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1.  Identifying and prioritizing lower value services from Dutch specialist guidelines and a comparison with the UK do-not-do list 
BMC Medicine  2016;14:196.
The term ‘lower value services’ concerns healthcare that is of little or no value to the patient and consequently should not be provided routinely, or not be provided at all. De-adoption of lower value care may occur through explicit recommendations in clinical guidelines. The present study aimed to generate a comprehensive list of lower value services for the Netherlands that assesses the type of care and associated medical conditions. The list was compared with the NICE do-not-do list (United Kingdom). Finally, the feasibility of prioritizing the list was studied to identify conditions where de-adoption is warranted.
Dutch clinical guidelines (published from 2010 to 2015) were searched for lower value services. The lower value services identified were categorized by type of care (diagnostics, treatment with and without medication), type of lower value service (not routinely provided or not provided at all), and ICD10 codes (international classification of diseases). The list was prioritized per ICD10 code, based on the number of lower value services per ICD10 code, prevalence, and burden of disease.
A total of 1366 lower value services were found in the 193 Dutch guidelines included in our study. Of the lower value services, 30% covered diagnostics, 29% related to surgical and medical treatment without drugs primarily, and 39% related to drug treatment. The majority (77%) of all lower value services was on care that should not be offered at all, whereas the other 23% recommended on care that should not be offered routinely. ICD10 chapters that included most lower value services were neoplasms and diseases of the nervous system. Dutch guidelines appear to contain more lower value services than UK guidelines. The prioritization processes revealed several conditions, including back pain, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and ischemic heart diseases, where lower value services most likely occur and de-adoption is warranted.
In this study, a comprehensive list of lower value services for Dutch hospital care was developed. A feasible method for prioritizing lower value services was established. Identifying and prioritizing lower value services is the first of several necessary steps in reducing them.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12916-016-0747-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5123317  PMID: 27884150
Low-value; De-adoption; Disinvestment; Waste; Guideline; Choosing Wisely; De-implementation; Medical reversal
2.  Medicalisation and Overdiagnosis: What Society Does to Medicine 
The concept of overdiagnosis is a dominant topic in medical literature and discussions. In research that targets overdiagnosis, medicalisation is often presented as the societal and individual burden of unnecessary medical expansion. In this way, the focus lies on the influence of medicine on society, neglecting the possible influence of society on medicine. In this perspective, we aim to provide a novel insight into the influence of society and the societal context on medicine, in particularly with regard to medicalisation and overdiagnosis.
PMCID: PMC5088721  PMID: 27801356
Medicalisation; Overdiagnosis; Society
3.  Trends towards stronger primary care in three western European countries; 2006-2012 
BMC Family Practice  2016;17:59.
Strong primary care systems are believed to have an important role in dealing with healthcare challenges. Strengthening primary care systems is therefore a common policy goal for many countries. This study aims to investigate whether the Netherlands, the UK and Germany have strengthened their primary care systems in 2006-2012.
For this cross-sectional study, data from the International Health Policy surveys of the Commonwealth Fund in 2006, 2009 and 2012 were used. The surveys represent the experiences and perspectives of primary care physicians with their primary care system. The changes over time were researched in three areas: organization of primary care processes, use of IT in primary care and use of benchmarking and financial incentives for performance improvement.
Regarding organization of primary care processes, in all countries the use of supporting personnel in general practice increased, but at the same time practice accessibility decreased. IT services were most advanced in the UK. The UK and the Netherlands showed increased use of performance feedback information. German GPs were least satisfied with how their system works across the 2006-2012 timeframe.
All three countries show trends towards stronger primary care systems, although in different areas. Coordination and comprehensive care through the assignment of assisting personnel and use of disease management programs improved in all countries. In the Netherlands and the UK, informational continuity is in part ensured through better IT services. All countries showed increasing difficulties upholding primary care accessibility.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12875-016-0458-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4884410  PMID: 27233498
Primary health care; Healthcare systems; Continuity of care; Accessibility of care
4.  Episodic Abdominal Pain Characteristics Are Not Associated with Clinically Relevant Improvement of Health Status After Cholecystectomy 
Cholecystectomy is the therapy of first choice in patients with uncomplicated symptomatic cholecystolithiasis, but it remains unclear which patients truly benefit in terms of health status improvement. Patients generally present with episodic abdominal pain of varying frequency, duration, and intensity. We assessed whether characteristics of abdominal pain episodes are determinants of clinically relevant improvement of health status after cholecystectomy.
In a post hoc analysis of a prospective multicenter cohort study, patients of ≥18 years of age with uncomplicated symptomatic cholecystolithiasis subjected to cholecystectomy were included. Preoperatively, patients received a structured interview and a questionnaire consisting of the visual analogue scale (VAS; range 0–100) and gastrointestinal quality of life index (GIQLI). At 12 weeks after cholecystectomy, the GIQLI was again administered. Logistic regression analyses were performed to determine significant associations.
Questionnaires were sent to 261 and returned by 166 (63.6 %) patients (128 females, mean age at surgery 49.5 ± 13.8). A total of 131 (78.9 %) patients reported a clinically relevant improvement of health status. The median (interquartile range) frequency, duration, and intensity of abdominal pain episodes were 0.38 (0.18–0.75) a week, 4.00 (2.00–8.00) hours, and 92 (77–99), respectively. None of the characteristics was associated with a clinically relevant improvement of health status at 12 weeks after cholecystectomy.
