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1.  The strength of primary care in Europe: an international comparative study 
The British Journal of General Practice  2013;63(616):e742-e750.
A suitable definition of primary care to capture the variety of prevailing international organisation and service-delivery models is lacking.
Evaluation of strength of primary care in Europe.
Design and setting
International comparative cross-sectional study performed in 2009–2010, involving 27 EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey.
Outcome measures covered three dimensions of primary care structure: primary care governance, economic conditions of primary care, and primary care workforce development; and four dimensions of primary care service-delivery process: accessibility, comprehensiveness, continuity, and coordination of primary care. The primary care dimensions were operationalised by a total of 77 indicators for which data were collected in 31 countries. Data sources included national and international literature, governmental publications, statistical databases, and experts’ consultations.
Countries with relatively strong primary care are Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and the UK. Countries either have many primary care policies and regulations in place, combined with good financial coverage and resources, and adequate primary care workforce conditions, or have consistently only few of these primary care structures in place. There is no correlation between the access, continuity, coordination, and comprehensiveness of primary care of countries.
Variation is shown in the strength of primary care across Europe, indicating a discrepancy in the responsibility given to primary care in national and international policy initiatives and the needed investments in primary care to solve, for example, future shortages of workforce. Countries are consistent in their primary care focus on all important structure dimensions. Countries need to improve their primary care information infrastructure to facilitate primary care performance management.
PMCID: PMC3809427  PMID: 24267857
benchmarking, Europe; delivery of health care; general practice; primary health care
2.  High referral rates to secondary care by general practitioners in Norway are associated with GPs’ gender and specialist qualifications in family medicine, a study of 4350 consultations 
Referral rates of general practitioners (GPs) are an important determinant of secondary care utilization. The variation in these rates across GPs is considerable, and cannot be explained by patient morbidity alone. The main objective of this study was to assess the GPs’ referral rate to secondary care in Norway, any associations between the referral decision and patient, GP, health care characteristics and who initiated the referring issue in the consultation.
The probabilities of referral to secondary care and/or radiological examination were examined in 100 consecutive consultations of 44 randomly chosen Norwegian GPs. The GPs recorded whether the issue of referral was introduced, who introduced it and if the patient was referred. Multilevel and naive multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed to explore associations between the probability of referral and patient, GP and health care characteristics.
Of the 4350 consultations included, 13.7% (GP range 4.0%-28.0%) of patients were referred to secondary somatic and psychiatric care. Female GPs referred significantly more frequently than male GPs (16.0% versus 12.6%, adjusted odds ratio, AOR, 1.25), specialists in family medicine less frequently than their counterparts (12.5% versus 14.9%, AOR 0.76) and salaried GPs more frequently than private practitioners (16.2% versus 12.1%, AOR 1.36).
In 4.2% (GP range 0%-12.9%) of the consultations, patients were referred to radiological examination. Specialists in family medicine, salaried GPs and GPs with a Norwegian medical degree referred significantly more frequently to radiological examination than their counterparts (AOR 1.93, 2.00 and 1.73, respectively).
The issue of referral was introduced in 23% of the consultations, and in 70.6% of these cases by the GP. The high referrers introduced the referral issue significantly more frequently and also referred a significantly larger proportion when the issue was introduced.
The main finding of the present study was a high overall referral rate, and a striking range among the GPs. Male GPs and specialists in family medicine referred significantly less frequently to secondary care, but the latter referred more frequently to radiological examination. Our findings indicate that intervention on high referrers is a potential area for quality improvement, and there is a need to explore the referral decision process itself.
PMCID: PMC3640906  PMID: 23617296
3.  Is a high level of general practitioner consultations associated with low outpatients specialist clinic use? A cross-sectional study 
BMJ Open  2013;3(1):e002041.
To examine if increased general practice activity is associated with lower outpatient specialist clinic use.
Cross-sectional population based study.
All 430 Norwegian municipalities in 2009.
All Norwegians aged ≥65 years (n=721 915; 56% women—15% of the total population).
Main outcome measure
Specialised care outpatient clinic consultations per 1000 inhabitants (OPC rate). Main explanatory: general practitioner (GP) consultations per 1000 inhabitants (GP rate).
