978, 95% CI = 0.976-0.979, P < 0.001). Even after controlling for potential confounders a large difference remained in how centres responded to calls. CONCLUSIONS: It is not certain whether these inequalities in services delivery represent inequity as the apposite level or type of response cannot be determined until more is known about the appropriateness of the demand for out-of-hours medical care.
PMCID: PMC1314071  PMID: 11510390
10.  Doctors’ willingness to give honest answers about end-of-life practices: a cross-sectional study 
BMJ Open  2013;3(5):e002598.
Objectives
We aimed to (1) evaluate the extent to which doctors in New Zealand would be willing to answer honestly questions about their care of patients at the end of their lives and (2) identify the assurances that would encourage this. Results were compared with findings from a previous pilot study from the UK.
Design
Survey study involving a mailed questionnaire.
Setting
New Zealand hospital and community-based medical care settings.
Participants
The questionnaire was mailed to a random sample of 800 doctors in New Zealand who were vocationally registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand in disciplines involving caring for patients at the end of their lives.
Primary and secondary outcome measures
Willingness to provide honest answers about various aspects of end-of-life care; assurances that might increase willingness to provide honest answers to questions about end-of-life practices.
Results
Completed questionnaires were returned by 436 doctors. The majority of respondents (59.9–91.5%) indicated willingness to provide honest answers to such questions. However, more than a third of doctors were unwilling to give honest answers to certain questions regarding euthanasia. These results are comparable with the UK data. Complete anonymity was the assurance most likely to encourage honest answering, with most of the respondents preferring the use of anonymous written replies. Respondents were less reassured by survey endorsements from regulatory bodies. Themes in free comments included the deterrent effect of medicolegal consequences, fear of censure from society, peers and the media and concerns about the motivations and potential uses of such research.
Conclusions
Many New Zealand doctors were willing to give honest answers to questions about end-of-life practices, particularly if anonymity was guaranteed; others, however, expressed doubts or indicated that they would not be willing to provide honest answers to questions of this sort.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002598
PMCID: PMC3664351  PMID: 23793694
Medical Ethics; Medical Law; Palliative Care
11.  e-Health, m-Health and healthier social media reform: the big scale view 
Introduction
In the upcoming decade, digital platforms will be the backbone of a strategic revolution in the way medical services are provided, affecting both healthcare providers and patients. Digital-based patient-centered healthcare services allow patients to actively participate in managing their own care, in times of health as well as illness, using personally tailored interactive tools. Such empowerment is expected to increase patients’ willingness to adopt actions and lifestyles that promote health as well as improve follow-up and compliance with treatment in cases of chronic illness. Clalit Health Services (CHS) is the largest HMO in Israel and second largest world-wide. Through its 14 hospitals, 1300 primary and specialized clinics, and 650 pharmacies, CHS provides comprehensive medical care to the majority of Israel’s population (above 4 million members). CHS e-Health wing focuses on deepening patient involvement in managing health, through personalized digital interactive tools. Currently, CHS e-Health wing provides e-health services for 1.56 million unique patients monthly with 2.4 million interactions every month (August 2011). Successful implementation of e-Health solutions is not a sum of technology, innovation and health; rather it’s the expertise of tailoring knowledge and leadership capabilities in multidisciplinary areas: clinical, ethical, psychological, legal, comprehension of patient and medical team engagement etc. The Google Health case excellently demonstrates this point. On the other hand, our success with CHS is a demonstration that e-Health can be enrolled effectively and fast with huge benefits for both patients and medical teams, and with a robust business model.
CHS e-Health core components
They include:
1. The personal health record layer (what the patient can see) presents patients with their own medical history as well as the medical history of their preadult children, including diagnoses, allergies, vaccinations, laboratory results with interpretations in layman’s terms, medications with clear, straightforward explanations regarding dosing instructions, important side effects, contraindications, such as lactation etc., and other important medical information. All personal e-Health services require identification and authorization.
2. The personal knowledge layer (what the patient should know) presents patients with personally tailored recommendations for preventative medicine and health promotion. For example, diabetic patients are push notified regarding their yearly eye exam. The various health recommendations include: occult blood testing, mammography, lipid profile etc. Each recommendation contains textual, visual and interactive content components in order to promote engagement and motivate the patient to actually change his health behaviour.
3. The personal health services layer (what the patient can do) enables patients to schedule clinic visits, order chronic prescriptions, e-consult their physician via secured e-mail, set SMS medication reminders, e-consult a pharmacist regarding personal medications. Consultants’ answers are sent securely to the patients’ personal mobile device.
On December 2009 CHS launched secured, web based, synchronous medical consultation via video conference. Currently 11,780 e-visits are performed monthly (May 2011). The medical encounter includes e-prescription and referral capabilities which are biometrically signed by the physician. On December 2010 CHS launched a unique mobile health platform, which is one of the most comprehensive personal m-Health applications world-wide. An essential advantage of mobile devices is their potential to bridge the digital divide. Currently, CHS m-Health platform is used by more than 45,000 unique users, with 75,000 laboratory results views/month, 1100 m-consultations/month and 9000 physician visit scheduling/month.