Characteristics of abdominal pain episodes cannot be used to inform patients with symptomatic cholecystolithiasis who are skeptic about the timing of cholecystectomy for optimal benefit. Timing of cholecystectomy should therefore be based on other characteristics and preferences.
PMCID: PMC4916197  PMID: 27188580
Pain; Health status; Cholecystectomy
5.  The impact of primary care organization on avoidable hospital admissions for diabetes in 23 countries 
Diabetes is a so-called ambulatory care sensitive condition. It is assumed that by appropriate and timely primary care, hospital admissions for complications of such conditions can be avoided. This study examines whether differences between countries in diabetes-related hospitalization rates can be attributed to differences in the organization of primary care in these countries.
Data on characteristics of primary care systems were obtained from the QUALICOPC study that includes surveys held among general practitioners and their patients in 34 countries. Data on avoidable hospitalizations were obtained from the OECD Health Care Quality Indicator project. Negative binomial regressions were carried out to investigate the association between characteristics of primary care and diabetes-related hospitalizations.
A total of 23 countries.
General practitioners and patients.
Main outcome measures
Diabetes-related avoidable hospitalizations.
Continuity of care was associated with lower rates of diabetes-related hospitalization. Broader task profiles for general practitioners and more medical equipment in general practice were associated with higher rates of admissions for uncontrolled diabetes. Countries where patients perceive better access to care had higher rates of hospital admissions for long-term diabetes complications. There was no association between disease management programmes and rates of diabetes-related hospitalization. Hospital bed supply was strongly associated with admission rates for uncontrolled diabetes and long-term complications.
Countries with elements of strong primary care do not necessarily have lower rates of diabetes-related hospitalizations. Hospital bed supply appeared to be a very important factor in this relationship. Apparently, it takes more than strong primary care to avoid hospitalizations. Key pointsCountries with elements of strong primary care do not necessarily have lower rates of diabetes-related avoidable hospitalization.Hospital bed supply is strongly associated with admission rates for uncontrolled diabetes and long-term complications.Continuity of care was associated with lower rates of diabetes-related hospitalization.Better access to care, broader task profiles for general practitioners, and more medical equipment in general practice was associated with higher rates of admissions for diabetes.
PMCID: PMC4911022  PMID: 26849246
Avoidable hospitalization; diabetes; general practice; health services research; primary care; The Netherlands
6.  Governing Healthcare through Performance Measurement in Massachusetts and the Netherlands 
Massachusetts and the Netherlands have implemented comprehensive health reforms, which have heightened the importance of performance measurement. The performance measures addressing access to health care and patient experience are similar in the two jurisdictions, but measures of processes and outcomes of care differ considerably. In both jurisdictions, the use of health outcomes to compare the quality of health care organizations is limited, and specific information about costs is lacking. New legislation in both jurisdictions led to the establishment of institutes to monitor the quality of care, similar mandates to make the performance of health care providers transparent, and to establish a shared responsibility of providers, consumers and insurers to improve the quality of health care.
In Massachusetts a statewide mandatory quality measure set was established to monitor the quality of care. The Netherlands is stimulating development of performance measures by providers based on a mandatory framework for developing such measures. Both jurisdictions are expanding the use of patient-reported outcomes to support patient care, quality improvement, and performance comparisons with the aim of explicitly linking performance to new payment incentives.
PMCID: PMC4744871  PMID: 24138729
Health Care Quality Assessment; Quality Indicators; Health Care Reform
7.  Incorporating shared savings programs into primary care: from theory to practice 
In several countries, health care policies gear toward strengthening the position of primary care physicians. Primary care physicians are increasingly expected to take accountability for overall spending and quality. Yet traditional models of paying physicians do not provide adequate incentives for taking on this new role. Under a so-called shared savings program physicians are instead incentivized to take accountability for spending and quality, as the program lets them share in cost savings when quality targets are met. We provide a structured approach to designing a shared savings program for primary care, and apply this approach to the design of a shared savings program for a Dutch chain of primary care providers, which is currently being piloted.
Based on the literature, we defined five building blocks of shared savings models that encompass the definition of the scope of the program, the calculation of health care expenditures, the construction of a savings benchmark, the assessment of savings and the rules and conditions under which savings are shared. We apply insights from a variety of literatures to assess the relative merits of alternative design choices within these building blocks. The shared savings program uses an econometric model of provider expenditures as an input to calculating a casemix-corrected benchmark.
The minimization of risk and uncertainty for both payer and provider is pertinent to the design of a shared savings program. In that respect, the primary care setting provides a number of unique opportunities for achieving cost and quality targets. Accountability can more readily be assumed due to the relatively long-lasting relationships between primary care physicians and patients. A stable population furthermore improves the confidence with which savings can be attributed to changes in population management. Challenges arise from the institutional context. The Dutch health care system has a fragmented structure and providers are typically small in size.
Shared savings programs fit the concept of enhanced primary care. Incorporating a shared savings program into existing payment models could therefore contribute to the financial sustainability of this organizational form.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12913-015-1250-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4696086  PMID: 26715151
Payment reform; Accountable care; Shared savings; Primary care
8.  Variation in Hospital Length of Stay: Do Physicians Adapt Their Length of Stay Decisions to What Is Usual in the Hospital Where They Work? 
