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1.  Risk assessment and predicting outcomes in patients with depressive symptoms: a review of potential role of peripheral blood based biomarkers 
Depression is one of the major global health challenges and a leading contributor of health related disability and costs. Depression is a heterogeneous disorder and current methods for assessing its severity in clinical practice rely on symptom count, however this approach is unreliable and inconsistent. The clinical evaluation of depressive symptoms is particularly challenging in primary care, where the majority of patients with depression are managed, due to the presence of co-morbidities. Current methods for risk assessment of depression do not accurately predict treatment response or clinical outcomes. Several biological pathways have been implicated in the pathophysiology of depression; however, accurate and predictive biomarkers remain elusive. We conducted a systematic review of the published evidence supporting the use of peripheral biomarkers to predict outcomes in depression, using Medline and Embase. Peripheral biomarkers in depression were found to be statistically significant predictors of mental health outcomes such as treatment response, poor outcome and symptom remission; and physical health outcomes such as increased incidence of cardiovascular events and deaths, and all-cause mortality. However, the available evidence has multiple methodological limitations which must be overcome to make any real clinical progress. Despite extensive research on the relationship of depression with peripheral biomarkers, its translational application in practice remains uncertain. In future, peripheral biomarkers identified with novel techniques and combining multiple biomarkers may have a potential role in depression risk assessment but further research is needed in this area.
PMCID: PMC4313702
peripheral biomarkers; depression; treatment response; risk assessment; outcomes
2.  Chronic multisite pain in major depression and bipolar disorder: cross-sectional study of 149,611 participants in UK Biobank 
BMC Psychiatry  2014;14(1):350.
Chronic pain has a strong association with major depressive disorder (MDD), but there is a relative paucity of studies on the association between chronic multisite pain and bipolar disorder (BD). Such studies are required to help elucidate the complex biological and psychological overlap between pain and mood disorders. The aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between chronic multisite pain and mood disorder across the unipolar-bipolar spectrum.
We conducted a cross-sectional study of 149,611 UK Biobank participants. Self-reported depressive and bipolar features were used to categorise participants into MDD and BD groups and a non-mood disordered comparison group. Multinomial logistic regression was used to establish whether there was an association between extent of chronic pain (independent variable) and mood disorder category (dependent variable), using no pain as the referent category, and adjusting for a wide range of potential sociodemographic, lifestyle and comorbidity confounders.
Multisite pain was significantly more prevalent in participants with BD and MDD, for example, 4–7 pain sites: BD 5.8%, MDD 4.5%, and comparison group 1.8% (p < 0.001). A relationship was observed between extent of chronic pain and risk of BD and persisted after adjusting for confounders (relative to individuals with no chronic pain): 2–3 sites RRR of BD 1.84 (95% CI 1.61, 2.11); 4–7 sites RRR of BD 2.39 (95% CI 1.88, 3.03) and widespread pain RRR of BD 2.37 (95% CI 1.73, 3.23). A similar relationship was observed between chronic pain and MDD: 2–3 sites RRR of MDD 1.59 (95% CI 1.54, 1.65); 4–7 sites RRR of MDD 2.13 (95% CI 1.98, 2.30); widespread pain RRR of MDD 1.86 (95% CI 1.66, 2.08).
Individuals who report chronic pain and multiple sites of pain are more likely to have MDD and are at higher risk of BD. These findings highlight an important aspect of comorbidity in MDD and BD and may have implications for understanding the shared neurobiology of chronic pain and mood disorders.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12888-014-0350-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4297369  PMID: 25490859
Major depression; Bipolar disorder; Chronic pain; Comorbidity
3.  Revisiting the J shaped curve, exploring the association between cardiovascular risk factors and concurrent depressive symptoms in patients with cardiometabolic disease: Findings from a large cross-sectional study 
Depression is common in patients with cardiometabolic diseases but little is known about the relationship, if any, between cardiovascular risk factor values and depressive symptoms in patients with these conditions. The objective of this paper is to study the association between cardiovascular risk factors and concurrent depressive symptoms in patients with three common cardiometabolic conditions: coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and diabetes.
We retrospectively reviewed primary care data for N = 35537 with 1 of the above 3 conditions who underwent depression screening using the depressive subscale of hospital anxiety and depression score (HADS-D). We reviewed 4 cardiometabolic risk factors (Systolic Blood Pressure [SBP], Diastolic Blood Pressure [DBP], BMI and total cholesterol) recorded concurrently in all patients and HbA1c in patients with diabetes (n = 18453). We analysed the association between individual risk factor value and a positive HADS-D screening result (>7) using logistic regression.
SBP and BMI were noted to have a non-linear “J-shaped” relationship with the probability of having a positive HADS-D and observed nadirs (levels with the lowest probability) of 148 mm Hg and 30.70 kg/m2, respectively. Total cholesterol and DBP found to have a weaker curvilinear association with concurrent depression symptoms and nadirs of 3.60 mmol/l and 74 mmHg. Among patients with Diabetes, HbA1c was also found to have a “J-shaped” relationship with probability of having a positive HADS-D with an observed nadir of 7.06% DCCT. The above relationships remain significant after adjusting for age, sex, socio-economic status and number of co-morbid conditions.
In patients with cardiometabolic disease, cardiovascular risk factor values at both extremes were associated with higher positive depression screening after adjusting for confounders. These findings have potentially important implications for clinical practice in relation to both risk stratification for depression and approaches to secondary prevention in individuals with cardiometabolic disease and merit further investigation to determine the nature and direction of the observed association.
Please see related article:
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2261-14-139) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4271339  PMID: 25352020
Cardiovascular risk factors; J-curve; Depression; Blood pressure; Body mass index; Total cholesterol; HbA1C; Diabetes; Stroke; Coronary heart disease
4.  Stroke, multimorbidity and polypharmacy in a nationally representative sample of 1,424,378 patients in Scotland: implications for treatment burden 
BMC Medicine  2014;12(1):151.