4. The Bio-Sensing layer (what physiological data the patient can populate) includes diagnostic means that allow remote physical examination, bio-sensors that broadcast various physiological measurements, and smart homecare devices, such as e-Pill boxes that gives seniors, patients and their caregivers the ability to stay at home and live life to its fullest. Monitored data is automatically transmitted to the patient’s Personal Health Record and to relevant medical personnel.
The monitoring layer is embedded in the chronic disease management platform, and in the interactive health promotion and wellness platform. It includes tailoring of consumer-oriented medical devices and service provided by various professional personnel—physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians and more.
5. The Social layer (what the patient can share). Social media networks triggered an essential change at the humanity ‘genome’ level, yet to be further defined in the upcoming years. Social media has huge potential in promoting health as it combines fun, simple yet extraordinary user experience, and bio-social-feedback. There are two major challenges in leveraging health care through social networks:
a. Our personal health information is the cornerstone for personalizing healthier lifestyle, disease management and preventative medicine. We naturally see our personal health data as a super-private territory. So, how do we bring the power of our private health information, currently locked within our Personal Health Record, into social media networks without offending basic privacy issues?
b. Disease management and preventive medicine are currently neither considered ‘cool’ nor ‘fun’ or ‘potentially highly viral’ activities; yet, health is a major issue of everybody’s life. It seems like we are missing a crucial element with a huge potential in health behavioural change—the Fun Theory. Social media platforms comprehends user experience tools that potentially could break current misconception, and engage people in the daily task of taking better care of themselves.
CHS e-Health innovation team characterized several break-through applications in this unexplored territory within social media networks, fusing personal health and social media platforms without offending privacy. One of the most crucial issues regarding adoption of e-health and m-health platforms is change management. Being a ‘hot’ innovative ‘gadget’ is far from sufficient for changing health behaviours at the individual and population levels.
CHS health behaviour change management methodology includes 4 core elements:
1. Engaging two completely different populations: patients, and medical teams. e-Health applications must present true added value for both medical teams and patients, engaging them through understanding and assimilating “what’s really in it for me”. Medical teams are further subdivided into physicians, nurses, pharmacists and administrative personnel—each with their own driving incentive. Resistance to change is an obstacle in many fields but it is particularly true in the conservative health industry. To successfully manage a large scale persuasive process, we treat intra-organizational human resources as “Change Agents”. Harnessing the persuasive power of ~40,000 employees requires engaging them as the primary target group. Successful recruitment has the potential of converting each patient-medical team interaction into an exposure opportunity to the new era of participatory medicine via e-health and m-health channels.
2. Implementation waves: every group of digital health products that are released at the same time are seen as one project. Each implementation wave leverages the focus of the organization and target populations to a defined time span. There are three major and three minor implementation waves a year.
3. Change-Support Arrow: a structured infrastructure for every implementation wave. The sub-stages in this strategy include:
Cross organizational mapping and identification of early adopters and stakeholders relevant to the implementation wave
Mapping positive or negative perceptions and designing specific marketing approaches for the distinct target groups
Intra and extra organizational marketing
Conducting intensive training and presentation sessions for groups of implementers
Running conflict-prevention activities, such as advanced tackling of potential union resistance
Training change-agents with resistance-management behavioural techniques, focused intervention for specific incidents and for key opinion leaders
Extensive presence in the clinics during the launch period, etc.
The entire process is monitored and managed continuously by a review team.
4. Closing Phase: each wave is analyzed and a “lessons-learned” session concludes the changes required in the modus operandi of the e-health project team.
PMCID: PMC3571141
e-Health; mobile health; personal health record; online visit; patient empowerment; knowledge prescription
12.  Scope and Outcomes of Surrogate Decision Making Among Hospitalized Older Adults 
JAMA internal medicine  2014;174(3):370-377.
Importance
Hospitalized older adults often lack decisional capacity, but outside of the intensive care unit (ICU) and end-of-life care settings, little is known about the frequency of decision making by family members or other surrogates or its implications for hospital care.
Objective
To describe the scope of surrogate decision making, the hospital course and outcomes for older adults.
Design
Prospective, observational study.
Setting
Medical and Medical ICU services of two hospitals in one Midwest city.
Participants
1083 hospitalized older adults identified by their physicians as requiring major medical decisions.
Measures
Clinical characteristics, hospital outcomes, nature of major medical decisions and surrogate involvement.
