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author:("Smith, martha")
1.  Deploying a clinical innovation in the context of actor-patient consultations in general practice: A prelude to a formal clinical trial 
Innovations to be deployed during consultations with patients may influence the clinical performance of the medical practitioner. This study examined the impact on General Practitioners' (GPs) consultation performance of novel computer software, designed for use while consulting the patient.
Six GPs were video recorded consulting six actor-patients in a simulated clinical environment. Two sessions were recorded with six consultations per GP. Five cases presented cancer symptoms which warranted a referral for specialist investigation. Practitioners were invited to use a novel software package to process referrals made during the consultations in the second session. Two assessors independently reviewed the consultation performance using the Leicester Assessment Package (LAP). Inter-rater agreement was assessed by a Bland-Altman plot of the difference in score against the average score.
Sixty of the seventy two consultations were successfully recorded. Each video consultation was scored twice by two assessors leaving 120 LAP scores available for analysis. There was no evidence of a difference in the variance with increasing score (Pitmans test p = 0.09). There was also no difference in the mean differences between assessor scores whether using the software or not (T-test, P = 0.49)
The actor-patient consultation can be used to test clinical innovations as a prelude to a formal clinical trial. However the logistics of the study may impact on the validity of the results and need careful planning. Ideally innovations should be tested within the context of a laboratory designed for the purpose, incorporating a pool of practitioners whose competencies have been established and assessors who can be blinded to the aims of the study.
PMCID: PMC2716367  PMID: 19615058
2.  Does smoking status affect the likelihood of consulting a doctor about respiratory symptoms? A pilot survey in Western Australia 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:16.
Smokers attribute respiratory symptoms, even when severe, to everyday causes and not as indicative of ill-health warranting medical attention. The aim of this pilot study was to conduct a structured vignette survey of people attending general practice to determine when they would advise a person with respiratory symptoms to consult a medical practitioner. Particular reference was made to smoking status and lung cancer.
Participants were recruited from two general practices in Western Australia. Respondents were invited to complete self-administered questionnaires containing nine vignettes chosen at random from a pool of sixty four vignettes, based on six clinical variables. Twenty eight vignettes described cases with at least 5% risk of cancer. For analysis these were dubbed 'cancer vignettes'. Respondents were asked if they would advise a significant other to consult a doctor with their respiratory symptoms. Logistic regression and non-parametric tests were used to analyse the data.
Three hundred questionnaires were distributed and one hundred and forty completed responses were collected over six weeks. The majority (70.3%) of respondents were female aged forty and older. A history of six weeks' of symptoms, weight loss, cough and breathlessness independently increased the odds of recommending a consultation with a medical practitioner by a factor of 11.8, 2.11, 1.40 and 4.77 respectively. A history of smoking independently increased the odds of the person being thought 'likely' or 'very likely' to have cancer by a factor of 2.46. However only 32% of cancer vignettes with a history of cigarette smoking were recognised as presentations of possible cancer.
Even though a history of cigarette smoking was more likely to lead to the suggestion that a symptomatic person may have cancer we did not confirm that smokers would be more likely to be advised to consult a doctor, even when presenting with common symptoms of lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC2652431  PMID: 19220917
3.  Investigating the impact of extraneous distractions on consultations in general practice: Lessons learned 
Extraneous distractions may influence the flow of general practice consultations. This study piloted a methodology to examine the impact of interrupting general practitioners (GPs) while consulting actor-patients.
Six GPs were video recorded consulting six actor-patients each presenting a different clinical scenario in a simulated surgery. Five cases presented red flag cancer symptoms. Half the consultations were interrupted. Two independent assessors, blinded to the occurrence of interruptions, assessed consultation performance using the Leicester Assessment Package (LAP) for clinical competence.
24 of 36 consultations were video recorded with sufficient audio-visual clarity to allow scoring. The association between LAP score and three variables could be studied: a variety of interruptions, different GPs and various scenarios. Agreement between assessors on GP performance was poor and showed an increased bias with increasing LAP score. Despite this, the interruption did not significantly impact on assessor LAP scores (Mean difference: 0.22, P = 0.83) even after controlling for assessor, different GPs and scenarios.
Extraneous distractions had no impact on GP performance in this underpowered pilot study, a conclusion which needs to be confirmed in a larger study. However several important lessons were learned. Recorded actor-patient clinical sessions are logistically challenging. GPs whose skills were not previously assessed were working in unfamiliar surroundings dealing with relatively straight forward diagnostic challenges and may have anticipated the interruptions. In a redesign of this experiment it may be possible to eliminate some of these limitations.
PMCID: PMC2645434  PMID: 19193246
4.  Factors influencing the speed of cancer diagnosis in rural Western Australia: a General Practice perspective 
BMC Family Practice  2007;8:27.
The speed of diagnosis impacts on prognosis and survival in all types of cancer. In most cases survival and prognosis are significantly worse in rural and remote Australian populations who have less access to diagnostic and therapeutic services than metropolitan communities in this country. Research suggests that in general delays in diagnosis were a factor of misdiagnosis, the confounding effect of existing conditions and delayed or misleading investigation of symptoms. The aim of this study is to further explore the factors that impact on the speed of diagnosis in rural Western Australia with direct reference to General Practitioners (GPs) working in this setting.
The methodology consisted of a structured discussion of specific cases. GPs based in two rural locations in Western Australia were asked to identify up to eight clinical cases for discussion. A diversity of cases was requested encompassing those with timely and delayed diagnosis of cancer. Focus groups were held with the practitioners to identify which factors under six headings delayed or facilitated the diagnosis in each case. A structured summary of the discussion was relayed to a wider group of GPs to seek additional views or comments on specific factors that impact on the speed of cancer diagnosis in rural and remote locations in Australia.
A number of factors affecting the speed of diagnosis were identified: the demographic shift towards a frailer and older population, presenting with multiple and complex diseases, increases the challenge to identify early cancer symptoms; seasonal and demanding work patterns leading to procrastination in presenting for medical care; unhelpful scheduling of specialist appointments; and the varying impact of informal networks and social relationships.
Within the limitations of this study we have generated a number of hypotheses that require formal evaluation: (1) GPs working within informal professional and social networks are better informed about their patients' health needs and have an advantage in making early diagnosis; (2) Despite the other differences in the population characteristics decentralising services would improve the prospect for timely diagnosis; and (3) Careful coordination of specialist appointments would improve the speed of diagnosis for rural patients.
PMCID: PMC1868737  PMID: 17480219

Results 1-4 (4)