The prevalence of multimorbidity (the presence of two or more long-term conditions) is rising internationally. Multimorbidity affects patients by increasing their burden of symptoms, but is also likely to increase the self-care demands, or treatment burden, that they experience. Treatment burden refers to the effort expended in operationalising treatments, navigating healthcare systems and managing relations with healthcare providers. This is an important problem for people with chronic illness such as stroke. Polypharmacy is an important marker of both multimorbidity and burden of treatment. In this study, we examined the prevalence of multimorbidity and polypharmacy in a large, nationally representative population of primary care patients with and without stroke, adjusting for age, sex and deprivation.
A cross-sectional study of 1,424,378 participants aged 18 years and over, from 314 primary care practices in Scotland that were known to be demographically representative of the Scottish adult population. Data included information on the presence of stroke and another 39 long-term conditions, plus prescriptions for regular medications.
In total, 35,690 people (2.5%) had a diagnosis of stroke. Of the 39 comorbidities examined, 35 were significantly more common in people with stroke. Of the people with a stroke, the proportion that had one or more additional morbidities present (94.2%) was almost twice that in the control group (48%) (odds ratio (OR) adjusted for age, sex and socioeconomic deprivation 5.18; 95% confidence interval (CI) 4.95 to 5.43). In the stroke group, 12.6% had a record of 11 or more repeat prescriptions compared with only 1.5% of the control group (OR adjusted for age, sex, deprivation and morbidity count 15.84; 95% CI 14.86 to 16.88). Limitations include the use of data collected for clinical rather than research purposes, a lack of consensus in the literature on the definition of certain long-term conditions, and the absence of statistical weighting in the measurement of multimorbidity, although the latter was deemed suitable for descriptive analyses.
Multimorbidity and polypharmacy were strikingly more common in those with a diagnosis of stroke compared with those without. This has important implications for clinical guidelines and the design of health services.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12916-014-0151-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4220053  PMID: 25280748
5.  Rethinking the patient: using Burden of Treatment Theory to understand the changing dynamics of illness 
In this article we outline Burden of Treatment Theory, a new model of the relationship between sick people, their social networks, and healthcare services. Health services face the challenge of growing populations with long-term and life-limiting conditions, they have responded to this by delegating to sick people and their networks routine work aimed at managing symptoms, and at retarding – and sometimes preventing – disease progression. This is the new proactive work of patient-hood for which patients are increasingly accountable: founded on ideas about self-care, self-empowerment, and self-actualization, and on new technologies and treatment modalities which can be shifted from the clinic into the community. These place new demands on sick people, which they may experience as burdens of treatment.
As the burdens accumulate some patients are overwhelmed, and the consequences are likely to be poor healthcare outcomes for individual patients, increasing strain on caregivers, and rising demand and costs of healthcare services. In the face of these challenges we need to better understand the resources that patients draw upon as they respond to the demands of both burdens of illness and burdens of treatment, and the ways that resources interact with healthcare utilization.
Burden of Treatment Theory is oriented to understanding how capacity for action interacts with the work that stems from healthcare. Burden of Treatment Theory is a structural model that focuses on the work that patients and their networks do. It thus helps us understand variations in healthcare utilization and adherence in different healthcare settings and clinical contexts.
PMCID: PMC4080515  PMID: 24969758
6.  Physical and mental health comorbidity is common in people with multiple sclerosis: nationally representative cross-sectional population database analysis 
BMC Neurology  2014;14:128.
Comorbidity in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is associated with worse health and higher mortality. This study aims to describe clinician recorded comorbidities in people with MS.
39 comorbidities in 3826 people with MS aged ≥25 years were compared against 1,268,859 controls. Results were analysed by age, gender, and socioeconomic status, with unadjusted and adjusted Odds Ratios (ORs) calculated using logistic regression.
People with MS were more likely to have one (OR 2.44; 95% CI 2.26-2.64), two (OR 1.49; 95% CI 1.38-1.62), three (OR 1.86; 95% CI 1.69-2.04), four or more (OR 1.61; 95% CI 1.47-1.77) non-MS chronic conditions than controls, and greater mental health comorbidity (OR 2.94; 95% CI 2.75-3.14), which increased as the number of physical comorbidities rose. Cardiovascular conditions, including atrial fibrillation (OR 0.49; 95% CI 0.36-0.67), chronic kidney disease (OR 0.51; 95% CI 0.40-0.65), heart failure (OR 0.62; 95% CI 0.45-0.85), coronary heart disease (OR 0.64; 95% CI 0.52-0.71), and hypertension (OR 0.65; 95% CI 0.59-0.72) were significantly less common in people with MS.
People with MS have excess multiple chronic conditions, with associated increased mental health comorbidity. The low recorded cardiovascular comorbidity warrants further investigation.
PMCID: PMC4064287  PMID: 24925477
7.  A Randomized trial of an Asthma Internet Self-management Intervention (RAISIN): study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2014;15:185.
The financial costs associated with asthma care continue to increase while care remains suboptimal. Promoting optimal self-management, including the use of asthma action plans, along with regular health professional review has been shown to be an effective strategy and is recommended in asthma guidelines internationally. Despite evidence of benefit, guided self-management remains underused, however the potential for online resources to promote self-management behaviors is gaining increasing recognition. The aim of this paper is to describe the protocol for a pilot evaluation of a website ‘Living well with asthma’ which has been developed with the aim of promoting self-management behaviors shown to improve outcomes.
The study is a parallel randomized controlled trial, where adults with asthma are randomly assigned to either access to the website for 12 weeks, or usual asthma care for 12 weeks (followed by access to the website if desired). Individuals are included if they are over 16-years-old, have a diagnosis of asthma with an Asthma Control Questionnaire (ACQ) score of greater than, or equal to 1, and have access to the internet. Primary outcomes for this evaluation include recruitment and retention rates, changes at 12 weeks from baseline for both ACQ and Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (AQLQ) scores, and quantitative data describing website usage (number of times logged on, length of time logged on, number of times individual pages looked at, and for how long). Secondary outcomes include clinical outcomes (medication use, health services use, lung function) and patient reported outcomes (including adherence, patient activation measures, and health status).