Health Services Research  2006;41(2):374-394.
To test the hypothesis that physicians who work in different hospitals adapt their length of stay decisions to what is usual in the hospital under consideration.
Data Sources
Secondary data were used, originating from the Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System (SPARCS). SPARCS is a major management tool for assisting hospitals, agencies, and health care organizations with decision making in relation to financial planning and monitoring of inpatient and ambulatory surgery services and costs in New York state.
Study Design
Data on length of stay for surgical interventions and medical conditions (a total of seven diagnosis-related groups [DRGs]) were studied, to find out whether there is more variation between than within hospitals. Data (1999, 2000, and 2001) from all hospitals in New York state were used. The study examined physicians practicing in one hospital and physicians practicing in more than one hospital, to determine whether average length of stay differs according to the hospital of practice. Multilevel models were used to determine variation between and within hospitals. A t-test was used to test whether length of stay for patients of each multihospital physician differed from the average length of stay in each of the two hospitals.
Principal Findings
There is significantly (p<.05) more variation between than within hospitals in most of the study populations. Physicians working in two hospitals had patient lengths of stay comparable with the usual practice in the hospital where the procedure was performed. The proportion of physicians working in one hospital did not have a consistent effect for all DRGs on the variation within hospitals.
Physicians adapt to their colleagues or to the managerial demands of the particular hospital in which they work. The hospital and broader work environment should be taken into account when developing effective interventions to reduce variation in medical practice.
PMCID: PMC1702523  PMID: 16584454
Length of stay; variation; hospitals; multihospital physicians
9.  The disciplined healthcare professional: a qualitative interview study on the impact of the disciplinary process and imposed measures in the Netherlands 
BMJ Open  2015;5(11):e009275.
It is known that doctors who receive complaints may have feelings of anger, guilt, shame and depression, both in the short and in the long term. This might lead to functional impairment. Less is known about the impact of the disciplinary process and imposed measures. Previous studies of disciplinary proceedings have mainly focused on identifying characteristics of disciplined doctors and on sentencing policies. Therefore, the aim of this study is to explore what impact the disciplinary process and imposed measures have on healthcare professionals.
Semistructured interview study, with purposive sampling and inductive qualitative content analysis.
16 healthcare professionals (9 medical specialists, 3 general practitioners, 2 physiotherapists and 2 psychologists) that were sanctioned by the disciplinary tribunal.
The Netherlands.
Professionals described feelings of misery and insecurity both during the process as in its aftermath. Furthermore, they reported to fear receiving new complaints and provide care more cautiously after the imposed measure. Factors that may enhance psychological and professional impact are the publication of measures online and in newspapers, media coverage, the feeling of treated as guilty before any verdict has been reached, and the long duration of the process.
This study shows that the disciplinary process and imposed measures can have a profound psychological and professional impact on healthcare professionals. Although a disciplinary measure is meant to have a corrective effect, our results suggest that the impact that is experienced by professionals might hamper optimal rehabilitation afterwards. Therefore, organising emotional support should be considered during the disciplinary process and in the period after the verdict.
PMCID: PMC4663436  PMID: 26608639
10.  Exposure to and experiences with a computerized decision support intervention in primary care: results from a process evaluation 
BMC Family Practice  2015;16:141.
Trials evaluating the effects of interventions usually provide little insight into the factors responsible for (lack of) changes in desired outcomes. A process evaluation alongside a trial can shed light on the mechanisms responsible for the outcomes of a trial. The aim of this study was to investigate exposure to and experiences with a computerized decision support system (CDSS) intervention, in order to gain insight into the intervention’s impact and to provide suggestions for improvement.
A process evaluation was conducted as part of a large-scale cluster-randomized controlled trial investigating the effects of the CDSS NHGDoc on quality of care. Data on exposure to and experiences with the intervention were collected during the trial period among participants in both the intervention and control group - whenever applicable - by means of the NHGDoc server and an electronic questionnaire. Multiple data were analyzed using descriptive statistics.
Ninety-nine percent (n = 229) of the included practices generated data for the NHGDoc server and 50 % (n = 116) responded to the questionnaire: both general practitioners (GPs; n = 112; 49 %) and practice nurses (PNs; n = 52; 37 %) participated. The actual exposure to the NHGDoc system and specific heart failure module was limited with 52 % of the GPs and 42 % of the PNs reporting to either never or rarely use the system. Overall, users had a positive attitude towards CDSSs. The most perceived barriers to using NHGDoc were a lack of learning capacity of the system, the additional time and work it requires to use the CDSS, irrelevant alerts, too high intensity of alerts and insufficient knowledge regarding the system.
Several types of barriers may have negatively affected the impact of the intervention. Although users are generally positive about CDSSs, a large share of them is insufficiently aware of the functions of NHGDoc and, finds the decision support not always useful or relevant and difficult to integrate into daily practice. In designing CDSS interventions we suggest to more intensely involve the end-users and increase the system’s flexibility and learning capacity. To improve implementation a proper introduction of a CDSS among its target group including adequate training is advocated.
