To explore the views of sick doctors on their experiences with the General Medical Council (GMC) and their perception of the impact of GMC involvement on return to work.
Doctors who had been away from work for at least 6 months with physical or mental health problems, drug or alcohol problems, GMC involvement or any combination of these, were eligible for inclusion into the study. Eligible doctors were recruited in conjunction with the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, the GMC and the Practitioner Health Programme. These organisations approached 77 doctors; 19 participated. Each doctor completed an in-depth semistructured interview. We used a constant comparison method to identify and agree on the coding of data and the identification of central themes.
18 of the 19 participants had a mental health, addiction or substance misuse problem. 14 of the 19 had interacted with the GMC. 4 main themes were identified: perceptions of the GMC as a whole; perceptions of GMC processes; perceived health impacts and suggested improvements. Participants described the GMC processes they experienced as necessary, and some elements as supportive. However, many described contact with the GMC as daunting, confusing and anxiety provoking. Some were unclear about the role of the GMC and felt that GMC communication was unhelpful, particularly the language used in correspondence. Improvements suggested by participants included having separate pathways for doctors with purely health issues, less use of legalistic language, and a more personal approach with for example individualised undertakings or conditions.
While participants recognised the need for a regulator, the processes employed by the GMC and the communication style used were often distressing, confusing and perceived to have impacted negatively on their mental health and ability to return to work.
MENTAL HEALTH; QUALITATIVE RESEARCH; OCCUPATIONAL & INDUSTRIAL MEDICINE
Aims: To determine obstacles for return-to-work in disability management of low back pain patients sicklisted for 3–4 months.
Methods: A cohort of 467 low back pain patients sicklisted for 3–4 months was recruited. A questionnaire was sent to their occupational physicians (OPs) concerning the medical management, obstacles to return-to-work, and the communication with treating physicians.
Results: The OPs of 300 of 467 patients participated in this study. In many cases OPs regarded the clinical waiting period (43%), duration of treatment (41%), and view (25%) of the treating physicians as obstacles for return-to-work. Psychosocial obstacles for return-to-work such as mental blocks, a lack of job motivation, personal problems, and conflicts at work were all mentioned much less frequently by OPs. In only 19% of the patients was there communication between OP and treating physician. Communication almost always entailed an exchange of information, and less frequently an attempt to harmonise the management policy. Surprisingly communication was also limited, when OPs felt that the waiting period (32%), duration of treatment (30%), and view (28%) of treating physicians inhibited return-to-work. Communication was significantly associated with the following obstacles for return-to-work: passivity with regard to return-to-work and clinical waiting period; adjusted odds ratios were 3.35 and 2.23, respectively.
Conclusions: Medical management of treating physicians is often an obstacle for return to work regarding low back pain patients sicklisted for 3–4 months, in the opinion of OPs. Nevertheless communication between OPs and the treating physicians in disability management of these patients is limited. More attention to prevention of absenteeism and bilateral communication is needed in medical courses.
Specialist mental health care is out of reach for most Indians. The World Health Organisation has called for the integration of mental health into primary health care as a key strategy in closing the treatment gap. However, few studies in India have examined medical practitioners’ mental health-related knowledge and attitudes. This study examined these facets of service provision amongst doctors providing primary health care in a rural area of Karnataka is Southern India.
A mental health knowledge and attitudes questionnaire was self- administered by participants. The questionnaire consisted of four sections; 1) basic demographics and practice information, 2) training in mental health, 3) knowledge of mental health, and self-perceived competence in providing mental health care, and 4) attitudes towards mental health. Data was analysed quantitatively, primarily using descriptive statistics.
This study recruited 46 participants. The majority of participants (69.6%) felt competent in providing mental health services to their patients. However, there was a substantial level of endorsement for several statements that reflected negative attitudes. Almost one third of participants (28.0%) had not received any training in providing mental health care. Whilst three-quarters of participants correctly identified depression (76.1%) and psychosis (76.1%) in a vignette, fewer were able to name three common signs and symptoms of depression (50.0%) and psychosis (28.3%).
Integrating mental health into primary health care requires evidence-based up-skilling programs. Doctors in this study desired such training and would benefit from it, with a focus on both depth of knowledge and uncovering stigmatising attitudes towards people with mental health problems.
The UK medical graduates of 2008 and 2009 were among the first to experience a fully implemented, new, UK training programme, called the Foundation Training Programme, for junior doctors. We report doctors’ views of the first Foundation year, based on comments made as part of a questionnaire survey covering career choices, plans, and experiences.
Postal and email based questionnaires about career intentions, destinations and views were sent in 2009 and 2010 to all UK medical graduates of 2008 and 2009. This paper is a qualitative study of ‘free-text’ comments made by first-year doctors when invited to comment, if they wished, on any aspect of their work, education, training, and future.