Results
Based on physician reports at 48 hours of hospitalization, 47.4% (44.4%–50.4%) of older adults required at least some surrogate involvement including 23.0% (20.6% – 25.6%) with all decisions made by a surrogate. Among patients who required a surrogate for at least one decision within 48 hours, 57.2% required decisions about life sustaining care (mostly addressing code status), 48.6% about procedures and surgeries and 46.9% about discharge planning. Patients who required a surrogate experienced a more complex hospital course with greater use of ventilators (2.5% patients who made decisions, 13.2% patients who required any surrogate decisions, p<0.0001), artificial nutrition (1.7% patient, 14.4% surrogate, p<0.0001) and greater length of stay (median 6 days patient, 7 days surrogate, p<0.0001). They were more likely to be discharged to an extended care facility (21.2% patient, 40.9% surrogate, p<0.0001), and had higher hospital mortality (0.0% patient; 5.9% surrogate, p<0.0001). Most surrogates were daughters (58.9%), sons (25.0%) or spouses (20.6%). Overall, only 7.4% had a living will and 25.0% a health care representative document in the medical record.
Conclusion
Surrogate decision making occurs for nearly half of hospitalized older adults and includes both complete decision making by the surrogate and joint decision making by the patient and surrogate. Surrogates commonly face a broad range of decisions in both the ICU and the hospital ward setting. Hospital functions should be redesigned to account for the large and growing role of surrogates and to support surrogates as they make health care decisions.
doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13315
PMCID: PMC3947481  PMID: 24445375
13.  Use of Prescription Drug Samples and Patient Assistance Programs, and the Role of Doctor–Patient Communication 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2011;26(12):1458-1464.
BACKGROUND
Cost-related underuse of medications is common among older adults, who seldom discuss medication costs with their physicians. Some older adults may use free drug samples or industry-sponsored patient assistance programs (PAP) in hopes of lowering out-of-pocket costs, although the long-term effect of these programs on drug spending is unclear.
OBJECTIVE
To examine older adults’ use of industry-sponsored strategies to reduce out-of-pocket drug costs and the association between doctor–patient communication and use of these programs.
DESIGN
Cross-sectional analysis of a 2006 nationally representative survey of Medicare beneficiaries.
PARTICIPANTS
14,322 community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries age ≥65.
MAIN MEASURES
We conducted bivariate and multivariate analyses of the association between receipt of free samples and participation in PAPs with sociodemographic characteristics, health status, access to care, drug coverage, medication cost burden, and doctor–patient communication.
KEY RESULTS
51.4% of seniors reported receiving at least one free sample over the last 12 months and 29.2% reported receiving free samples more than once. In contrast, only 1.3% of seniors reported participating in an industry-sponsored PAP. Higher income respondents were more likely to report free sample receipt than low-income respondents (50.8% vs. 43.8%, p < 0.001) and less likely to report participating in a PAP (0.42% vs. 2.2%, p < 0.001). In multivariate analyses, those who reported talking to their doctor about the cost of their medications had more than twice the odds of receiving samples as those who did not (OR 2.17, 95% CI 1.95–2.42).
CONCLUSIONS
In 2006, over half of seniors in Medicare received free samples, but only 1.3% reported receiving any medications from a patient assistance program. Doctor–patient communication is strongly associated with use of these programs, which has important implications for clinical care regardless of whether these programs are viewed as drivers of prescription costs or a remedy for them.
doi:10.1007/s11606-011-1801-y
PMCID: PMC3235606  PMID: 21751052
free drug samples; prescription assistance programs; Medicare; physician–patient communication
14.  Doctor, What’s Wrong with Me? Factors that Delay the Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer 
Patient education and counseling  2011;84(3):352-358.
Objective
To examine the influence of patient and physician communication factors on diagnostic delay (DD).
Methods
242 patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer (CRC) in the past 6 months who experienced symptoms prior to diagnosis were administered a 2-hour semi-structured qualitative interview to assess communication with health care provider and ease of access to care, among other factors. Patient-provided information was verified via review of medical records.
Results
The factors associated with DD > 2 months included lower income (OR=0.56, p=0.03), having regular physician prior to receiving a cancer diagnosis (OR=2.52, p=0.03), having a physician who used temporizing communication strategies during the consultation (OR=2.41, p=0.02), receiving an initial alternate diagnosis (OR=3.36, p=0.02), experiencing referral delay (OR=3.61, p=<0.001), and experiencing follow-up delay of any kind (OR=3.32, p=0.01).
Conclusion
Excellent communication skills that appropriately probe for relevant social and economic patient information, assist patients in distinguishing and elaborating on symptoms, and provide clear rationale and instructions for future steps, will speed along the diagnosis process and could be the difference between early and late stage CRC.
Practice Implications
Increased understanding of physician communication and practice styles that contribute to DD could have a positive impact on decreasing the morbidity and mortality from this disease.
doi:10.1016/j.pec.2011.05.002
PMCID: PMC3159771  PMID: 21621950
diagnostic delay; physician-patient communication; colorectal cancer
15.  How Important Is ‘Accuracy’ of Surrogate Decision-Making for Research Participation? 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54790.