Trial registration
Clinical trials NCT01773057.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12875-015-0364-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4608282  PMID: 26474603
Clinical decision support; Clinical practice guidelines; Primary care; Process evaluation; Barriers
11.  Implementation of multiple-domain covering computerized decision support systems in primary care: a focus group study on perceived barriers 
Despite the widespread availability of computerized decision support systems (CDSSs) in various healthcare settings, evidence on their uptake and effectiveness is still limited. Most barrier studies focus on CDSSs that are aimed at a limited number of decision points within selected small-scale academic settings. The aim of this study was to identify the perceived barriers to using large-scale implemented CDSSs covering multiple disease areas in primary care.
Three focus group sessions were conducted in which 24 primary care practitioners (PCPs) participated (general practitioners, general practitioners in training and practice nurses), varying from 7 to 9 per session. In each focus group, barriers to using CDSSs were discussed using a semi-structured literature-based topic list. Focus group discussions were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. Two researchers independently performed thematic content analysis using the software program Atlas.ti 7.0.
Three groups of barriers emerged, related to 1) the users’ knowledge of the system, 2) the users’ evaluation of features of the system (source and content, format/lay out, and functionality), and 3) the interaction of the system with external factors (patient-related and environmental factors). Commonly perceived barriers were insufficient knowledge of the CDSS, irrelevant alerts, too high intensity of alerts, a lack of flexibility and learning capacity of the CDSS, a negative effect on patient communication, and the additional time and work it requires to use the CDSS.
Multiple types of barriers may hinder the use of large-scale implemented CDSSs covering multiple disease areas in primary care. Lack of knowledge of the system is an important barrier, emphasizing the importance of a proper introduction of the system to the target group. Furthermore, barriers related to a lack of integration into daily practice seem to be of primary concern, suggesting that increasing the system’s flexibility and learning capacity in order to be able to adapt the decision support to meet the varying needs of different users should be the main target of CDSS interventions.
PMCID: PMC4603732  PMID: 26459233
Clinical decision support; Clinical practice guidelines; Primary care; Barriers; Interventions; Implementation
12.  Propensity to seek healthcare in different healthcare systems: analysis of patient data in 34 countries 
Some people have a lower threshold to seek care for certain symptoms than others. This study aims to investigate what factors are associated with patients’ propensity to seek care. In addition, this study explores whether patients’ propensity to seek care is associated with their actual health care utilization. We hypothesized that higher scores for propensity to seek care will lead to more general practitioners (GP) consultations, but to lower rates of avoidable hospitalization.
Propensity to seek care and GP utilization were measured by the Patient Experience Questionnaire of the QUALICOPC study, a survey among 61,931 patients that recently visited GP services in 34 countries. Propensity to seek care was estimated by two questions: one question focusing on health care seeking behavior for serious symptoms and the other question focused minor complaints. Data on country level rates of avoidable hospitalization for CHF, COPD, asthma and diabetes were obtained from the OECD health care quality indicators project.
Beside patient characteristics, various organizational factors, such as better accessible and continuous primary care, and better experienced communication between patient and GPs was associated with a higher propensity to seek care for both severe and minor complaints. A higher propensity to seek care was associated with a slightly higher health care utilization in terms of GP visits, with no differences between the severity of the experienced symptoms (OR 1.08 for severe complaints and OR 1.05 for minor complaints). At country level, no association was found between propensity to seek care and rates of avoidable hospitalization for CHF, COPD, asthma and diabetes, possibly due to low statistical power at country level.
The organization of primary care and patients’ perceived communication with their GP were found to be highly correlated with patients’ decision to seek health care for minor or severe complaints, suggesting that characteristics of healthcare systems directly influence patients’ care seeking behavior, potentially leading to overuse or underuse of health services. However, we also observed that patients’ propensity to seek care is only weakly associated with more GP use.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12913-015-1119-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4600318  PMID: 26453459
Propensity to seek care; Health care seeking behavior; Primary care; ACSCs
13.  The Relationship Between the Scope of Essential Health Benefits and Statutory Financing: An International Comparison Across Eight European Countries 
Background: Both rising healthcare costs and the global financial crisis have fueled a search for policy tools in order to avoid unsustainable future financing of essential health benefits. The scope of essential health benefits (the range of services covered) and depth of coverage (the proportion of costs of the covered benefits that is covered publicly) are corresponding variables in determining the benefits package. We hypothesized that a more comprehensive health benefit package may increase user cost-sharing charges.
Methods: We conducted a desktop research study to assess the interrelationship between the scope of covered health benefits and the height of statutory spending in a sample of 8 European countries: Belgium, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland. We conducted a targeted literature search to identify characteristics of the healthcare systems in our sample of countries. We analyzed similarities and differences based on the dimensions of publicly financed healthcare as published by the European Observatory on Health Care Systems.
Results: We found that the scope of services is comparable and comprehensive across our sample, with only marginal differences. Cost-sharing arrangements show the most variation. In general, we found no direct interrelationship in this sample between the ranges of services covered in the health benefits package and the height of public spending on healthcare. With regard to specific services (dental care, physical therapy), we found indications of an association between coverage of services and cost-sharing arrangements. Strong variations in the volume and price of healthcare services between the 8 countries were found for services with large practice variations.
Conclusion: Although reducing the scope of the benefit package as well as increasing user charges may contribute to the financial sustainability of healthcare, variations in the volume and price of care seem to have a much larger impact on financial sustainability. Policy-makers should focus on a variety of measures within an integrated approach. There is no silver bullet for addressing the sustainability of healthcare.