The response rate to the surveys was 48% (6220/12952); and 1616 doctors volunteered comments. Of these, 61% wrote about their first year of training, 35% about the working conditions they had experienced, 33% about how well their medical school had prepared them for work, 29% about their future career, 25% about support from peers and colleagues, 22% about working in medicine, and 15% about lifestyle issues. When concerns were expressed, they were commonly about the balance between service provision, administrative work, and training and education, with the latter often suffering when it conflicted with the needs of medical service provision. They also wrote that the quality of a training post often depended on the commitment of an individual senior doctor. Service support from seniors was variable and some respondents complained of a lack of team work and team ethic. Excessive hours and the lack of time for reflection and career planning before choices about the future had to be made were also mentioned. Some doctors wrote that their views were not sought by their hospital and that NHS management structures did not lend themselves to efficiency. UK graduates from non-UK homes felt insecure about their future career prospects in the UK. There were positive comments about opportunities to train flexibly.
Although reported problems should be considered in the wider context, in which the majority held favourable overall views, many who commented had been disappointed by aspects of their first year of work. We hope that the concerns raised by our respondents will prompt trainers, locally, to determine, by interaction with junior staff, whether or not these are concerns in their own training programme.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12909-014-0270-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Medical careers; Junior doctors; Medical education; Foundation training
To investigate how accurately doctors estimated their performance on the General Medical Council's Tests of Competence pilot examinations.
A cross-sectional survey design using a questionnaire method.
University College London Medical School.
524 medical doctors working in a range of clinical specialties between foundation year two and consultant level.
Main outcome measures
Estimated and actual total scores on a knowledge test and Observed Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).
The pattern of results for OSCE performance differed from the results for knowledge test performance. The majority of doctors significantly underestimated their OSCE performance. Whereas estimated knowledge test performance differed between high and low performers. Those who did particularly well significantly underestimated their knowledge test performance (t (196)=−7.70, p<0.01) and those who did less well significantly overestimated (t (172)=6.09, p<0.01). There were also significant differences between estimated and/or actual performance by gender, ethnicity and region of Primary Medical Qualification.
Doctors were more accurate in predicating their knowledge test performance than their OSCE performance. The association between estimated and actual knowledge test performance supports the established differences between high and low performers described in the behavioural sciences literature. This was not the case for the OSCE. The implications of the results to the revalidation process are discussed.
Education & Training (see Medical Education & Training); Medical Education & Training; Statistics & Research Methods
Motivation and retention of health workers, particularly in rural areas, is a question of considerable interest to policy-makers internationally. Many countries, including Vietnam, are debating the right mix of interventions to motivate doctors in particular to work in remote areas. The objective of this study was to understand the dynamics of the health labour market in Vietnam, and what might encourage doctors to accept posts and remain in-post in rural areas.
This study forms part of a labour market survey which was conducted in Vietnam in November 2009 to February 2010. The study had three stages. This article describes the findings of the first stage - the qualitative research and literature review, which fed into the design of a structured survey (second stage) and contingent valuation (third stage). For the qualitative research, three tools were used - key informant interviews at national and provincial level (6 respondents); in-depth interviews of doctors at district and commune levels (11 respondents); and focus group discussions with medical students (15 participants).
The study reports on the perception of the problem by national level stakeholders; the motivation for joining the profession by doctors; their views on the different factors affecting their willingness to work in rural areas (including different income streams, working conditions, workload, equipment, support and supervision, relationships with colleagues, career development, training, and living conditions). It presents findings on their overall satisfaction, their ranking of different attributes, and willingness to accept different kinds of work. Finally, it discusses recent and possible policy interventions to address the distribution problem.
Four typical 'directions of travel' are identified for Vietnamese doctors - from lower to higher levels of the system, from rural to urban areas, from preventive to curative health and from public to private practice. Substantial differences in income from formal and informal sources all reinforce these preferences. While non-financial attributes are also important for Vietnamese doctors, the scale of the difference of opportunities presents a considerable policy challenge. Significant salary increases for doctors in hard-to-staff areas are likely to have some impact. However, addressing the differentials is likely to require broader market reforms and regulatory measures.
Doctors have a relatively high degree of emotional distress, but seek help to a lesser degree and at a later stage than other academic groups. This can be deleterious for themselves and for their patients. Prevention programs have therefore been developed but it is unclear to what extent they reach doctors in need of help. This study describes doctors who participated in a self-referrral, easily accessible, stress relieving, counselling program in Norway, and compares them with a nationwide sample of Norwegian doctors.
Two hundred and twenty seven (94%) of the doctors, 117 women and 110 men, who came to the resort centre Villa Sana, Modum, Norway, between August 2003 and July 2005, agreed to participate in the study. Socio-demographic data, reasons for and ways of help-seeking, sick-leave, symptoms of depression and anxiety, job stress and burnout were assessed by self-reporting questionnaires.