In total, there were 3 339 031 GP consultations (57% women) and 1 757 864 OPC consultations (53% women). The national mean GP rate was 4625.2 GP consultations per 1000 inhabitants (SD 1234.3) and the national mean OPC rate was 2434.3 per 1000 inhabitants (SD 695.3). Crude analysis showed a statistically significant positive association between GP rates and OPC rates. In regression analyses, we identified three effect modifiers; age, mortality and the municipal composite variable of ‘hospital status’ (present/not present) and ‘population size’ (small, medium and large). We stratified manually by these effect modifiers into five strata. Crude stratified analyses showed a statistically significant positive association for three out of five strata. For the same three strata, those in the highest GP consultation rate quintile had higher mean OPC rates compared with those in the lowest quintile after adjustment for confounders (p<0.001). People aged ≥85 in small municipalities had approximately 30% lower specialist care use compared with their peers in larger municipalities, although the association between GP-rates and OPC-rates was still positive.
In a universal health insurance system with high GP-accessibility, a health policy focusing solely on a higher activity in terms of GP consultations will not likely decrease OPC use among elderly.
PMCID: PMC3553391  PMID: 23315519
Primary Care; Health Services Administration & Management; Public Health
4.  Does long-term care use within primary health care reduce hospital use among older people in Norway? A national five-year population-based observational study 
Population ageing may threaten the sustainability of future health care systems. Strengthening primary health care, including long-term care, is one of several measures being taken to handle future health care needs and budgets. There is limited and inconsistent evidence on the effect of long-term care on hospital use. We explored the relationship between the total use of long-term care within public primary health care in Norway and the use of hospital beds when adjusting for various effect modifiers and confounders.
This national population-based observational study consists of all Norwegians (59% women) older than 66 years (N = 605676) (13.2% of total population) in 2002-2006. The unit of analysis was defined by municipality, age and sex. The association between total number of recipients of long-term care per 1000 inhabitants (LTC-rate) and hospital days per 1000 inhabitants (HD-rate) was analysed in a linear regression model. Modifying and confounding effects of socioeconomic, demographic and geographic variables were included in the final model. We defined a difference in hospitalization rates of more than 1000 days per 1000 inhabitants as clinically important.
Thirty-one percent of women and eighteen percent of men were long-term care users. Men had higher HD-rates than women. The crude association between LTC-rate and HD-rate was weakly negative. We identified two effect modifiers (age and sex) and two strong confounders (travel time to hospital and mortality). Age and sex stratification and adjustments for confounders revealed a positive statistically significant but not clinically important relationship between LTC-rates and hospitalization for women aged 67-79 years and all men. For women 80 years and over there was a weak but negative relationship which was neither statistically significant nor clinically important.
We found a weak positive adjusted association between LTC-rates and HD-rates. Opposite to common belief, we found that increased volume of LTC by itself did not reduce pressure on hospitals. There still is a need to study integrated care models for the elderly in the Norwegian setting and to explore further why municipalities far away from hospital achieve lower use of hospital beds.
PMCID: PMC3224781  PMID: 22029775
5.  The european primary care monitor: structure, process and outcome indicators 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:81.
Scientific research has provided evidence on benefits of well developed primary care systems. The relevance of some of this research for the European situation is limited.
There is currently a lack of up to date comprehensive and comparable information on variation in development of primary care, and a lack of knowledge of structures and strategies conducive to strengthening primary care in Europe. The EC funded project Primary Health Care Activity Monitor for Europe (PHAMEU) aims to fill this gap by developing a Primary Care Monitoring System (PC Monitor) for application in 31 European countries. This article describes the development of the indicators of the PC Monitor, which will make it possible to create an alternative model for holistic analyses of primary care.
A systematic review of the primary care literature published between 2003 and July 2008 was carried out. This resulted in an overview of: (1) the dimensions of primary care and their relevance to outcomes at (primary) health system level; (2) essential features per dimension; (3) applied indicators to measure the features of primary care dimensions. The indicators were evaluated by the project team against criteria of relevance, precision, flexibility, and discriminating power. The resulting indicator set was evaluated on its suitability for Europe-wide comparison of primary care systems by a panel of primary care experts from various European countries (representing a variety of primary care systems).