Piloting of complex interventions is considered best practice and will maximise the potential of any future large-scale randomized controlled trial to successfully recruit and be able to report on necessary outcomes. Here we will provide results across a range of outcomes which will provide estimates of efficacy to inform the design of a future full-scale randomized controlled trial of the ‘Living well with asthma’ website.
Trial registration
This trial is registered with Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN78556552 on 18/06/13.
PMCID: PMC4055289  PMID: 24884722
Asthma; Self-management; Adherence; E-health; Randomized controlled trial; Complex intervention; Inhaled corticosteroids; Behaviour change
8.  A qualitative evaluation of general practitioners’ views on protocol-driven eReferral in Scotland 
The ever increasing volume of referrals from primary care to specialist services is putting considerable pressure on resource-constrained health services while effective communication across fragmented services remains a substantial challenge. Previous studies have suggested that electronic referrals (eReferral) can bear important benefits for cross-organisational processes and patient care management.
We conducted 25 semi-structured interviews and 1 focus group with primary care providers to elucidate General Practitioners’ (GPs) perspectives on information management processes in the patient pathway in NHSScotland, 1 focus group with members of the Scottish Electronic Patient Record programme and one interview with a senior architect of the Scottish Care Information national eReferral System (SCI Gateway). Using Normalisation Process Theory, we performed a qualitative analysis to elucidate GPs’ perspectives on eReferral to identify the factors which they felt either facilitated or hindered referral processes.
The majority of GPs interviewed felt that eReferral substantially streamlined communication processes, with the immediate transfer of referral documents and the availability of an electronic audit trail perceived as two substantial improvements over paper-based referrals. Most GPs felt that the SCI Gateway system was reasonably straightforward to use. Referral protocols and templates could be perceived as useful by some GPs while others considered them to be cumbersome at times.
Our study suggests that the deployment and adoption of eReferral across the NHS in Scotland has been achieved by a combination of factors: (i) a policy context – including national mandatory targets for eReferral – which all NHS health-boards were bound to operationalise through their Local Delivery Plans and also (ii) the fact that primary care doctors considered that the overall benefits brought by the deployment of eReferral throughout the patient pathway significantly outweigh any potential disbenefits.
PMCID: PMC4101875  PMID: 24712766
(Mesh); Perioperative nursing; Medical informatics applications; Information systems
9.  Patient, Carer and Professional Perspectives on Barriers and Facilitators to Quality Care in Advanced Heart Failure 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e93288.
Those with advanced heart failure (HF) experience high levels of morbidity and mortality, similar to common cancers. However, there remains evidence of inequity of access to palliative care services compared to people with cancer. This study examines patient, carer, and professional perspectives on current management of advanced HF and barriers and facilitators to improved care.
Qualitative study involving semi-structured interviews and focus groups with advanced HF patients (n = 30), carers (n = 20), and professionals (n = 65). Data analysed using Normalisation Process Theory (NPT) as the underpinning conceptual framework.
Uncertainty is ubiquitous in accounts from advanced HF patients and their caregivers. This uncertainty relates to understanding of the implications of their diagnosis, appropriate treatments, and when and how to seek effective help. Health professionals agree this is a major problem but feel they lack knowledge, opportunities, or adequate support to improve the situation. Fragmented care with lack of coordination and poor communication makes life difficult. Poor understanding of the condition extends to the wider circle of carers and means that requests for help may not be perceived as legitimate, and those with advanced HF are not prioritised for social and financial supports. Patient and caregiver accounts of emergency care are uniformly poor. Managing polypharmacy and enduring concomitant side effects is a major burden, and the potential for rationalisation exists. This study has potential limitations because it was undertaken within a single geographical location within the United Kingdom.
Little progress is being made to improve care experiences for those with advanced HF. Even in the terminal stages, patients and caregivers are heavily and unnecessarily burdened by health care services that are poorly coordinated and offer fragmented care. There is evidence that these poor experiences could be improved to a large extent by simple organisational rather than complex clinical mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3968134  PMID: 24676421
10.  A study of clinical and information management processes in the surgical pre-assessment clinic 
Establishing day-case surgery as the preferred hospital admission route for all eligible patients requires adequate preoperative assessment of patients in order to quickly distinguish those who will require minimum assessment and are suitable for day-case admission from those who will require more extensive management and will need to be admitted as inpatients.
As part of a study to elucidate clinical and information management processes within the patient surgical pathway in NHS Scotland, we conducted a total of 10 in-depth semi-structured interviews during 4 visits to the Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary surgical pre-assessment clinic. We modelled clinical processes using process-mapping techniques and analysed interview data using qualitative methods. We used Normalisation Process Theory as a conceptual framework to interpret the factors which were identified as facilitating or hindering information elucidation tasks and communication within the multi-disciplinary team.
The pre-assessment clinic of Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary was opened in 2008 in response to clinical and workflow issues which had been identified with former patient management practices in the surgical pathway. The preoperative clinic now operates under well established processes and protocols. The use of a computerised system for managing preoperative documentation substantially transformed clinical practices and facilitates communication and information-sharing among the multi-disciplinary team.
Successful deployment and normalisation of innovative clinical and information management processes was possible because both local and national strategic priorities were synergistic and the system was developed collaboratively by the POA staff and the health-board IT team, resulting in a highly contextualised operationalisation of clinical and information management processes. Further concerted efforts from a range of stakeholders are required to fully integrate preoperative assessment within the health-board surgical care pathway. A substantial – yet unfulfilled – potential benefit in embedding information technology in routine use within the preoperative clinic would be to improve the reporting of surgical outcomes.