PMCID: PMC4676966  PMID: 26673645
Healthcare Reform; Essential Health Benefits; Cost-Sharing
14.  A multifaceted feedback strategy alone does not improve the adherence to organizational guideline-based standards: a cluster randomized trial in intensive care 
Organizational data such as bed occupancy rate and nurse-to-patient ratio are related to clinical outcomes and to the efficient use of intensive care unit (ICU) resources. Standards for these performance indicators are provided in guidelines. We studied the effects of a multifaceted feedback strategy to improve the adherence to these standards.
In a cluster randomized controlled study design the intervention ICUs received extensive monthly feedback reports, they received outreach visits and initiated a quality improvement team. The control ICUs received limited quarterly feedback reports only. We collected primary data prospectively within the setting of a Dutch national ICU registry over a 14-month study period. The target indicators were bed occupancy rate (aiming at 80 % or below) and nurse-to-patient ratio (aiming at 0.5 or higher). Data were collected per 8-h nursing shift. Logistic regression analysis was performed. For both study end points, the odds ratios (OR) for improvements at follow-up versus at baseline were calculated separately for control and intervention ICUs.
We analyzed data on 67,237 nursing shifts. The bed occupancy rate did not improve in the intervention group compared to baseline (adjusted OR 0.88; 95 % confidence interval (CI), 0.62–1.27) or compared to control group (OR 0.67; 95 % CI 0.39–1.15). The nurse-to-patient ratio did not improve (OR 0.72; 95 % CI 0.41–1.26 compared to baseline and OR 0.65; 95 % CI 0.35–1.19 compared to control group).
A multifaceted feedback intervention did not improve the adherence to guideline-based standards on the organizational issues bed occupancy rate and nurse-to-patient ratio in the ICU. The reasons may be a limited confidence in data quality, the lack of practical tools for improvement, and the relatively short follow-up.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC4495635  PMID: 26152568
Multifaceted feedback; Critical care; Quality improvement; Bed occupancy; Nurse-to-patient ratio
15.  Multimorbidity patterns in a primary care population aged 55 years and over 
Family Practice  2015;32(5):505-513.
To support the management of multimorbid patients in primary care, evidence is needed on prevalent multimorbidity patterns.
To identify the common and distinctive multimorbidity patterns.
Clinical data of 120480 patients (≥55 years) were extracted from 158 general practices in 2002–11. Prevalence rates of multimorbidity were analyzed (overall, and for 24 chronic diseases), adjusted for practice, number of diseases and patients’ registration period; differentiated between patients 55–69 and ≥70 years. To investigate multimorbidity patterns, prevalence ratios (prevalence rate index-disease group divided by that in the non-index-disease group) were calculated for patients with heart failure, diabetes mellitus, migraine or dementia.
Multiple membership multilevel models showed that the overall adjusted multimorbidity rate was 86% in patients with ≥1 chronic condition, varying from 70% (migraine) to 98% (heart failure), 38% had ≥4 chronic diseases. In patients 55–69 years, 83% had multimorbidity. Numerous significant prevalence ratios were found for disease patterns in heart failure patients, ranging from 1.2 to 7.7, highest ratio for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease-cardiac dysrhythmia. For diabetes mellitus, dementia or migraine patients highest ratios were for heart failure-visual disorder (2.1), heart failure-depression (3.9) and depression-back/neck disorder (2.1), respectively (all P-values <0.001).
Multimorbidity management in general practice can be reinforced by knowledge on the clinical implications of the presence of the comprehensive disease patterns among the elderly patients, and those between 55 and 69 years. Guideline developers should be aware of the complexity of multimorbidity. As a consequence of this complexity, it is even more important to focus on what matters to a patient with multimorbidity in general practice.
PMCID: PMC4576758  PMID: 26040310
Chronic disease; general practice; multimorbidity; prevalence; primary health care.
16.  Improving the implementation of perioperative safety guidelines using a multifaceted intervention approach: protocol of the IMPROVE study, a stepped wedge cluster randomized trial 
This study is initiated to evaluate the effects, costs, and feasibility at the hospital and patient level of an evidence-based strategy to improve the use of Dutch perioperative safety guidelines. Based on current knowledge, expert opinions and expertise of the project team, a multifaceted implementation strategy has been developed.
This is a stepped wedge cluster randomized trial including nine representative hospitals across The Netherlands. Hospitals are stratified into three groups according to hospital type and geographical location and randomized in terms of the period for receipt of the intervention. All adult surgical patients meeting the inclusion criteria are assessed for patient outcomes. The implementation strategy includes education, audit and feedback, organizational interventions (e.g., local embedding of the guidelines), team-directed interventions (e.g., multi-professional team training), reminders, as well as patient-mediated interventions (e.g., patient safety cards). To tailor the implementation activities, we developed a questionnaire to identify barriers for effective guideline adherence, based on (a) a theoretical framework for classifying barriers and facilitators, (b) an instrument for measuring determinants of innovations, and (c) 19 semi-structured interviews with perioperative key professionals. Primary outcome is guideline adherence measured at the hospital (i.e., cluster) and patient levels by a set of perioperative Patient Safety Indicators (PSIs), which was developed parallel to the perioperative guidelines. Secondary outcomes at the patient level are in-hospital complications, postoperative wound infections and mortality, length of hospital stay, and unscheduled transfer to the intensive care unit, non-elective readmission to the hospital and unplanned reoperation, all within 30 days after the initial surgery. Also, patient safety culture and team climate will be studied as potential determinants. Finally, a process evaluation is conducted to identify the compliance with the implementation strategy, as well as an economic evaluation to assess the costs. Data sources are registered clinical data and surveys. There is no form of blinding.