The developed PC Monitor approaches primary care in Europe as a multidimensional concept. It describes the key dimensions of primary care systems at three levels: structure, process, and outcome level. On structure level, it includes indicators for governance, economic conditions, and workforce development. On process level, indicators describe access, comprehensiveness, continuity, and coordination of primary care services. On outcome level, indicators reflect the quality, and efficiency of primary care.
A standardized instrument for describing and comparing primary care systems has been developed based on scientific evidence and consensus among an international panel of experts, which will be tested to all configurations of primary care in Europe, intended for producing comparable information. Widespread use of the instrument has the potential to improve the understanding of primary care delivery in different national contexts and thus to create opportunities for better decision making.
PMCID: PMC2975652  PMID: 20979612
6.  Examination of final-year medical students in general practice 
With general practice recognized as one of three major subjects in the Tromsø medical school curriculum, a matching examination counterpart was needed. The aim was to develop and implement an examination in an authentic general practice setting for final-year medical students. In a general practice surgery, observed by two examiners and one fellow student, the student performs a consultation with a consenting patient who would otherwise have consulted his/her general practitioner (GP). An oral examination follows. It deals with the consultation process, the observed communication between “doctor” and patient, and with clinical problem-solving, taking today's patient as a starting point. The session is closed by discussion of a public-health-related question. Since 2004 the model has been evaluated through questionnaires to students, examiners, and patients, and through a series of review meetings among examiners and students. Examination in general practice using unselected, consenting patients mimics real life to a high degree. It constitutes one important element in a comprehensive assessment process. This is considered to be an acceptable and appropriate way of testing the students before graduation.
PMCID: PMC3379759  PMID: 17852968
Examination of medical student; family practice; general practice; real-life situation; real patient
7.  Effect of caudal epidural steroid or saline injection in chronic lumbar radiculopathy: multicentre, blinded, randomised controlled trial 
Objective To assess the efficacy of caudal epidural steroid or saline injection in chronic lumbar radiculopathy in the short (6 weeks), intermediate (12 weeks), and long term (52 weeks).
Design Multicentre, blinded, randomised controlled trial.
Setting Outpatient multidisciplinary back clinics of five Norwegian hospitals.
Participants Between October 2005 and February 2009, 461 patients assessed for inclusion (presenting with lumbar radiculopathy >12 weeks). 328 patients excluded for cauda equina syndrome, severe paresis, severe pain, previous spinal injection or surgery, deformity, pregnancy, ongoing breast feeding, warfarin therapy, ongoing treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, body mass index >30, poorly controlled psychiatric conditions with possible secondary gain, and severe comorbidity.
Interventions Subcutaneous sham injections of 2 mL 0.9% saline, caudal epidural injections of 30 mL 0.9% saline, and caudal epidural injections of 40 mg triamcinolone acetonide in 29 mL 0.9% saline. Participants received two injections with a two week interval.
Main outcome measures Primary: Oswestry disability index scores. Secondary: European quality of life measure, visual analogue scale scores for low back pain and for leg pain.
Results Power calculations required the inclusion of 41 patients per group. We did not allocate 17 of 133 eligible patients because their symptoms improved before randomisation. All groups improved after the interventions, but we found no statistical or clinical differences between the groups over time. For the sham group (n=40), estimated change in the Oswestry disability index from the adjusted baseline value was −4.7 (95% confidence intervals −0.6 to −8.8) at 6 weeks, −11.4 (−6.3 to −14.5) at 12 weeks, and −14.3 (−10.0 to −18.7) at 52 weeks. For the epidural saline intervention group (n=39) compared with the sham group, differences in primary outcome were −0.5 (−6.3 to 5.4) at 6 weeks, 1.4 (−4.5 to 7.2) at 12 weeks, and −1.9 (−8.0 to 4.3) at 52 weeks; for the epidural steroid group (n=37), corresponding differences were −2.9 (−8.7 to 3.0), 4.0 (−1.9 to 9.9), and 1.9 (−4.2 to 8.0). Analysis adjusted for duration of leg pain, back pain, and sick leave did not change this trend.
Conclusions Caudal epidural steroid or saline injections are not recommended for chronic lumbar radiculopathy.
Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN No 12574253.
PMCID: PMC3172149  PMID: 21914755

Results 1-7 (7)