PMCID: PMC4012827  PMID: 24666471
(Mesh); Perioperative nursing; Medical informatics applications; Information systems
11.  Digital Asthma Self-Management Interventions: A Systematic Review 
Many people with asthma tolerate symptoms and lifestyle limitations unnecessarily by not utilizing proven therapies. Better support for self-management is known to improve asthma control, and increasingly the Internet and other digital media are being used to deliver that support.
Our goal was to summarize current knowledge, evidenced through existing systematic reviews, of the effectiveness and implementation of digital self-management support for adults and children with asthma and to examine what features help or hinder the use of these programs.
A comprehensive search strategy combined 3 facets of search terms: (1) online technology, (2) asthma, and (3) self-management/behavior change/patient experience. We undertook searches of 14 databases, and reference and citation searching. We included qualitative and quantitative systematic reviews about online or computerized interventions facilitating self-management. Title, abstract, full paper screening, and quality appraisal were performed by two researchers independently. Data extraction was undertaken using standardized forms.
A total of 3810 unique papers were identified. Twenty-nine systematic reviews met inclusion criteria: the majority were from the United States (n=12), the rest from United Kingdom (n=6), Canada (n=3), Portugal (n=2), and Australia, France, Spain, Norway, Taiwan, and Greece (1 each). Only 10 systematic reviews fulfilled pre-determined quality standards, describing 19 clinical trials. Interventions were heterogeneous: duration of interventions ranging from single use, to 24-hour access for 12 months, and incorporating varying degrees of health professional involvement. Dropout rates ranged from 5-23%. Four RCTs were aimed at adults (overall range 3-65 years). Participants were inadequately described: socioeconomic status 0/19, ethnicity 6/19, and gender 15/19. No qualitative systematic reviews were included. Meta-analysis was not attempted due to heterogeneity and inadequate information provision within reviews. There was no evidence of harm from digital interventions. All RCTs that examined knowledge (n=2) and activity limitation (n=2) showed improvement in the intervention group. Digital interventions improved markers of self care (5/6), quality of life (4/7), and medication use (2/3). Effects on symptoms (6/12) and school absences (2/4) were equivocal, with no evidence of overall benefits on lung function (2/6), or health service use (2/15). No specific data on economic analyses were provided. Intervention descriptions were generally brief making it impossible to identify which specific “ingredients” of interventions contribute most to improving outcomes.
Digital self-management interventions show promise, with evidence of beneficial effects on some outcomes. There is no evidence about utility in those over 65 years and no information about socioeconomic status of participants, making understanding the “reach” of such interventions difficult. Digital interventions are poorly described within reviews, with insufficient information about barriers and facilitators to their uptake and utilization. To address these gaps, a detailed quantitative systematic review of digital asthma interventions and an examination of the primary qualitative literature are warranted, as well as greater emphasis on economic analysis within trials.
PMCID: PMC3958674  PMID: 24550161
asthma; self-management; Internet; eHealth; systematic review; patient education
12.  Mindfulness based interventions in multiple sclerosis - a systematic review 
BMC Neurology  2014;14:15.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a stressful condition; depression, anxiety, pain and fatigue are all common problems. Mindfulness based interventions (MBIs) mitigate stress and prevent relapse in depression and are increasingly being used in healthcare. However, there are currently no systematic reviews of MBIs in people with MS. This review aims to evaluate the effectiveness of MBIs in people with MS.
Systematic searches were carried out in seven major databases, using both subject headings and key words. Papers were screened, data extracted, quality appraised, and analysed by two reviewers independently, using predefined criteria. Study quality was assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration risk of bias tool. Perceived stress was the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes include mental health, physical health, quality of life, and health service utilisation. Statistical meta-analysis was not possible. Disagreements were adjudicated by a third party reviewer.
Three studies (n = 183 participants) were included in the final analysis. The studies were undertaken in Wales (n = 16, randomised controlled trial - (RCT)), Switzerland (n = 150, RCT), and the United States (n = 17, controlled trial). 146 (80%) participants were female; mean age (SD) was 48.6 (9.4) years. Relapsing remitting MS was the main diagnostic category (n = 123, 67%); 43 (26%) had secondary progressive disease; and the remainder were unspecified. MBIs lasted 6–8 weeks; attrition rates were variable (5-43%); all employed pre- post- measures; two had longer follow up; one at 3, and one at 6 months. Socio-economic status of participants was not made explicit; health service utilisation and costs were not reported. No study reported on perceived stress. All studies reported quality of life (QOL), mental health (anxiety and depression), physical (fatigue, standing balance, pain), and psychosocial measures. Statistically significant beneficial effects relating to QOL, mental health, and selected physical health measures were sustained at 3- and 6- month follow up.
From the limited data available, MBIs may benefit some MS patients in terms of QOL, mental health, and some physical health measures. Further studies are needed to clarify how MBIs might best serve the MS population.
PMCID: PMC3900731  PMID: 24438384
Multiple sclerosis; Mindfulness; Stress management
14.  A qualitative systematic review of studies using the normalization process theory to research implementation processes 
There is a well-recognized need for greater use of theory to address research translational gaps. Normalization Process Theory (NPT) provides a set of sociological tools to understand and explain the social processes through which new or modified practices of thinking, enacting, and organizing work are implemented, embedded, and integrated in healthcare and other organizational settings. This review of NPT offers readers the opportunity to observe how, and in what areas, a particular theoretical approach to implementation is being used. In this article we review the literature on NPT in order to understand what interventions NPT is being used to analyze, how NPT is being operationalized, and the reported benefits, if any, of using NPT.
Using a framework analysis approach, we conducted a qualitative systematic review of peer-reviewed literature using NPT. We searched 12 electronic databases and all citations linked to six key NPT development papers. Grey literature/unpublished studies were not sought. Limitations of English language, healthcare setting and year of publication 2006 to June 2012 were set.