Forty-nine percent of the Sana doctors were emotionally exhausted (Maslach) compared with 25% of all Norwegian doctors. However, they did not differ on empathy and working capacity, the other two dimensions in Maslach's burnout inventory. Seventy-three percent of the Sana doctors could be in need of treatment for depression or anxiety based on their symptom distress scores, compared with 14% of men and 18% of women doctors in Norway. Twenty-one percent of the Sana doctors had a history of suicidal thoughts, including how to commit the act, as compared to 10% of Norwegian doctors in general.
Sana doctors displayed a higher degree of emotional exhaustion, symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as job related stress, compared with all Norwegian doctors. This may indicate that the program at Villa Sana to a large extent reaches doctors in need of help. The counselling intervention can help doctors to evaluate their professional and private situation, and, when necessary, enhance motivation for seeking adequate treatment.
In 1998 the Swedish noncommercial public health service Infomedica opened an Ask the Doctor service on its Internet portal. At no charge, anyone with Internet access can use this service to ask questions about personal health-related and disease-related matters.
To study why individuals choose to consult previously-unknown doctors on the Internet.
Between November 1, 2001, and January 31, 2002 a Web survey of the 3622 Ask the Doctor service users, 1036 men (29%) and 2586 (71%) women, was conducted. We excluded 186 queries from users. The results are based on quantitative and qualitative analysis of the answers to the question "Why did you choose to ask a question at Infomedica's 'Ask the Doctor' service?"
1223 surveys were completed (response rate 34%). Of the participants in the survey 322 (26%) were male and 901 (74%) female. As major reasons for choosing to consult previously-unknown doctors on the Internet participants indicated: convenience (52%), anonymity (36%), "doctors too busy" (21%), difficult to find time to visit a doctor (16%), difficulty to get an appointment (13%), feeling uncomfortable when seeing a doctor (9%), and not being able to afford a doctors' visit (3%). Further motives elicited through a qualitative analysis of free-text answers were: seeking a second opinion, discontent with previous doctors and a wish for a primary evaluation of a medical problem, asking embarrassing or sensitive questions, seeking information on behalf of relatives, preferring written communication, and (from responses by expatriates, travelers, and others) living far away from regular health care.
We found that an Internet based Ask the Doctor service is primarily consulted because it is convenient, but it may also be of value for individuals with needs that regular health care services have not been able to meet.
Internet; remote consultation; physician-patient relations; access to information; information services; anonyms and pseudonyms
To study how doctors care for their patients, both medically and as fellow humans, through observing their conduct in patient–doctor encounters.
Qualitative study in which 101 videotaped consultations were observed and analysed using a Grounded Theory approach, generating explanatory categories through a hermeneutical analysis of the taped consultations.
A 500-bed general teaching hospital in Norway.
71 doctors working in clinical non-psychiatric departments and their patients.
The doctors were concerned about their patients' health and how their medical knowledge could be of service. This medical focus often over-rode other important aspects of the consultations, especially existential elements. The doctors actively directed the focus away from their patients' existential concerns onto medical facts and rarely addressed the personal aspects of a patient's condition, treating them in a biomechanical manner. At the same time, however, the doctors attended to their patients with courteousness, displaying a polite and friendly attitude and emphasising the relationship between them.
The study suggests that the main failing of patient–doctor encounters is not a lack of courteous manners, but the moral offence patients experience when existential concerns are ignored. Improving doctors' social and communication skills cannot resolve this moral problem, which appears to be intrinsically bound to modern medical practice. Acknowledging this moral offence would, however, be the first step towards minimising the effects thereof.
Applied and professional ethics; philosophy of medicine; professional—professional relationship
Although having a regular primary care provider is noted to be beneficial to health, doctor shopping has been documented as a common treatment seeking behavior among chronically ill patients in different countries. However, little research has been conducted into the reasons behind doctor shopping behavior among patients with overactive bladder, and even less into how this behavior relates to these patients’ illness and social experiences, perceptions, and cultural practices. Therefore, this study examines overactive bladder patients to investigate the reasons behind doctor shopping behavior.
My study takes a qualitative approach, conducting 30 semi-structured individual interviews, with 30 overactive bladder patients in Hong Kong.
My study found six primary themes that influenced doctor shopping behavior: lack of perceived need, convenience, work-provided medical insurance, unpleasant experiences with doctors, searching for a match doctor, and switching between biomedicine and traditional Chinese medicine. Besides the perceptual factors, participants’ social environment, illness experiences, personal cultural preference, and cultural beliefs also intertwined to generate their doctor shopping behavior. Due to the low perceived need for a regular personal primary care physician, environmental factors such as time, locational convenience, and work-provided medical insurance became decisive in doctor shopping behavior. Patients’ unpleasant illness experiences, stemming from a lack of understanding among many primary care doctors about overactive bladder, contributed to participants’ sense of mismatch with these doctors, which induced them to shop for another doctor.