The perioperative setting is an unexplored area with respect to implementation issues. This study is expected to yield important new evidence about the effects of a multifaceted approach on guideline adherence in the perioperative care setting.
Trial registration
Dutch trial registry: NTR3568
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13012-014-0198-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4296536  PMID: 25567584
Guideline adherence; Health-care quality indicators; Implementation; Multifaceted approach; Patient safety; Perioperative care; Stepped wedge design
17.  Patients’ expectations of variation in quality of care relates to their search for comparative performance information 
Choice of hospital based on comparative performance information (CPI) was introduced for Dutch healthcare consumers at least 5 years ago, but CPI use has not yet become commonplace. Our aim was to assess the role of patients’ expectations regarding variation in the quality of hospital care in determining whether they search for CPI.
A questionnaire (for a cross-sectional survey) was distributed to 475 orthopaedic patients in a consecutive sample, who underwent primary hip or knee replacement in a university, teaching, or community hospital between September 2009 and July 2010.
Of the 302 patients (63%) who responded, 13% reported searching for CPI to help them choose a hospital. People who expected quality differences between hospitals (67%) were more likely to search for CPI (OR =3.18 [95% CI: 1.02–9.89]; p <0.04) than those who did not. Quality differences were most often expected in hospital reputation, distance, and accessibility. Patients who did not search for CPI stated that they felt no need for this type of information.
Patients’ expectations regarding variation in quality of care are positively related to their reported search for CPI. To increase the relevance of CPI for patients, future studies should explore the underlying reasoning of patients about meaningful quality-of-care variation between hospitals.
PMCID: PMC4265457  PMID: 25464982
Expectations; Comparative performance information; Practice variation; Quality of care; Hip replacement; Knee replacement; Elective surgery
18.  Evaluating the uptake and effects of the computerized decision support system NHGDoc on quality of primary care: protocol for a large-scale cluster randomized controlled trial 
Computerized decision support systems (CDSSs) are increasingly used to improve quality of care. There is evidence for moderate to large effects from randomized controlled trials (RCTs), but evidence on their effectiveness when implemented at a national level is lacking. In the Netherlands, the Dutch College of General Practitioners (NHG) initiated their successful guideline program already 30 years ago. NHGDoc, a CDSS based on these NHG guidelines, covering multiple disease areas for general practice, was developed in 2006 with the aim to improve quality of primary care. In this paper, a protocol is presented to evaluate the uptake and effects of NHGDoc.
A cluster RCT will be conducted among 120 general practices in the Netherlands. Eligible general practices will be randomized to receive either the regular NHGDoc decision support modules (control arm) or the regular modules plus an additional module on heart failure (intervention arm). The heart failure module consists of patient-specific alerts concerning the treatment of patients with heart failure. The effect evaluation will focus on performance indicators (e.g., prescription behavior) as well as on patient outcomes (e.g., hospital admissions) relevant in the domain of heart failure. Additionally, a process evaluation will be conducted to gain insight into the barriers and facilitators that affect the uptake and impact of NHGDoc.
Results of this study will provide insight in the uptake and impact of a multiple-domain covering CDSS for primary care implemented by a national guideline organization to improve the quality of primary care. Whereas the trial focuses on a specific domain of care—heart failure—conclusions of this study will shed light on the functioning of CDSSs covering multiple disease areas for primary care, particularly as this study also explores the factors contributing to the system’s uptake and effectiveness.
Trial registration
Clinical trials NCT01773057
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13012-014-0145-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4205280  PMID: 25322766
Clinical decision support; Clinical practice guidelines; Primary care; Process of care; Patient outcomes
19.  Comparative performance information plays no role in the referral behaviour of GPs 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:146.
Comparative performance information (CPI) about the quality of hospital care is information used to identify high-quality hospitals and providers. As the gatekeeper to secondary care, the general practitioner (GP) can use CPI to reflect on the pros and cons of the available options with the patient and choose a provider best fitted to the patient’s needs. We investigated how GPs view their role in using CPI to choose providers and support patients.
We used a mixed-method, sequential, exploratory design to conduct explorative interviews with 15 GPs about their referral routines, methods of referral consideration, patient involvement, and the role of CPI. Then we quantified the qualitative results by sending a survey questionnaire to 81 GPs affiliated with a representative national research network.
Seventy GPs (86% response rate) filled out the questionnaire. Most GPs did not know where to find CPI (87%) and had never searched for it (94%). The GPs reported that they were not motivated to use CPI due to doubts about its role as support information, uncertainty about the effect of using CPI, lack of faith in better outcomes, and uncertainty about CPI content and validity. Nonetheless, most GPs believed that patients would like to be informed about quality-of-care differences (62%), and about half the GPs discussed quality-of-care differences with their patients (46%), though these discussions were not based on CPI.