Background
There is a longstanding concern about the accuracy of surrogate consent in representing the health care and research preferences of those who lose their ability to decide for themselves. We sought informed, deliberative views of the older general public (≥50 years old) regarding their willingness to participate in dementia research and to grant leeway to future surrogates to choose an option contrary to their stated wishes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
503 persons aged 50+ recruited by random digit dialing were randomly assigned to one of three groups: deliberation, education, or control. The deliberation group attended an all-day education/peer deliberation session; the education group received written information only. Participants were surveyed at baseline, after the deliberation session (or equivalent time), and one month after the session, regarding their willingness to participate in dementia research and to give leeway to surrogates, regarding studies of varying risk-benefit profiles (a lumbar puncture study, a drug randomized controlled trial, a vaccine randomized controlled trial, and an early phase gene transfer trial). At baseline, 48% (gene transfer scenario) to 92% (drug RCT) were willing to participate in future dementia research. A majority of respondents (57–71% depending on scenario) were willing to give leeway to future surrogate decision-makers. Democratic deliberation increased willingness to participate in all scenarios, to grant leeway in 3 of 4 scenarios (lumbar puncture, vaccine, and gene transfer), and to enroll loved ones in research in all scenarios. On average, respondents were more willing to volunteer themselves for research than to enroll their loved ones.
Conclusions/Significance
Most people were willing to grant leeway to their surrogates, and this willingness was either sustained or increased after democratic deliberation, suggesting that the attitude toward leeway is a reliable opinion. Eliciting a person’s current preferences about future research participation should also involve eliciting his or her leeway preferences.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054790
PMCID: PMC3561414  PMID: 23382969
16.  Web Portals in Primary Care: An Evaluation of Patient Readiness and Willingness to Pay for Online Services 
Background
Online Web communication between physician and patient has been proposed by leading primary care organizations as a way to enhance physician-patient communication, but lack of payment for this service has acted as a significant barrier to implementation.
Objective
This study evaluates current patient readiness and willingness to pay for online services in a fairly typical urban family medicine practice.
Methods
All patients that visited the author for medical care during a one-month period in the spring of 2006 were anonymously surveyed with a one-page survey instrument that inquired about demographics, willingness to pay a small annual fee for online services, the greatest fee they were willing to pay, and their most desired service.
Results
A total of 346 patients out of 2380 active patients in the study practice (14.5%) were surveyed. The valid survey response rate was 95.1% (329/346.) Three quarters, or 75.4%, of patients had Internet access. The group with the highest access were 18- to 29-year-olds (97%), and the group with the least access were those 70 years and up (56%) (P < .001). Categorized by employment, students and employed patients had the best access at 92% and 87%, respectively, and retirees and disabled patients had the worst access at 66% and 42%, respectively (P < .001). Of all patients with Internet access, 74.6% (n = 185) were willing to pay a small annual fee for one or more of the following online services: viewing of parts of their medical record, messaging with their physician, medication refills, appointment requests, and billing inquiries. Willingness to pay did not vary significantly by age (P = .06). Of all respondents, regardless of Internet access, 47.1% (n = 155) were willing to pay US $10 or more per year, with the median amount being US $20. Of those with Internet access (n = 248), 60.1% (n = 149) were willing to pay US $10 or more per year, and 31% were willing to pay US $50 or more per year. The three most important services to patients with Internet access (n = 248), in order of importance, were emailing with their physician (34%), Internet viewing of their medical record (22%), and medication refills (11%) (P < .001).
Conclusions
This study suggests that patients of all ages are currently ready and willing to pay a small annual fee for online services with their primary care physician’s office. If 47.1% of a practice of 2500 patients each paid US $10 per year for online services, the annual revenue generated would be US $11775. Not only does this study support the economic feasibility of patient Web portals, but it suggests that online services could form a new line of revenue for primary care physicians.
doi:10.2196/jmir.8.4.e26
PMCID: PMC1794005  PMID: 17213045
Internet; communication; primary health care; electronic mail; patient access to records; Web-based services; payment schemes