Overactive bladder is a chronic bladder condition with very limited treatment outcome. Although patients with overactive bladder often require specialty urology treatment, it is usually beneficial for the patients to receive continuous, coordinated, comprehensive, and patient-centered support from their primary care providers. Primary care doctors’ understanding on patients with overactive bladder with empathetic attitudes is important to reduce the motivations of doctor shopping behavior among these patients.
Hong Kong; Doctor shopping; Perceptions; Social environment; Illness and treatment experiences; Personal cultural preference; Cultural beliefs; Overactive bladder patients
To develop a more in-depth understanding of how doctors do and do not access mental healthcare from the perspectives of doctors themselves and people they have contact with through the process.
Qualitative methodology was used with semistructured interviews transcribed and analysed using Grounded Theory. Participants were 11 doctors with experience as patients of psychiatrists, four doctor and four non-doctor personal contacts (friends, family and colleagues) and eight treating psychiatrists.
Participants described experiencing unrealistic expectations and a harsh work environment with poor self care and denial and minimisation of signs of mental health difficulties. Doctor contacts described particular difficulty in responding effectively to doctor friends, family and colleagues in need of mental healthcare. In contrast, non-doctor personal contacts were more able to identify and speak about concerns but not necessarily to enable accessing adequate mental-health services.
Three areas with potential to address in supporting doctors' accessing of appropriate healthcare have been identified: (1) processes to enable doctors to maintain high standards of functioning with less use of minimisation and denial; (2) improving the quality and effectiveness of informal doctor-to-doctor conversations about mental-health issues among themselves; (3) role of non-doctor support people in identifying doctors' mental-health needs and enabling their access to mental healthcare. Further research in all these areas has the potential to contribute to improving doctors' access to appropriate mental healthcare and may be of value for the general population.
Doctors' accessment of adequate mental healthcare is less than optimal.
Family and community contacts have an important role in accessing mental healthcare.
Our understanding of the processes related to doctors accessing mental healthcare can be improved by exploring perspectives of doctor patients, their support people and treating psychiatrists.
Doctors' unrealistic expectations of themselves and associated minimisation and denial of a range of self care needs may function as a barrier to accessing mental healthcare.
Addressing how doctors respond to other doctors in informal conversations indicating mental healthcare needs may be helpful in improving access to care.
Non-doctor support people may have a valuable role in enabling doctors to access appropriate mental healthcare.
All these areas need further research.
Strengths and limitations of this study
This is the first study of its kind and generates new insights in an important area.
Because of challenges in recruiting doctors with experience as patients of psychiatrists, a hard-to-reach group, the sample is small and not broadly representative.
Child & adolescent psychiatry; adult psychiatry; physicians' health; accessing healthcare; impaired physician; mental health
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.
A lesbian woman will have to choose whether to disclose or not in every new encounter, including when consulting her general practitioner (GP). She may fear a negative reaction in the doctor, based on knowledge of marginalization and prejudice of homosexuals throughout history.
To explore patients’ experiences concerning disclosure of their lesbian orientation to general practitioners (GPs), focusing on why they find it important, and what GPs can do to promote disclosure.
One group interview was conducted, audiotaped, and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative analysis was conducted by systematic text condensation inspired by Giorgi's phenomenological approach. Six women aged 28–59 years, who self-identified as lesbian, were recruited through a web-based, publicly accessible network for research on homosexuality.
Main outcome measures
Accounts of experiences where the patient thought that information of a lesbian sexual orientation was of importance in the consultation with a GP.
Disclosure can imply information of medical relevance, explain circumstances, and generate a feeling of being seen as one's true self. The intentional use of common consultation techniques may facilitate disclosure.
Lesbian patients may want to disclose their sexual orientation to the general practitioner but they experience certain barriers. These can be overcome when the GP provides an open and permissive context. GPs can benefit from knowledge concerning sexual orientation in their work with lesbian patients.
Communication; family practice; female; homosexuality; truth disclosure
Prompt and appropriate treatment of malaria with effective medicines remains necessary if malaria control goals are to be achieved. The theoretical concepts from self-care and the health belief model were used to examine the motivations for malaria self-care among the adult population.
A qualitative study was conducted through eight focus group discussions with adult community members to explore their general opinions, views and perceptions of malaria and of its treatments. These groups were followed by 15 in-depth interviews of participants with a recent malaria experience to allow for an in-depth exploration of their self-care practices. The analysis followed principles of grounded theory and was conducted using Nvivo 9 qualitative data management software.
The self-treatment of malaria at home was found to be a common practice among the study participants. The majority of the participants practiced self-medication with a painkiller as an initial response. The persistence and the worsening of the disease symptoms prompted participants to consider other self-care options. Perceptions that many malaria symptoms are suggestive of other conditions motivated participants to self-refer for malaria test. The accessibility of private laboratory facilities and drug shops motivated their use for malaria tests and for obtaining anti-malarial medicines, respectively. Self-treatment with anti-malarial monotherapy was common, motivated by their perceived effectiveness and availability. The perceived barriers to using the recommended combination treatment, artemether-lumefantrine, were related to the possible side-effects and to uncertainty about their effectiveness, and these doubts motivated some participants to consider self-medication with local herbs. Several factors were mentioned as motivating people for self-care practices. These included poor patient provider relationship, unavailability of medicine and the costs associated with accessing treatments from the health facilities.