Twenty-nine articles met the inclusion criteria; in the main, NPT is being applied to qualitatively analyze a diverse range of complex interventions, many beyond its original field of e-health and telehealth. The NPT constructs have high stability across settings and, notwithstanding challenges in applying NPT in terms of managing overlaps between constructs, there is evidence that it is a beneficial heuristic device to explain and guide implementation processes.
NPT offers a generalizable framework that can be applied across contexts with opportunities for incremental knowledge gain over time and an explicit framework for analysis, which can explain and potentially shape implementation processes. This is the first review of NPT in use and it generates an impetus for further and extended use of NPT. We recommend that in future NPT research, authors should explicate their rationale for choosing NPT as their theoretical framework and, where possible, involve multiple stakeholders including service users to enable analysis of implementation from a range of perspectives.
PMCID: PMC3905960  PMID: 24383661
Implementation; Policy; Normalization process theory; Theory; Translational gaps
15.  Examining the practice of generalist expertise: a qualitative study identifying constraints and solutions 
JRSM Short Reports  2013;4(12):2042533313510155.
Provision of person-centred generalist care is a core component of quality primary care systems. The World Health Organisation believes that a lack of generalist primary care is contributing to inefficiency, ineffectiveness and inequity in healthcare. In UK primary care, General Practitioners (GPs) are the largest group of practising generalists. Yet GPs fulfil multiple roles and the pressures of delivering these roles along with wider contextual changes create real challenges to generalist practice. Our study aimed to explore GP perceptions of enablers and constraints for expert generalist care, in order to identify what is needed to ensure health systems are designed to support the generalist role.
Qualitative study in General Practice.
UK primary care.
Main outcome measures
A qualitative study – interviews, surveys and focus groups with GPs and GP trainees. Data collection and analysis was informed by Normalisation Process Theory.
Design and setting
Qualitative study in General Practice. We conducted interviews, surveys and focus groups with GPs and GP trainees based mainly, but not exclusively, in the UK. Data collection and analysis were informed by Normalization Process Theory.
UK based GPs (interview and surveys); European GP trainees (focus groups).
Our findings highlight key gaps in current training and service design which may limit development and implementation of expert generalist practice (EGP). These include the lack of a consistent and universal understanding of the distinct expertise of EGP, competing priorities inhibiting the delivery of EGP, lack of the consistent development of skills in interpretive practice and a lack of resources for monitoring EGP.
We describe four areas for change: Translating EGP, Priority setting for EGP, Trusting EGP and Identifying the impact of EGP. We outline proposals for work needed in each area to help enhance the expert generalist role.
PMCID: PMC3899736  PMID: 24475347
generalism; generalist practice; normalisation process theory; primary care; generalist expertise
16.  Challenges and Implications of Routine Depression Screening for Depression in Chronic Disease and Multimorbidity: A Cross Sectional Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74610.
Depression screening in chronic disease is advocated but its impact on routine practice is uncertain. We examine the effects of a programme of incentivised depression screening in chronic disease within a UK primary care setting.
Methods and Findings
Cross sectional analysis of anonymised, routinely collected data (2008-9) from family practices in Scotland serving a population of circa 1.8 million. Primary care registered patients with at least one of three chronic diseases, coronary heart disease, diabetes and stroke, underwent incentivised depression screening using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Score (HADS).
125143 patients were identified with at least one chronic disease. 10670 (8.5%) were under treatment for depression and exempt from screening. Of remaining, HADS were recorded for 35537 (31.1%) patients. 7080 (19.9% of screened) had raised HADS (≥8); majority had indications of mild depression with HADS between 8 and 10. Over 6 months, 572 (8%) of those with raised HADS (≥8) were initiated on antidepressants, while 696 (2.4%) patients with normal HADS (<8) were also initiated on antidepressants (relative risk of antidepressant initiation with raised HADS 3.3 (CI 2.97-3.67), p value <0.0001). Of those with multimorbidity who were screened, 24.3% had raised HADS (≥8). A raised HADS was more likely in females, socioeconomically deprived, multimorbid or younger (18-44) individuals. Females and 45-64 years old were more likely to receive antidepressants.
retrospective study of routinely collected data.
Despite incentivisation, only a minority of patients underwent depression screening, suggesting that systematic depression screening in chronic disease can be difficult to achieve in routine practice. Targeting those at greatest risk such as the multimorbid or using simpler screening methods may be more effective. Raised HADS was associated with higher number of new antidepressant prescriptions which has significant resource implications. The clinical benefits of such screening remain uncertain and merits investigation.
PMCID: PMC3772931  PMID: 24058602
17.  Uncovering Treatment Burden as a Key Concept for Stroke Care: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Research 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001473.
In a systematic review of qualitative research, Katie Gallacher and colleagues examine the evidence related to treatment burden after stroke from the patient perspective.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Patients with chronic disease may experience complicated management plans requiring significant personal investment. This has been termed ‘treatment burden’ and has been associated with unfavourable outcomes. The aim of this systematic review is to examine the qualitative literature on treatment burden in stroke from the patient perspective.
Methods and Findings
The search strategy centred on: stroke, treatment burden, patient experience, and qualitative methods. We searched: Scopus, CINAHL, Embase, Medline, and PsycINFO. We tracked references, footnotes, and citations. Restrictions included: English language, date of publication January 2000 until February 2013. Two reviewers independently carried out the following: paper screening, data extraction, and data analysis. Data were analysed using framework synthesis, as informed by Normalization Process Theory. Sixty-nine papers were included. Treatment burden includes: (1) making sense of stroke management and planning care, (2) interacting with others, (3) enacting management strategies, and (4) reflecting on management. Health care is fragmented, with poor communication between patient and health care providers. Patients report inadequate information provision. Inpatient care is unsatisfactory, with a perceived lack of empathy from professionals and a shortage of stimulating activities on the ward. Discharge services are poorly coordinated, and accessing health and social care in the community is difficult. The study has potential limitations because it was restricted to studies published in English only and data from low-income countries were scarce.