17.  Frequent users of ambulatory health care in Quebec: the case of doctor-shoppers. 
OBJECTIVE: To examine the patterns of use of ambulatory care in Quebec in 1991, with special emphasis on patients who received care from more than 20 physicians. DESIGN: Retrospective study of population-based data. SETTING: Province of Quebec. PARTICIPANTS: All 7,154,591 people eligible for coverage under the Régie de l'assurance-maladie du Québec (RAMQ) (Quebec Health Insurance Plan) in 1991, including 3639 people who received ambulatory care from more than 20 physicians. DATA EXTRACTION: The databanks of the RAMQ. OUTCOME MEASURES: Mean number (and standard deviation) of physician visits and services received, place of visit (clinic or private office), mean cost of services, patient's age, diagnosis, type of specialist visited and social assistance status of frequent users. RESULTS: The patients who obtained ambulatory care from more than 20 physicians received 10 times more medical services than the overall patient population (59.6 v. 5.8), and the mean cost per patient for ambulatory care was also 10 times higher ($1379 v. $136). Almost all of the frequent users visited at least one outpatient clinic, as compared with 37.3% of the overall population. A higher proportion of the frequent users than of the overall population obtained care from specialists (98.9% v. 54.7%), mainly general surgeons and psychiatrists. The most frequent diagnoses among the frequent users were anxiety (36.0%), abdominal pain (24.3%), drug or alcohol dependence (22.2%) and depression (16.4%). CONCLUSIONS: A small proportion of the population obtained ambulatory care from a high number of physicians during the year, leading to high expenses. Identifying and understanding this type of frequent user may be useful in developing strategies to promote more effective health-care-seeking behaviours and reduce overuse.
PMCID: PMC1337939  PMID: 7796374
18.  How Long Are Patients Willing to Wait in the Emergency Department Before Leaving Without Being Seen? 
Introduction:
Our goal was to evaluate patients’ threshold for waiting in an emergency department (ED) waiting room before leaving without being seen (LWBS). We analyzed whether willingness to wait was influenced by perceived illness severity, age, race, triage acuity level, or insurance status.
Methods:
We conducted this survey-based study from March to July 2010 at an urban academic medical center. After triage, patients were given a multiple-choice questionnaire, designed to ascertain how long they would wait for medical care. We collected data including age, gender, race, insurance status, and triage acuity level. We looked at the association between willingness to wait and these variables, using stratified analysis and logistic regression.
Results:
Of the 375 patients who were approached, 340 (91%) participated. One hundred seventy-one (51%) were willing to wait up to 2 hours before leaving, 58 (17%) would wait 2 to 8 hours, and 110 (32%) would wait indefinitely. No association was found between willingness to wait and race, gender, insurance status, or perceived symptom severity. Patients willing to wait >2 hours tended to be older than 25, have higher acuity, and prefer the study site ED.
Conclusion:
Many patients have a defined, limited period that they are willing to wait for emergency care. In our study, 50% of patients were willing to wait up to 2 hours before leaving the ED without being seen. This result suggests that efforts to reduce the percentage of patients who LWBS must factor in time limits.
doi:10.5811/westjem.2012.3.6895
PMCID: PMC3555587  PMID: 23359833
19.  Online self-management in patients with COPD: with or without the doctor/nurse 
Introduction
Curavista Health is an online patient self-management platform. Patients use the platform with or without their doctor/nurse. Fifty centres in Benelux are using the platform for diabetes, hypertension, asthma, COPD, migraine, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, breast cancer, prostate cancer, LUTS, bi-polar diseases, chronic pain, Herpes Zoster, GERD, preConsult, and adherence to medical therapy. Many hospitals use one or more programmes. The platform is currently available in Dutch, English and French.
COPD
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic disease in the elderly. Airways are increasingly blocked and exacerbations (increase of symptoms) are common. Exacerbations ameliorate the disease and diminish the quality of life. Exacerbations are responsible for most of the augmenting costs of treating COPD. Self-management is a promising method as patients learn to recognize and treat as early as possible exacerbations.
Case study
The case study is called: mijncopdonline.nl. It is a self management programme that consists of 3 basic elements:
status (CCQ, BMI, FEV1, MRC-dyspnoea, medication)
self management (how do I feel today and what are my specific actions?)
eConsult.
Since mid-2008 patients can register online and participate in the programme (without involving their GP/pulmonologist/nurse). The pulmonary division of the Havenziekenhuis (division of the Erasmus MC) started using the programme in October 2010 and incorporated it into their daily routine. All out-patients can participate. The team monitors patients online, exchange eConsultations with patients and discusses the results during the regular visit.
Results
We compared the adherence to the programme in two groups: (1) the group without the doctor/nurse as a coach (n=495) and (2) the group with the doctor/nurse as a coach (n=42). The content of the programme was identical in both groups. Age and gender were similar in both groups and was representative of the overall COPD population of the Havenziekenhuis. In the group without coaching, 65% of participants used the programme once, 22% twice and 13% three times or more. In the group with coaching, 24% used the programme once, 14% twice and 62% three times or more.
Discussion
Self-management is a hot topic. Self-management in itself is not new: patients have been keeping diaries on paper for many years. However, in recent years, online database technology has provided an opportunity to create interactive, personalized, self-management programmes, often referred to as eHealth. The word ‘self-management’ suggests that patients manage themselves and the role of the professional is limited. However, these data suggest that participants make better use of eHealth programmes when supported by healthcare professionals. Therefore eHealth should be embedded into regular care in order to be fully effective.
PMCID: PMC3571174
COPD; self management; participation; elderly
20.  “Patient-Time,” “Doctor-Time,” and “Institution-Time”: Perceptions and Definitions of Time Among Doctors Who Become Patients 
Patient education and counseling  2006;66(2):147-155.