Malaria self-care and self-treatment with anti-malarial monotherapy are common among adults, and are motivated by both individual characteristics and the limitations of the existing health care facilities. There is a need for public health interventions to take into account community perceptions and cultural schemas on malaria self-care practices.
Malaria; Self-care; Adults; Qualitative methods; Self-medication; Tanzania
To investigate factors which influenced UK-trained doctors to emigrate to New Zealand and factors which might encourage them to return.
Cross-sectional postal and Internet questionnaire survey.
Participants in New Zealand; investigators in UK.
UK-trained doctors from 10 graduation-year cohorts who were registered with the New Zealand Medical Council in 2009.
Main outcome measures
Reasons for emigration; job satisfaction; satisfaction with leisure time; intentions to stay in New Zealand; changes to the UK NHS which might increase the likelihood of return.
Of 38,821 UK-trained doctors in the cohorts, 535 (1.4%) were registered to practise in New Zealand. We traced 419, of whom 282 (67%) replied to our questionnaire. Only 30% had originally intended to emigrate permanently, but 89% now intended to stay. Sixty-nine percent had moved to take up a medical job. Seventy percent gave additional reasons for relocating to New Zealand including better lifestyle, to be with family, travel/working holiday, or disillusionment with the NHS. Respondents' mean job satisfaction score was 8.1 (95% CI 7.9–8.2) on a scale from 1 (lowest satisfaction) to 10 (highest), compared with 7.1 (7.1–7.2) for contemporaries in the UK NHS. Scored similarly, mean satisfaction with the time available for leisure was 7.8 (7.6–8.0) for the doctors in New Zealand, compared with 5.7 (5.6–5.7) for the NHS doctors. Although few respondents wanted to return to the UK, some stated that the likelihood of doctors' returning would be increased by changes to NHS working conditions and by administrative changes to ease the process.
Emigrant doctors in New Zealand had higher job satisfaction than their UK-based contemporaries, and few wanted to return. The predominant reason for staying in New Zealand was a preference for the lifestyle there.
The General Medical Council expects UK medical graduates to gain some statistical knowledge during their undergraduate education; but provides no specific guidance as to amount, content or teaching method. Published work on statistics teaching for medical undergraduates has been dominated by medical statisticians, with little input from the doctors who will actually be using this knowledge and these skills after graduation. Furthermore, doctor's statistical training needs may have changed due to advances in information technology and the increasing importance of evidence-based medicine. Thus there exists a need to investigate the views of practising medical doctors as to the statistical training required for undergraduate medical students, based on their own use of these skills in daily practice.
A questionnaire was designed to investigate doctors' views about undergraduate training in statistics and the need for these skills in daily practice, with a view to informing future teaching. The questionnaire was emailed to all clinicians with a link to the University of East Anglia Medical School. Open ended questions were included to elicit doctors' opinions about both their own undergraduate training in statistics and recommendations for the training of current medical students. Content analysis was performed by two of the authors to systematically categorise and describe all the responses provided by participants.
130 doctors responded, including both hospital consultants and general practitioners. The findings indicated that most had not recognised the value of their undergraduate teaching in statistics and probability at the time, but had subsequently found the skills relevant to their career. Suggestions for improving undergraduate teaching in these areas included referring to actual research and ensuring relevance to, and integration with, clinical practice.
Grounding the teaching of statistics in the context of real research studies and including examples of typical clinical work may better prepare medical students for their subsequent career.
In the United Kingdom, specialist treatment and intervention services for doctors are underdeveloped. The MedNet programme, created in 1997 and funded by the London Deanery, aims to fill this gap by providing a self-referral, face-to-face, psychotherapeutic assessment service for doctors in London and South-East England. MedNet was designed to be a low-threshold service, targeting doctors without formal psychiatric problems. The aim of this study was to delineate the characteristics of doctors utilising the service, to describe their psychological morbidity, and to determine if early intervention is achieved.
A cross-sectional study including all consecutive self-referred doctors (n = 121, 50% male) presenting in 2002–2004 was conducted. Measures included standardised and bespoke questionnaires both self-report and clinician completed. The multi-dimensional evaluation included: demographics, CORE (CORE-OM, CORE-Workplace and CORE-A) an instrument designed to evaluate the psychological difficulties of patients referred to outpatient services, Brief Symptom Inventory to quantify caseness and formal psychiatric illness, and Maslach Burnout Inventory.