Decisions about referrals to hospital care are not based on CPI exchanges during GP consultations. As a gatekeeper, the GP is in a good position to guide patients through the enormous amount of quality information that is available. Nevertheless, it is unclear how and whether the GP’s role in using information about quality of care in the referral process can grow, as patients hardly ever initiate a discussion based on CPI, though they seem to be increasingly more critical about differences in quality of care. Future research should address the conditions needed to support GPs’ ability and willingness to use CPI to guide their patients in the referral process.
PMCID: PMC4161854  PMID: 25160715
Primary care; Doctor-patient relationship; Access to care; Performance information; Quality of care; Qualitative research; Quantitative research; Mixed methods
20.  Unexpectedly long hospital stays as an indicator of risk of unsafe care: an exploratory study 
BMJ Open  2014;4(6):e004773.
We developed an outcome indicator based on the finding that complications often prolong the patient's hospital stay. A higher percentage of patients with an unexpectedly long length of stay (UL-LOS) compared to the national average may indicate shortcomings in patient safety. We explored the utility of the UL-LOS indicator.
We used data of 61 Dutch hospitals. In total these hospitals had 1 400 000 clinical discharges in 2011.
The indicator is based on the percentage of patients with a prolonged length of stay of more than 50% of the expected length of stay and calculated among survivors.
No interventions were made.
Outcome measures
The outcome measures were the variability of the indicator across hospitals, the stability over time, the correlation between the UL-LOS and standardised mortality and the influence on the indicator of hospitals that did have problems discharging their patients to other health services such as nursing homes.
In order to compare hospitals properly the expected length of stay was computed based on comparison with benchmark populations. The standardisation was based on patients’ age, primary diagnosis and main procedure. The UL-LOS indicator showed considerable variability between the Dutch hospitals: from 8.6% to 20.1% in 2011. The outcomes had relatively small CIs since they were based on large numbers of patients. The stability of the indicator over time was quite high. The indicator had a significant positive correlation with the standardised mortality (r=0.44 (p<0.001)), and no significant correlation with the percentage of patients that was discharged to other facilities than other hospitals and home (r=−0.15 (p>0.05)).
The UL-LOS indicator is a useful addition to other patient safety indicators by revealing variation between hospitals and areas of possible patient safety improvement.
PMCID: PMC4054630  PMID: 24902727
21.  Recognition of physiotherapists’ expertise in Parkinson’s disease 
Publicly available information comparing performance across quality and costs has proliferated in recent years, both about individual healthcare professionals and hospitals. This type of information is now becoming increasingly available for physiotherapists with expertise in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Our study aimed to explore the ability of people with Parkinson’s disease to recognise expertise, and to what extent respondents selectively choose such expert physiotherapists.
We used claim data from the period 2009–2010 to select customers with PD who claimed physiotherapy. A random sample of 500 eligible respondents received a paper-based survey. We used descriptive statistics to compare the respondent characteristics, a qualitative programme to analyse the qualitative items, and univariate and multivariate regression.
Most respondents (89%) took their referring physician’s advice when selecting a physiotherapist, although this advice rarely was supported with arguments. The remaining respondents (11%) searched for comparative performance information about physiotherapists. Respondents who recognised the added value of PD expertise among physiotherapists were 3.28 times as likely to search for comparative performance information as those who did not understand. Respondents were willing to switch to an expert physiotherapist (68%), and this willingness increased if they recognised the value of PD expertise (p < .001).
The participants were able to recognise certain aspects of expertise. Though they showed relatively few signs of selectively choice behaviour for expert physiotherapists. Both respondents and referring professionals need more understanding about the added value of an expert physiotherapist, to foster selective provider choice.
PMCID: PMC4016478  PMID: 24152942
Provider choice; Comparative performance information; Physiotherapy; Expertise; Parkinson’s disease
22.  Effects of auditing patient safety in hospital care: design of a mixed-method evaluation 
Auditing of patient safety aims at early detection of risks of adverse events and is intended to encourage the continuous improvement of patient safety. The auditing should be an independent, objective assurance and consulting system. Auditing helps an organisation accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluating and improving the effectiveness of risk management, control, and governance. Audits are broadly conducted in hospitals, but little is known about their effects on the behaviour of healthcare professionals and patient safety outcomes. This study was initiated to evaluate the effects of patient safety auditing in hospital care and to explore the processes and mechanisms underlying these effects.
Methods and design
Our study aims to evaluate an audit system to monitor and improve patient safety in a hospital setting. We are using a mixed-method evaluation with a before-and-after study design in eight departments of one university hospital in the period October 2011–July 2014. We measure several outcomes 3 months before the audit and 15 months after the audit. The primary outcomes are adverse events and complications. The secondary outcomes are experiences of patients, the standardised mortality ratio, prolonged hospital stay, patient safety culture, and team climate. We use medical record reviews, questionnaires, hospital administrative data, and observations to assess the outcomes. A process evaluation will be used to find out which components of internal auditing determine the effects.
We report a study protocol of an effect and process evaluation to determine whether auditing improves patient safety in hospital care. Because auditing is a complex intervention targeted on several levels, we are using a combination of methods to collect qualitative and quantitative data about patient safety at the patient, professional, and department levels. This study is relevant for hospitals that want to early detect unsafe care and improve patient safety continuously.