Objective
To examine views and experiences of conflicts concerning time in healthcare, from the perspective of physicians who have become patients.
Methods
We conducted two in-depth semi-structured two-hour interviews concerning experiences of being health care workers, and becoming a patient, with each of 50 doctors who had serious illnesses.
Results
These doctor-patients often came to realize as they had not before how patients experience time differently, and how “patient-time,” “doctor-time,” and “institution-time” exist and can conflict. Differences arose in both long and short term, regarding historical time (prior eras/decades in medicine), prognosis (months/years), scheduling delays (days/weeks), daily medical events and tasks (hours), and periods in waiting rooms (minutes/hours). Definitions of periods of time (e.g., “fast,” “slow,” “plenty,” and “soon”) also varied widely, and could clash. Professional socialization had heretofore impeded awareness of these differences. Physicians tried to address these conflicts in several ways (e.g., trying to provide test results promptly), though full resolution remained difficult.
Conclusions
Doctors who became patients often now realized how physicians and patients differ in subjective experiences of time. Medical education and research have not adequately considered these issues, which can affect patient satisfaction, doctor-patient relationships and communication, and care.
Practice Implications
Physicians need to be more sensitive to how their definitions, perceptions, and experiences concerning time can differ from those of patients.
doi:10.1016/j.pec.2006.10.005
PMCID: PMC2950119  PMID: 17125956
Doctor-patient relationships; doctor-patient communication; medical education; patient satisfaction; medical ethics; medical socialization; health care delivery
21.  Can after-hours family medicine clinics represent an alternative to emergency departments? 
Canadian Family Physician  2009;55(11):1106-1107.e4.
ABSTRACT
OBJECTIVE
To explore patients’ motivations for seeking care in the emergency department (ED) after hours and their willingness to consult their family physicians instead, if their family physicians had been available.
DESIGN
Survey using an 8-item questionnaire.
SETTING
Two tertiary care hospital EDs in Ottawa, Ont, from June 4 to 22, 2007, between 5 pm and 9 pm.
PARTICIPANTS
A total of 151 ambulatory patients. Patients who arrived by ambulance or who bypassed those waiting were excluded.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES
Patients’ self-reported motivation for seeking after-hours care in the ED, the perceived urgency of their medical complaints, and their willingness to have sought care from their family physicians instead, if they had been available.
RESULTS
There were 218 eligible patients during the study period. Among the 151 respondents (69.3% response rate), 141 qualified for the study. Of the qualified respondents, 57.4% would have chosen to consult their family physicians instead if they had been available. The most common reason for choosing the ED was the perceived need for services unavailable at family medicine clinics, such as specialist consultation or diagnostic imaging. There were no differences in the perceived urgency of patients’ medical conditions or the amount of time they were willing to wait before physician assessment between those who would have been willing to seek care from their family physicians and those who would not have been willing.
CONCLUSION
After-hour family medicine clinics provide a desirable primary care service that most patients would choose over the ED if more were available.
PMCID: PMC2776805  PMID: 19910600
22.  Surrogate and Patient Discrepancy Regarding Consent for Critical Care Research 
Critical care medicine  2012;40(9):2590-2594.
Objective
Critically ill patients frequently display impaired decision making capacity due to their underlying illness and the use of sedating medications. Health care providers often rely on surrogates to make decisions for medical care and participation in clinical research. However, the accuracy of surrogate decisions for a variety of critical care research studies is poorly understood.
Design
Cross-sectional observational study
Setting
Academic medical center
Patients
Medical ICU patients and their designated surrogates
Intervention
Patients were asked if they would consent to participate in hypothetical research studies of increasing complexity, and surrogates independently indicated whether they would consent to enroll the patient in the same scenarios.
Results
Overall, 69 MICU patients were enrolled into the study. The majority of surrogates were either the spouse (58%) or parent (22%) of the patient. The percentage of patients that would agree to participate in a research study and the percentage of surrogates that would agree to have the patient enrolled into a research study both declined as the risk of the study increased (P < 0.001 for both analyses). In addition, the overall discrepancy, the false negative rates, and the false positive rates between patient and surrogates were greater as the risk of the study increased (P <0.001, P < 0.001, and P = 0.049 respectively). Kappa values for all seven scenarios demonstrated less than moderate agreement (range 0.03–0.41).
Conclusions
There are significant discrepancies in the willingness to participate in various types of clinical research proposals between critically ill patients and their surrogate decision makers. The results of this study raise concerns about the use of surrogate consent for inclusion of critically ill patients into research protocols.
doi:10.1097/CCM.0b013e318258ff19
PMCID: PMC3674768  PMID: 22732283
critical care; informed consent; surrogate; medical ethics; research design
23.  Interactions between Non-Physician Clinicians and Industry: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001561.