Stroke management is extremely demanding for patients, and treatment burden is influenced by micro and macro organisation of health services. Knowledge deficits mean patients are ill equipped to organise their care and develop coping strategies, making adherence less likely. There is a need to transform the approach to care provision so that services are configured to prioritise patient needs rather than those of health care systems.
Systematic Review Registration
International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews CRD42011001123
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every year, 15 million people have a stroke. About 5 million of these people die within a few days, and another 5 million are left disabled. Stroke occurs when the blood supply of the brain is suddenly interrupted by a blood vessel in the brain being blocked by a blood clot (ischemic stroke) or bursting (hemorrhagic stroke). Deprived of the oxygen normally carried to them by the blood, the brain cells near the blockage die. The symptoms of stroke depend on which part of the brain is damaged but include sudden weakness or paralysis along one side of the body, vision loss in one or both eyes, and confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention because prompt treatment can limit the damage to the brain. In the longer term, post-stroke rehabilitation can help individuals overcome the physical disabilities caused by stroke, and drugs that thin the blood, reduce blood pressure and reduce cholesterol (major risk factors for stroke) alongside behavioral counseling can reduce the risk of a second stroke.
Why Was This Study Done?
Treatment for, and rehabilitation from, stroke is a lengthy process that requires considerable personal investment from the patient. The term “treatment burden” describes the self-care practices that patients with stroke and other chronic diseases must perform to follow the complicated management strategies that have been developed for these conditions. Unfortunately, treatment burden can overwhelm patients. They may be unable to cope with the multiple demands placed on them by health-care providers and systems for their self-care, a situation that leads to poor adherence to therapies and poor outcomes. For example, patients may find it hard to complete all the exercises designed to help them regain full movement of their limbs after a stroke. Treatment burden has been poorly examined in relation to stroke. Here, the researchers identify and describe the treatment burden in stroke by undertaking a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the literature on a given topic) of qualitative studies on the patient experience of stroke management. Qualitative studies collect non-quantitative data so, for example, a qualitative study on stroke treatment might ask people how the treatment made them feel whereas a quantitative study might compare clinical outcomes between those receiving and not receiving the treatment.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 69 qualitative studies dealing with the experiences of stroke management of adult patients and analyzed the data in these papers using framework synthesis—an approach that divides data into thematic categories. Specifically, the researchers used a coding framework informed by normalization process theory, a sociological theory of the implementation, embedding and integration of tasks and practices; embedding is the process of making tasks and practices a routine part of everyday life and integration refers to sustaining these embedded practices. The researchers identified four main areas of treatment burden for stroke: making sense of stroke management and planning care; interacting with others, including health care professionals, family and other patients with stroke; enacting management strategies (including enduring institutional admissions, managing stroke in the community, reintegrating into society and adjusting to life after stroke); and reflecting on management to make decisions about self-care. Moreover, they identified problems in all these areas, including inadequate provision of information, poor communication with health-care providers, and unsatisfactory inpatient care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that stroke management is extremely demanding for patients and is influenced by both the micro and macro organization of health services. At the micro organizational level, fragmented care and poor communication between patients and clinicians and between health-care providers can mean patients are ill equipped to organize their care and develop coping strategies, which makes adherence to management strategies less likely. At the macro organizational level, it can be hard for patients to obtain the practical and financial help they need to manage their stroke in the community. Overall, these findings suggest that care provision for stroke needs to be transformed so that the needs of patients rather than the needs of health-care systems are prioritized. Further work is required, however, to understand how the patient experience of treatment burden is affected by the clinical characteristics of stroke, by disability level, and by other co-existing diseases. By undertaking such work, it should be possible to generate a patient-reported outcome measure of treatment burden that, if used by policy makers and health-care providers, has the potential to improve the quality of stroke care.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides information about all aspects of stroke (in English and Spanish); its Know Stroke site provides educational materials about stroke prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation including personal stories (in English and Spanish); the US National Institutes of Health SeniorHealth website has additional information about stroke
The Internet Stroke Center provides detailed information about stroke for patients, families, and health professionals (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information about stroke for patients and their families, including personal stories
MedlinePlus has links to additional resources about stroke (in English and Spanish)
The UK not-for-profit website Healthtalkonline provides personal stories about stroke
Wikipedia provides information on the burden of treatment and on the normalization process theory (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC3692487  PMID: 23824703
18.  A study of general practitioners’ perspectives on electronic medical records systems in NHSScotland 
Primary care doctors in NHSScotland have been using electronic medical records within their practices routinely for many years. The Scottish Health Executive eHealth strategy (2008-2011) has recently brought radical changes to the primary care computing landscape in Scotland: an information system (GPASS) which was provided free-of-charge by NHSScotland to a majority of GP practices has now been replaced by systems provided by two approved commercial providers. The transition to new electronic medical records had to be completed nationally across all health-boards by March 2012.
We carried out 25 in-depth semi-structured interviews with primary care doctors to elucidate GPs’ perspectives on their practice information systems and collect more general information on management processes in the patient surgical pathway in NHSScotland. We undertook a thematic analysis of interviewees’ responses, using Normalisation Process Theory as the underpinning conceptual framework.
The majority of GPs’ interviewed considered that electronic medical records are an integral and essential element of their work during the consultation, playing a key role in facilitating integrated and continuity of care for patients and making clinical information more accessible. However, GPs expressed a number of reservations about various system functionalities – for example: in relation to usability, system navigation and information visualisation.
Our study highlights that while electronic information systems are perceived as having important benefits, there remains substantial scope to improve GPs’ interaction and overall satisfaction with these systems. Iterative user-centred improvements combined with additional training in the use of technology would promote an increased understanding, familiarity and command of the range of functionalities of electronic medical records among primary care doctors.