Trial registration
Netherlands Trial Register (NTR): NTR3343
PMCID: PMC3708817  PMID: 23800253
Hospital; Patient safety; Safety management; Risk management; Complications; Management system audit; Clinical governance; Professional practice; Adverse events; Auditing
23.  Behavior change in a lifestyle intervention for type 2 diabetes prevention in Dutch primary care: opportunities for intervention content 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:78.
Despite the favorable effects of behavior change interventions on diabetes risk, lifestyle modification is a complicated process. In this study we therefore investigated opportunities for refining a lifestyle intervention for type 2 diabetes prevention, based on participant perceptions of behavior change progress.
A 30 month intervention was performed in Dutch primary care among high-risk individuals (FINDRISC-score ≥ 13) and was compared to usual care. Participant perceptions of behavior change progress for losing weight, dietary modification, and increasing physical activity were assessed after18 months with questionnaires. Based on the response, participants were categorized as ‘planners’, ‘initiators’ or ‘achievers’ and frequencies were evaluated in both study groups. Furthermore, participants reported on barriers for lifestyle change.
In both groups, around 80% of all participants (intervention: N = 370; usual care: N = 322) planned change. Except for reducing fat intake (p = 0.08), the number of initiators was significantly higher in the intervention group than in usual care. The percentage of achievers was high for the dietary and exercise objectives (intervention: 81–95%; usual care: 83–93%), but was lower for losing weight (intervention: 67%; usual care: 62%). Important motivational barriers were ‘I already meet the standards’ and ‘I’m satisfied with my current behavior’. Temptation to snack, product taste and lack of time were important volitional barriers.
The results suggest that the intervention supports participants to bridge the gap between motivation and action. Several opportunities for intervention refinement are however revealed, including more stringent criteria for participant inclusion, tools for (self)-monitoring of health, emphasis on the ‘small-step-approach’, and more attention for stimulus control.
Trial registration
Netherlands Trial Register: NTR1082
PMCID: PMC3706294  PMID: 23758998
Type 2 diabetes; Primary care; Behavior change; Lifestyle intervention
24.  Effects of hospital delivery during off-hours on perinatal outcome in several subgroups: a retrospective cohort study 
Studies have demonstrated a higher risk of adverse outcomes among infants born or admitted during off-hours, as compared to office hours, leading to questions about quality of care provide during off-hours (weekend, evening or night). We aim to determine the relationship between off-hours delivery and adverse perinatal outcomes for subgroups of hospital births.
This retrospective cohort study was based on data from the Netherlands Perinatal Registry, a countrywide registry that covers 99% of all hospital births in the Netherlands. Data of 449,714 infants, born at 28 completed weeks or later, in the period 2003 through 2007 were used. Infants with a high a priori risk of morbidity or mortality were excluded. Outcome measures were intrapartum and early neonatal mortality, a low Apgar score (5 minute score of 0–6), and a composite adverse perinatal outcome measure (mortality, low Apgar score, severe birth trauma, admission to a neonatal intensive care unit).
Evening and night-time deliveries that involved induction or augmentation of labour, or an emergency caesarean section, were associated with an increased risk of an adverse perinatal outcome when compared to similar daytime deliveries. Weekend deliveries were not associated with an increased risk when compared to weekday deliveries. It was estimated that each year, between 126 and 141 cases with an adverse perinatal outcomes could be attributed to this evening and night effect. Of these, 21 (15-16%) are intrapartum or early neonatal death. Among the 3100 infants in the study population who experience an adverse outcome each year, death accounted for only 5% (165) of these outcomes.
This study shows that for infants whose mothers require obstetric interventions during labour and delivery, birth in the evening or at night, are at an increased risk of an adverse perinatal outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3496693  PMID: 22958736
Time of birth; Night; Weekend; Delivery; Perinatal mortality; Perinatal morbidity; Hospital care; Quality of health care
25.  Lifestyle Counseling for Type 2 Diabetes Risk Reduction in Dutch Primary Care 
Diabetes Care  2011;34(9):1919-1925.
To study the overall effect of the Active Prevention in High-Risk Individuals of Diabetes Type 2 in and Around Eindhoven (APHRODITE) lifestyle intervention on type 2 diabetes risk reduction in Dutch primary care after 0.5 and 1.5 years and to evaluate the variability between general practices.
Individuals at high risk for type 2 diabetes (Finnish Diabetes Risk Score ≥13) were randomly assigned into an intervention group (n = 479) or a usual-care group (n = 446). Comparisons were made between study groups and between general practices regarding changes in clinical and lifestyle measures over 1.5 years. Participant, general practitioner, and nurse practitioner characteristics were compared between individuals who lost weight or maintained a stable weight and individuals who gained weight.
Both groups showed modest changes in glucose values, weight measures, physical activity, energy intake, and fiber intake. Differences between groups were significant only for total physical activity, saturated fat intake, and fiber intake. Differences between general practices were significant for BMI and 2-h glucose but not for energy intake and physical activity. In the intervention group, the nurse practitioners’ mean years of work experience was significantly longer in individuals who were successful at losing weight or maintaining a stable weight compared with unsuccessful individuals. Furthermore, successful individuals more often had a partner.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes could be significantly reduced by lifestyle counseling in Dutch primary care. The small differences in changes over time between the two study groups suggest that additional intervention effects are modest. In particular, the level of experience of the nurse practitioner and the availability of partner support seem to facilitate intervention success.
PMCID: PMC3161269  PMID: 21775759

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