In a systematic review of studies of interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry, Quinn Grundy and colleagues found that many of the issues identified for physicians' industry interactions exist for non-physician clinicians.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
With increasing restrictions placed on physician–industry interactions, industry marketing may target other health professionals. Recent health policy developments confer even greater importance on the decision making of non-physician clinicians. The purpose of this systematic review is to examine the types and implications of non-physician clinician–industry interactions in clinical practice.
Methods and Findings
We searched MEDLINE and Web of Science from January 1, 1946, through June 24, 2013, according to PRISMA guidelines. Non-physician clinicians eligible for inclusion were: Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, Physician Assistants, pharmacists, dieticians, and physical or occupational therapists; trainee samples were excluded. Fifteen studies met inclusion criteria. Data were synthesized qualitatively into eight outcome domains: nature and frequency of industry interactions; attitudes toward industry; perceived ethical acceptability of interactions; perceived marketing influence; perceived reliability of industry information; preparation for industry interactions; reactions to industry relations policy; and management of industry interactions. Non-physician clinicians reported interacting with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Clinicians across disciplines met with pharmaceutical representatives regularly and relied on them for practice information. Clinicians frequently received industry “information,” attended sponsored “education,” and acted as distributors for similar materials targeted at patients. Clinicians generally regarded this as an ethical use of industry resources, and felt they could detect “promotion” while benefiting from industry “information.” Free samples were among the most approved and common ways that clinicians interacted with industry. Included studies were observational and of varying methodological rigor; thus, these findings may not be generalizable. This review is, however, the first to our knowledge to provide a descriptive analysis of this literature.
Conclusions
Non-physician clinicians' generally positive attitudes toward industry interactions, despite their recognition of issues related to bias, suggest that industry interactions are normalized in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. Industry relations policy should address all disciplines and be implemented consistently in order to mitigate conflicts of interest and address such interactions' potential to affect patient care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Making and selling health care goods (including drugs and devices) and services is big business. To maximize the profits they make for their shareholders, companies involved in health care build relationships with physicians by providing information on new drugs, organizing educational meetings, providing samples of their products, giving gifts, and holding sponsored events. These relationships help to keep physicians informed about new developments in health care but also create the potential for causing harm to patients and health care systems. These relationships may, for example, result in increased prescription rates of new, heavily marketed medications, which are often more expensive than their generic counterparts (similar unbranded drugs) and that are more likely to be recalled for safety reasons than long-established drugs. They may also affect the provision of health care services. Industry is providing an increasingly large proportion of routine health care services in many countries, so relationships built up with physicians have the potential to influence the commissioning of the services that are central to the treatment and well-being of patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
As a result of concerns about the tension between industry's need to make profits and the ethics underlying professional practice, restrictions are increasingly being placed on physician–industry interactions. In the US, for example, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act now requires US manufacturers of drugs, devices, and medical supplies that participate in federal health care programs to disclose all payments and gifts made to physicians and teaching hospitals. However, other health professionals, including those with authority to prescribe drugs such as pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and nurse practitioners are not covered by this legislation or by similar legislation in other settings, even though the restructuring of health care to prioritize primary care and multidisciplinary care models means that “non-physician clinicians” are becoming more numerous and more involved in decision-making and medication management. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers examine the nature and implications of the interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 15 published studies that examined interactions between non-physician clinicians (Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, midwives, pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and dieticians) and industry (corporations that produce health care goods and services). They extracted the data from 16 publications (representing 15 different studies) and synthesized them qualitatively (combined the data and reached word-based, rather than numerical, conclusions) into eight outcome domains, including the nature and frequency of interactions, non-physician clinicians' attitudes toward industry, and the perceived ethical acceptability of interactions. In the research the authors identified, non-physician clinicians reported frequent interactions with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Most non-physician clinicians met industry representatives regularly, received gifts and samples, and attended educational events or received educational materials (some of which they distributed to patients). In these studies, non-physician clinicians generally regarded these interactions positively and felt they were an ethical and appropriate use of industry resources. Only a minority of non-physician clinicians felt that marketing influenced their own practice, although a larger percentage felt that their colleagues would be influenced. A sizeable proportion of non-physician clinicians questioned the reliability of industry information, but most were confident that they could detect biased information and therefore rated this information as reliable, valuable, or useful.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings suggest that non-physician clinicians generally have positive attitudes toward industry interactions but recognize issues related to bias and conflict of interest. Because these findings are based on a small number of studies, most of which were undertaken in the US, they may not be generalizable to other countries. Moreover, they provide no quantitative assessment of the interaction between non-physician clinicians and industry and no information about whether industry interactions affect patient care outcomes. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that industry interactions are normalized (seen as standard) in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. This normalization creates the potential for serious risks to patients and health care systems. The researchers suggest that it may be unrealistic to expect that non-physician clinicians can be taught individually how to interact with industry ethically or how to detect and avert bias, particularly given the ubiquitous nature of marketing and promotional materials. Instead, they suggest, the environment in which non-physician clinicians practice should be structured to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of interactions with industry.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001561.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by James S. Yeh and Aaron S. Kesselheim
The American Medical Association provides guidance for physicians on interactions with pharmaceutical industry representatives, information about the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, and a toolkit for preparing Physician Payments Sunshine Act reports
The International Council of Nurses provides some guidance on industry interactions in its position statement on nurse-industry relations
The UK General Medical Council provides guidance on financial and commercial arrangements and conflicts of interest as part of its good medical practice website, which describes what is required of all registered doctors in the UK
Understanding and Responding to Pharmaceutical Promotion: A Practical Guide is a manual prepared by Health Action International and the World Health Organization that schools of medicine and pharmacy can use to train students how to recognize and respond to pharmaceutical promotion.