PMCID: PMC3704757  PMID: 23688255
Medical informatics; Medical informatics applications; Information systems
19.  Examining health promotion interventions for patients with chronic conditions using a novel patient-centered complexity model: protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis 
Systematic Reviews  2013;2:29.
Successful chronic care self-management requires adherence to healthy lifestyle behaviors, but many healthcare-based health promotion interventions have resulted in small and unsustainable changes in patient behavior. Patients with chronic conditions may already be overwhelmed by burdensome illnesses and treatments, and not have the capacity to respond well to the additional work required of behavior modifications. To explore this phenomenon, we will apply the cumulative complexity model (CCM), a patient-centered model of patient complexity, to a systematic review and meta-analysis of healthcare-based health behavior interventions.
This systematic review will include randomized trials published between 2002 and 2012 that compared healthcare-based interventions aimed at improving healthy diet and physical activity in community dwelling adult patients with chronic conditions. After extracting study and risk of bias features from each trial, we will classify the interventions according to the conceptual model. We will then use meta-analysis and subgroup analysis to test hypotheses based on the conceptual model.
Healthcare providers need evidence of successful health promoting interventions for patients with chronic conditions who display common behavioral risk factors. To better understand how patients respond to interventions, we will apply the CCM, which accounts for both the capacity of patients with chronic conditions and their treatment-related workload, and posits that a balance between capacity and workload predicts successful enactment of self-care. Analysis will also include whether patients with multiple chronic conditions respond differently to interventions compared to those with single chronic conditions. The results of this review will provide insights as to how patients with chronic conditions respond to health-promoting interventions.
Review registration
PROSPERO registration number: CRD42012003428
PMCID: PMC3655854  PMID: 23663259
Health behavior; Comorbidities; Multimorbidity; Chronic conditions; Patient complexity; Cumulative complexity model; Physical activity; Diet
20.  Improving the normalization of complex interventions: measure development based on normalization process theory (NoMAD): study protocol 
Understanding implementation processes is key to ensuring that complex interventions in healthcare are taken up in practice and thus maximize intended benefits for service provision and (ultimately) care to patients. Normalization Process Theory (NPT) provides a framework for understanding how a new intervention becomes part of normal practice. This study aims to develop and validate simple generic tools derived from NPT, to be used to improve the implementation of complex healthcare interventions.
The objectives of this study are to: develop a set of NPT-based measures and formatively evaluate their use for identifying implementation problems and monitoring progress; conduct preliminary evaluation of these measures across a range of interventions and contexts, and identify factors that affect this process; explore the utility of these measures for predicting outcomes; and develop an online users’ manual for the measures.
A combination of qualitative (workshops, item development, user feedback, cognitive interviews) and quantitative (survey) methods will be used to develop NPT measures, and test the utility of the measures in six healthcare intervention settings.
The measures developed in the study will be available for use by those involved in planning, implementing, and evaluating complex interventions in healthcare and have the potential to enhance the chances of their implementation, leading to sustained changes in working practices.
PMCID: PMC3637119  PMID: 23578304
Normalization process theory; NPT; Implementation process; Survey; Instrument development; Complex interventions
21.  Multimorbidity in primary care: a systematic review of prospective cohort studies 
The British Journal of General Practice  2012;62(597):e297-e307.
Primary care increasingly deals with patients with multimorbidity, but relevant evidence-based interventions are scarce. Knowledge about multimorbidity over time is required to inform the development of effective interventions.
This review identifies prospective cohort studies of multimorbidity in primary care to determine: their nature, scope and key findings; the methodologies used; and gaps in knowledge.
Systematic review.
Studies were identified by searching electronic databases, reviewing citations, and writing to authors. Searches were limited to adult populations with no restrictions on publication date or language. In total, 996 articles were identified and screened.
Of the 996 articles, six detailing five completed prospective cohort studies were selected as appropriate. Three of the studies were undertaken in the US and two in The Netherlands; none was nationally representative. The main focus of the studies was: healthcare utilisation and/or costs (n = 3); patients' physical functioning (n = 1); and risk factors for developing multimorbidity (n = 1). The conditions that were included varied widely. The findings of these studies showed that multimorbidity increased healthcare costs (n = 2), inpatient admission (n = 1), death rates (n = 1), and service use (n = 3), and reduced physical functioning (n = 1). One study identified psychosocial risk factors for multimorbidity. No study used random sampling, sample sizes were relatively small (414–3745 patients at baseline), and study duration was relatively short (1–4 years). No study focused on prevalence, treatment use, patient safety, service models, cultural or socioeconomic factors, and patient experience, and no study collected qualitative data.
Few longitudinal studies based in primary care have investigated multimorbidity. Further large, long-term prospective studies are required to inform healthcare commissioning, planning, and delivery.
PMCID: PMC3310037  PMID: 22520918
chronic disease; multimorbidity; primary care; review
22.  Qualitative systematic reviews of treatment burden in stroke, heart failure and diabetes - Methodological challenges and solutions 
Treatment burden can be defined as the self-care practices that patients with chronic illness must perform to respond to the requirements of their healthcare providers, as well as the impact that these practices have on patient functioning and well being. Increasing levels of treatment burden may lead to suboptimal adherence and negative outcomes. Systematic review of the qualitative literature is a useful method for exploring the patient experience of care, in this case the experience of treatment burden. There is no consensus on methods for qualitative systematic review. This paper describes the methodology used for qualitative systematic reviews of the treatment burdens identified in three different common chronic conditions, using stroke as our exemplar.
Qualitative studies in peer reviewed journals seeking to understand the patient experience of stroke management were sought. Limitations of English language and year of publication 2000 onwards were set. An exhaustive search strategy was employed, consisting of a scoping search, database searches (Scopus, CINAHL, Embase, Medline & PsycINFO) and reference, footnote and citation searching. Papers were screened, data extracted, quality appraised and analysed by two individuals, with a third party for disagreements. Data analysis was carried out using a coding framework underpinned by Normalization Process Theory (NPT).