The most prevalent presenting problems included depression, anxiety, interpersonal, self-esteem and work-related issues. However, only 9% of the cohort were identified as severely distressed psychiatrically using this measure. In approximately 50% of the sample, problems first presented in the preceding year. About 25% were on sick leave at the time of consultation, while 50% took little or no leave in the prior 12 months. A total of 42% were considered to be at some risk of suicide, with more than 25% considered to have a moderate to severe risk. There were no significant gender differences in type of morbidity, severity or days off sick.
Doctors displayed high levels of distress as reflected in the significant proportion of those who were at some risk of suicide; however, low rates of severe psychiatric illness were detected. These findings suggest that MedNet clients represent both ends of the spectrum of severity, enabling early clinical engagement for a significant proportion of cases that is of importance both in terms of personal health and protecting patient care, and providing a timely intervention for those who are at risk, a group for whom rapid intervention services are in need and an area that requires further investigation in the UK.
To describe the obstacles encountered when attempting to answer doctors' questions with evidence.
General practices in Iowa.
9 academic generalist doctors, 14 family doctors, and 2 medical librarians.
Main outcome measure
A taxonomy of obstacles encountered while searching for evidence based answers to doctors' questions.
59 obstacles were encountered and organised according to the five steps in asking and answering questions: recognise a gap in knowledge, formulate a question, search for relevant information, formulate an answer, and use the answer to direct patient care. Six obstacles were considered particularly salient by the investigators and practising doctors: the excessive time required to find information; difficulty modifying the original question, which was often vague and open to interpretation; difficulty selecting an optimal strategy to search for information; failure of a seemingly appropriate resource to cover the topic; uncertainty about how to know when all the relevant evidence has been found so that the search can stop; and inadequate synthesis of multiple bits of evidence into a clinically useful statement.
Many obstacles are encountered when asking and answering questions about how to care for patients. Addressing these obstacles could lead to better patient care by improving clinically oriented information resources.
What is already known on this topicDoctors are encouraged to search for evidence based answers to their questions about patient care but most go unansweredStudies have not defined the obstacles to answering questions in a systematic mannerA comprehensive description of such obstacles has not been presentedWhat this study addsFifty nine obstacles were found while attempting to answer clinical questions with evidence; six were particularly salientThe obstacles were comprehensively described and organised
Low back pain is a prevalent and debilitating condition that affects the health and quality of life of older adults. Older people often consult primary care physicians about back pain, with many also receiving concurrent care from complementary and alternative medicine providers, most commonly doctors of chiropractic. However, a collaborative model of treatment coordination between these two provider groups has yet to be tested. The primary aim of the Collaborative Care for Older Adults Clinical Trial is to develop and evaluate the clinical effectiveness and feasibility of a patient-centered, collaborative care model with family medicine physicians and doctors of chiropractic for the treatment of low back pain in older adults.
This pragmatic, pilot randomized controlled trial will enroll 120 participants, age 65 years or older with subacute or chronic low back pain lasting at least one month, from a community-based sample in the Quad-Cities, Iowa/Illinois, USA. Eligible participants are allocated in a 1:1:1 ratio to receive 12 weeks of medical care, concurrent medical and chiropractic care, or collaborative medical and chiropractic care. Primary outcomes are self-rated back pain and disability. Secondary outcomes include general and functional health status, symptom bothersomeness, expectations for treatment effectiveness and improvement, fear avoidance behaviors, depression, anxiety, satisfaction, medication use and health care utilization. Treatment safety and adverse events also are monitored. Participant-rated outcome measures are collected via self-reported questionnaires and computer-assisted telephone interviews at baseline, and at 4, 8, 12, 24, 36 and 52 weeks post-randomization. Provider-rated expectations for treatment effectiveness and participant improvement also are evaluated. Process outcomes are assessed through qualitative interviews with study participants and research clinicians, chart audits of progress notes and content analysis of clinical trial notes.
This pragmatic, pilot randomized controlled trial uses a mixed method approach to evaluate the clinical effectiveness, feasibility, and participant and provider perceptions of collaborative care between medical doctors and doctors of chiropractic in the treatment of older adults with low back pain.
This trial registered in ClinicalTrials.gov on 04 March 2011 with the ID number of NCT01312233.
Aged; Chiropractic; Education; Professional; Electronic health records; Family practice; Integrative medicine; Interprofessional relations; Low back pain; Therapy
Ongoing doctor-patient relationships are integral to the patient-centred ideals of UK general practice, particularly for patients with chronic conditions or complex health problems. ‘Holding’, a doctor-patient relationship defined as establishing and maintaining a trusting, constant, reliable relationship that is concerned with ongoing support without expectation of cure, has previously been suggested as a management strategy for such patients.
To explore urban GPs' and patients' experiences of the management of chronic illness, with a particular focus on holding relationships.
Design and setting
A qualitative study in urban and suburban areas of north west England.
Participating GPs recruited registered patients with chronic illness with whom they felt they had established a holding relationship. Data were collected by semi-structured interviews and subjected to constant comparative qualitative analysis.