The Institute of Medicine's Report on Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice recommends steps to identify, limit, and manage conflicts of interest
The University of California, San Francisco, Office of Continuing Medical Education offers a course called Marketing of Medicines
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001561
PMCID: PMC3841103  PMID: 24302892
24.  Surrogate consent for critical care research: exploratory study on public perception and influences on recruitment 
Critical Care  2013;17(1):R5.
Introduction
Critical Care research involves an increasing level of technical and clinical interventions for the unconscious patient. If the general public has a negative (unfavourable) view of surrogate consent, low recruitment rates are likely. Results bias will be introduced if study populations are small, hindering knowledge generation and transfer through research. In the rapidly expanding healthcare industry of South East Asia, opportunities for critical care research will grow given a positive willingness (favourability) by the general public to act as a surrogate in the consent process when the (unconscious) patient cannot consent for him/herself.
Methods
To determine public willingness for surrogate consent, a quantitative cross-sectional study was undertaken at a University Teaching Hospital in South East Asia during a three month interval. Four hypothetical critical care research scenarios were presented and responses from the public were analysed using a three-part questionnaire.
Results
Three hundred and five members of the public were recruited. In general, participants had a positive view of research. The level of education was significantly associated with a person's views about research especially in studies regarded as high risk. For low risk studies, a person's perception of research and willingness to be recruited to a study in the event that they were the (unconscious) patient, was the same whether they were the study subject or the person (legally acceptable representative) giving surrogate consent' on behalf of another (spouse, parent, child). Across all study scenarios, 60-80% of the public preferred to be approached by doctors to discuss the surrogate consent process.
Conclusion
Given the hypothetical scenarios presented in this study, the odds of a person having a positive view and willingness to be consented to a critical care research study on the advice of another (surrogate consent) was greater than for those who had a negative or unfavourable view. Nurses may be disadvantaged in leading on the recruitment process due to a preference for information to be delivered by medically qualified clinicians. In the setting of South East Asia, cultural attitudes to nurse-led research in critical care must be taken in to consideration in the multidisciplinary approaches to building the research team.
doi:10.1186/cc11927
PMCID: PMC4057109  PMID: 23320945
25.  Prospective evaluation of an internet-linked handheld computer critical care knowledge access system 
Critical Care  2004;8(6):R414-R421.
Introduction
Critical care physicians may benefit from immediate access to medical reference material. We evaluated the feasibility and potential benefits of a handheld computer based knowledge access system linking a central academic intensive care unit (ICU) to multiple community-based ICUs.
Methods
Four community hospital ICUs with 17 physicians participated in this prospective interventional study. Following training in the use of an internet-linked, updateable handheld computer knowledge access system, the physicians used the handheld devices in their clinical environment for a 12-month intervention period. Feasibility of the system was evaluated by tracking use of the handheld computer and by conducting surveys and focus group discussions. Before and after the intervention period, participants underwent simulated patient care scenarios designed to evaluate the information sources they accessed, as well as the speed and quality of their decision making. Participants generated admission orders during each scenario, which were scored by blinded evaluators.
Results
Ten physicians (59%) used the system regularly, predominantly for nonmedical applications (median 32.8/month, interquartile range [IQR] 28.3–126.8), with medical software accessed less often (median 9/month, IQR 3.7–13.7). Eight out of 13 physicians (62%) who completed the final scenarios chose to use the handheld computer for information access. The median time to access information on the handheld handheld computer was 19 s (IQR 15–40 s). This group exhibited a significant improvement in admission order score as compared with those who used other resources (P = 0.018). Benefits and barriers to use of this technology were identified.
Conclusion
An updateable handheld computer system is feasible as a means of point-of-care access to medical reference material and may improve clinical decision making. However, during the study, acceptance of the system was variable. Improved training and new technology may overcome some of the barriers we identified.
doi:10.1186/cc2967
PMCID: PMC1065064  PMID: 15566586
clinical; computer; critical care; decision support systems; handheld; internet; point-of-care systems; practice guidelines; simulation

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