A total of 4364 papers were identified, 54 were included in the review. Of these, 51 (94%) were retrieved from our database search. Methodological issues included: creating an appropriate search strategy; investigating a topic not previously conceptualised; sorting through irrelevant data within papers; the quality appraisal of qualitative research; and the use of NPT as a novel method of data analysis, shown to be a useful method for the purposes of this review.
The creation of our search strategy may be of particular interest to other researchers carrying out synthesis of qualitative studies. Importantly, the successful use of NPT to inform a coding frame for data analysis involving qualitative data that describes processes relating to self management highlights the potential of a new method for analyses of qualitative data within systematic reviews.
PMCID: PMC3568050  PMID: 23356353
Qualitative systematic review; Normalization process theory; Stroke; Treatment burden
23.  REsearch into implementation STrategies to support patients of different ORigins and language background in a variety of European primary care settings (RESTORE): study protocol 
The implementation of guidelines and training initiatives to support communication in cross-cultural primary care consultations is ad hoc across a range of international settings with negative consequences particularly for migrants. This situation reflects a well-documented translational gap between evidence and practice and is part of the wider problem of implementing guidelines and the broader range of professional educational and quality interventions in routine practice. In this paper, we describe our use of a contemporary social theory, Normalization Process Theory and participatory research methodology—Participatory Learning and Action—to investigate and support implementation of such guidelines and training initiatives in routine practice.
This is a qualitative case study, using multiple primary care sites across Europe. Purposive and maximum variation sampling approaches will be used to identify and recruit stakeholders—migrant service users, general practitioners, primary care nurses, practice managers and administrative staff, interpreters, cultural mediators, service planners, and policy makers. We are conducting a mapping exercise to identify relevant guidelines and training initiatives. We will then initiate a PLA-brokered dialogue with stakeholders around Normalization Process Theory’s four constructs—coherence, cognitive participation, collective action, and reflexive monitoring. Through this, we will enable stakeholders in each setting to select a single guideline or training initiative for implementation in their local setting. We will prospectively investigate and support the implementation journeys for the five selected interventions. Data will be generated using a Participatory Learning and Action approach to interviews and focus groups. Data analysis will follow the principles of thematic analysis, will occur in iterative cycles throughout the project and will involve participatory co-analysis with key stakeholders to enhance the authenticity and veracity of findings.
This research employs a unique combination of Normalization Process Theory and Participatory Learning and Action, which will provide a novel approach to the analysis of implementation journeys. The findings will advance knowledge in the field of implementation science because we are using and testing theoretical and methodological approaches so that we can critically appraise their scope to mediate barriers and improve the implementation processes.
PMCID: PMC3541149  PMID: 23167911
24.  Boundaries and e-health implementation in health and social care 
The major problem facing health and social care systems globally today is the growing challenge of an elderly population with complex health and social care needs. A longstanding challenge to the provision of high quality, effectively coordinated care for those with complex needs has been the historical separation of health and social care. Access to timely and accurate data about patients and their treatments has the potential to deliver better care at less cost.
To explore the way in which structural, professional and geographical boundaries have affected e-health implementation in health and social care, through an empirical study of the implementation of an electronic version of Single Shared Assessment (SSA) in Scotland, using three retrospective, qualitative case studies in three different health board locations.
Progress in effectively sharing electronic data had been slow and uneven. One cause was the presence of established structural boundaries, which lead to competing priorities, incompatible IT systems and infrastructure, and poor cooperation. A second cause was the presence of established professional boundaries, which affect staffs’ understanding and acceptance of data sharing and their information requirements. Geographical boundaries featured but less prominently and contrasting perspectives were found with regard to issues such as co-location of health and social care professionals.
To provide holistic care to those with complex health and social care needs, it is essential that we develop integrated approaches to care delivery. Successful integration needs practices such as good project management and governance, ensuring system interoperability, leadership, good training and support, together with clear efforts to improve working relations across professional boundaries and communication of a clear project vision. This study shows that while technological developments make integration possible, long-standing boundaries constitute substantial risks to IT implementations across the health and social care interface which those initiating major changes would do well to consider before committing to the investment.
PMCID: PMC3465217  PMID: 22958223
25.  From theory to 'measurement' in complex interventions: Methodological lessons from the development of an e-health normalisation instrument 
Although empirical and theoretical understanding of processes of implementation in health care is advancing, translation of theory into structured measures that capture the complex interplay between interventions, individuals and context remain limited. This paper aimed to (1) describe the process and outcome of a project to develop a theory-based instrument for measuring implementation processes relating to e-health interventions; and (2) identify key issues and methodological challenges for advancing work in this field.
A 30-item instrument (Technology Adoption Readiness Scale (TARS)) for measuring normalisation processes in the context of e-health service interventions was developed on the basis on Normalization Process Theory (NPT). NPT focuses on how new practices become routinely embedded within social contexts. The instrument was pre-tested in two health care settings in which e-health (electronic facilitation of healthcare decision-making and practice) was used by health care professionals.
The developed instrument was pre-tested in two professional samples (N = 46; N = 231). Ratings of items representing normalisation ‘processes’ were significantly related to staff members’ perceptions of whether or not e-health had become ‘routine’. Key methodological challenges are discussed in relation to: translating multi-component theoretical constructs into simple questions; developing and choosing appropriate outcome measures; conducting multiple-stakeholder assessments; instrument and question framing; and more general issues for instrument development in practice contexts.
To develop theory-derived measures of implementation process for progressing research in this field, four key recommendations are made relating to (1) greater attention to underlying theoretical assumptions and extent of translation work required; (2) the need for appropriate but flexible approaches to outcomes measurement; (3) representation of multiple perspectives and collaborative nature of work; and (4) emphasis on generic measurement approaches that can be flexibly tailored to particular contexts of study.
PMCID: PMC3473304  PMID: 22594537

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