GP responders considered holding to be a small but routine part of theirwork. Benefits described included providing support to patients but also containing demands on secondary care. Patient responders, all with complex ongoing needs, described the relationship with their GP as a reassuring, positive, and securing partnership. Both GP and patient responders emphasised the importance of pre-existing knowledge of past life-story, and valued holding as a potential tool for changing health-related behaviour. Difficulties with holding work included fears of dependency, and problems of access.
Holding relationships are a routine part of general practice, valued by both GPs and patients. Naming and valuing holding work may legitimise this activity in the management of people with chronic and complex health problems.
chronic illness; doctor-patient relations; continuity of care; qualitative research
While older adults may seek care for low back pain (LBP) from both medical doctors (MDs) and doctors of chiropractic (DCs), co-management between these providers is uncommon. The purposes of this study were to describe the preferences of older adults for LBP co-management by MDs and DCs and to identify their concerns for receiving care under such a treatment model.
We conducted 10 focus groups with 48 older adults who received LBP care in the past year. Interviews explored participants’ care seeking experiences, co-management preferences, and perceived challenges to successful implementation of a MD-DC co-management model. We analyzed the qualitative data using thematic content analysis.
Older adults considered LBP co-management by MDs and DCs a positive approach as the professions have complementary strengths. Participants wanted providers who worked in a co-management model to talk openly and honestly about LBP, offer clear and consistent recommendations about treatment, and provide individualized care. Facilitators of MD-DC co-management included collegial relationships between providers, arrangements between doctors to support interdisciplinary referral, computer systems that allowed exchange of health information between clinics, and practice settings where providers worked in one location. Perceived barriers to the co-management of LBP included the financial costs associated with receiving care from multiple providers concurrently, duplication of tests or imaging, scheduling and transportation problems, and potential side effects of medication and chiropractic care. A few participants expressed concern that some providers would not support a patient-preferred co-managed care model.
Older adults are interested in receiving LBP treatment co-managed by MDs and DCs. Older adults considered patient-centered communication, collegial interdisciplinary interactions between these providers, and administrative supports such as scheduling systems and health record sharing as key components for successful LBP co-management.
Older adults; Low back pain; Health services for the aged; Interprofessional relations; Chiropractic; Family medicine; Musculoskeletal disorders; Complementary/alternative medicine; Patient preferences; Qualitative research
The importance of professional behaviour has been emphasized in medical school curricula. However, the lack of consensus on what constitutes professionalism poses a challenge to medical educators, who often resort to a negative model of assessment based on the identification of unacceptable behaviour. This paper presents results from a study exploring medical students’ views on professionalism, and reports on students’ constructs of the ‘good’ and the ‘professional’ doctor.
Data for this qualitative study were collected through focus groups conducted with medical students from one Western Australian university over a period of four years. Students were recruited through unit coordinators and invited to participate in a focus group. De-identified socio-demographic data were obtained through a brief questionnaire. Focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed and subjected to inductive thematic analysis.
A total of 49 medical students took part in 13 focus groups. Differences between students’ understandings of the ‘good’ and ‘professional’ doctor were observed. Being competent, a good communicator and a good teacher were the main characteristics of the ‘good’ doctor. Professionalism was strongly associated with the adoption of a professional persona; following a code of practice and professional guidelines, and treating others with respect were also associated with the ‘professional’ doctor.
Students felt more connected to the notion of the ‘good’ doctor, and perceived professionalism as an external and imposed construct. When both constructs were seen as acting in opposition, students tended to forgo professionalism in favour of becoming a ‘good’ doctor.
Results suggest that the teaching of professionalism should incorporate more formal reflection on the complexities of medical practice, allowing students and educators to openly explore and articulate any perceived tensions between what is formally taught and what is being observed in clinical practice.
Professionalism; Medical students’ views; Good doctor; Qualitative study
Doctor-patient communication has been influenced over time by factors such as the rise of evidence-based medicine and a growing emphasis on patient-centred care. Despite disputes in the literature on the tension between evidence-based medicine and patient-centered medicine, patients’ views on what constitutes high quality of doctor-patient communication are seldom an explicit topic for research. The aim of this study is to examine whether analogue patients (lay people judging videotaped consultations) perceive shifts in the quality of doctor-patient communication over a twenty-year period.
Analogue patients (N = 108) assessed 189 videotaped general practice consultations from two periods (1982–1984 and 2000–2001). They provided ratings on three dimensions (scale 1–10) and gave written feedback. With a mixed-methods research design, we examined these assessments quantitatively (in relation to observed communication coded with RIAS) and qualitatively.
1) The quantitative analyses showed that biomedical communication and rapport building were positively associated with the quality assessments of videotaped consultations from the first period, but not from the second. Psychosocial communication and personal remarks were related to positive quality assessments of both periods; 2) the qualitative analyses showed that in both periods, participants provided the same balance between positive and negative comments. Listening, giving support, and showing respect were considered equally important in both periods. We identified shifts in the participants’ observations on how GPs explained things to the patient, the division of roles and responsibilities, and the emphasis on problem-focused communication (first period) versus solution-focused communication (last period).
Analogue patients recognize shifts in the quality of doctor-patient communication from two different periods, including a shift from problem-focused communication to solution-focused communication, and they value an egalitarian doctor-patient relationship. The two research methods were complementary; based on the quantitative analyses we found shifts in communication, which we confirmed and specified in our qualitative analyses.
Quality of care; Doctor-patient communication; Analogue patients; General practice; Video observation; Mixed-methods design
Objective—To assess the responses of UK doctors to the General Medical Council's (GMC) Good Medical Practice and the Duties of a Doctor, and to the GMC's performance procedures for which they provide the professional underpinning.
Design—Questionnaire study of a representative sample of UK doctors.
Subjects—794 UK doctors, stratified by year of qualification, sex, place of qualification (UK v non-UK), and type of practice (hospital v general practice) of whom 591/759 (78%) replied to the questionnaire (35 undelivered).
Main outcome measures—A specially written questionnaire asking about awareness of Good Medical Practice, agreement with Duties of a Doctor, amount heard about the performance procedures, changes in own practice, awareness of cases perhaps requiring performance procedures, and attitudes to the performance procedures. Background measures of stress (General Health Questionnaire, GHQ-12), burnout, responses to uncertainty, and social desirability.
Results—Most doctors were aware of Good Medical Practice, had heard the performance procedures being discussed or had received information about them, and agreed with the stated duties of a doctor, although some items to do with doctor-patient communication and attitudes were more controversial. Nearly half of the doctors had made or were contemplating some change in their practice because of the performance procedures; a third of doctors had come across a case in the previous two years in their own professional practice that they thought might merit the performance procedures. Attitudes towards the performance procedures were variable. On the positive side, 60% or more of doctors saw them as reassuring the general public, making it necessary for doctors to report deficient performance in their colleagues, did not think they would impair morale, were not principally window dressing, and were not only appropriate for problems of technical competence. On the negative side, 60% or more of doctors thought the performance procedures were not well understood by most doctors, were a reason for more defensive practice, and could not be used for problems of attitude. Few differences were found among older and younger doctors, hospital doctors, or general practitioners, or UK and non-UK graduates, although some differences were present.
Conclusions—Most doctors working in the UK are aware of Good Medical Practice and the performance procedures, and are in broad sympathy with Duties of a Doctor. Many attitudes expressed by doctors are not positive, however, and provide areas where the GMC in particular may wish to encourage further discussion and awareness. The present results provide a good baseline for assessing change as the performance procedures become active and cases come before the GMC over the next few years.
(Quality in Health Care 2000;9:14–22)
Key Words: performance procedures; good medical practice; duties; attitudes; knowledge
As health care systems around the world shift toward models that emphasize self-care management, there is increasing pressure for patients to obtain health information online. It is critical that patients are able to identify potential problems with using the Internet to diagnose and treat a health issue and that they feel comfortable communicating with their doctor about the health information they acquire from the Internet.
Our aim was to examine patient-identified (1) problems with using the Internet to identify and treat a health issue, (2) barriers to communication with a doctor about online health information seeking, and (3) facilitators of communication with a doctor about patient searches for health information on the Internet.
For this qualitative exploratory study, semistructured interviews were conducted with a sample of 56 adults age 50 years old and over. General concerns regarding use of the Internet to diagnose and treat a health issue were examined separately for participants based on whether they had ever discussed health information obtained through the Internet with a doctor. Discussions about barriers to and facilitators of communication about patient searches for health information on the Internet with a doctor were analyzed using thematic analysis.
Six higher-level general concerns emerged: (1) limitations in own ability, (2) credibility/limitations of online information, (3) anxiety, (4) time consumption, (5) conflict, and (6) non-physical harm. The most prevalent concern raised by participants who communicated with a doctor about their online health information seeking related to the credibility or limitations in online information. Participants who had never communicated with a doctor about their online health information seeking most commonly reported concerns about non-physical harm. Four barriers to communication emerged: (1) concerns about embarrassment, (2) concerns that the doctor doesn’t want to hear about it, (3) belief that there is no need to bring it up, and (4) forgetting to bring it up. Facilitators of communication included: (1) having a family member present at doctor visits, (2) doctor-initiated inquiries, and (3) encountering an advertisement that suggested talking with a doctor.
Overall, participants displayed awareness of potential problems related to online health information seeking. Findings from this study point to a set of barriers as well as facilitators of communication about online health information seeking between patients and doctors. This study highlights the need for enhanced patient communication skills, eHealth literacy assessments that are accompanied by targeted resources pointing individuals to high-quality credible online health information, and the need to remind patients of the importance of consulting a medical professional when they use online health resources to diagnose and treat a health issue.
health communication; Internet; online health information seeking; barriers to patient-doctor communication; adults 50 years old and over; qualitative research