Injury is a leading cause of death and disability for children. Regionalised trauma systems have improved outcomes for severely injured adults, however the impact of adult orientated trauma systems on the outcomes of severely injured children remains unclear. The objective of this study is to review the processes of care and describe the impacts of a regionalised trauma system on the outcomes of severely injured children.
This article describes the design of a mixed methods cohort study evaluating the paediatric trauma system in New South Wales (NSW), the most populous state in Australia. Recommendations and an implementation strategy will be developed for aspects of the paediatric trauma care system that require change.
All injured children (aged <16 years) requiring intensive care, or with an Injury Severity Score (ISS) ≥ 9 treated in NSW, or who died following injury in NSW in the 2015–16 financial year, will be eligible for participation. Injury treatment and processes will be examined via retrospective medical record review. Quality of care will be measured via peer review and staff interviews, utilising a human factors framework. Health service and cost outcomes will be calculated using activity based funding data provided by the Ministry of Health. Health-related quality of life (HRQoL) proxy measures will occur at baseline, 6 and 12 months to measure child HRQoL and functional outcomes.
This will be the first comprehensive analysis undertaken in Australia of the processes and systems of care for severe paediatric injury. The collaborative research method will encourage clinician, consumer and clinical networks to lead the clinical reform process and will ultimately enable policy makers and service providers to ensure that children seriously injured in Australia have the best opportunity for survival, improved functional outcome and long-term quality of life.
Children; Injury; Trauma system; Trauma centers; Triage; Emergency medical services; Ambulances; Outcomes
The Neurotrauma Evidence Translation (NET) Trial aims to design and evaluate the effectiveness of a targeted theory-and evidence-informed intervention to increase the uptake of evidence-based recommended practices for the management of patients who present to an emergency department (ED) with mild head injuries. When designing interventions to bring about change in organisational settings such as the ED, it is important to understand the impact of the context to ensure successful implementation of practice change. Few studies explicitly use organisational theory to study which factors are likely to be most important to address when planning change processes in the ED. Yet, this setting may have a unique set of organisational pressures that need to be taken into account when implementing new clinical practices. This paper aims to provide an in depth analysis of the organisational context in which ED management of mild head injuries and implementation of new practices occurs, drawing upon organisational level theory.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ED staff in Australia. The interviews explored the organisational context in relation to change and organisational factors influencing the management of patients presenting with mild head injuries. Two researchers coded the interview transcripts using thematic content analysis. The “model of diffusion in service organisations” was used to guide analyses and organisation of the results.
Nine directors, 20 doctors and 13 nurses of 13 hospitals were interviewed. With regard to characteristics of the innovation (i.e. the recommended practices) the most important factor was whether they were perceived as being in line with values and needs. Tension for change (the degree to which stakeholders perceive the current situation as intolerable or needing change) was relatively low for managing acute mild head injury symptoms, and mixed for managing longer-term symptoms (higher change commitment, but relatively low change efficacy). Regarding implementation processes, the importance of (visible) senior leadership for all professions involved was identified as a critical factor. An unpredictable and hectic environment brings challenges in creating an environment in which team-based and organisational learning can thrive (system antecedents for innovation). In addition, the position of the ED as the entry-point of the hospital points to the relevance of securing buy-in from other units.
We identified several organisational factors relevant to realising change in ED management of patients who present with mild head injuries. These factors will inform the intervention design and process evaluation in a trial evaluating the effectiveness of our implementation intervention.
We developed an evidence service that draws inputs from Health Systems Evidence (HSE), which is a comprehensive database of research evidence about governance, financial and delivery arrangements within health systems and about implementation strategies relevant to health systems. Our goal was to evaluate whether, how and why a ‘full-serve’ evidence service increases the use of synthesized research evidence by policy analysts and advisors in the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care as compared to a ‘self-serve’ evidence service.
We attempted to conduct a two-arm, 10-month randomized controlled trial (RCT), along with a follow-up qualitative process evaluation, but we terminated the RCT when we failed to reach our recruitment target. For the qualitative process evaluation we modified the original interview guide to allow us to explore the (1) factors influencing participation in the trial; (2) usage of HSE, factors explaining usage patterns, and strategies to increase usage; (3) participation in training workshops and use of other supports; and (4) views about and experiences with key HSE features.
We terminated the RCT given our 15% recruitment rate. Six factors were identified by those who had agreed to participate in the trial as encouraging their participation: relevance of the study to participants’ own work; familiarity with the researchers; personal view of the importance of using research evidence in policymaking; academic background; support from supervisors; and participation of colleagues. Most reported that they never, infrequently or inconsistently used HSE and suggested strategies to increase its use, including regular email reminders and employee training. However, only two participants indicated that employee training, in the form of a workshop about finding and using research evidence, had influenced their use of HSE. Most participants found HSE features to be intuitive and helpful, although registration/sign-in and some page formats (particularly the advanced search page and detailed search results page) discouraged their use or did not optimize the user experience.
The qualitative findings informed a re-design of HSE, which allows users to more efficiently find and use research evidence about how to strengthen or reform health systems or in how to get cost-effective programs, services and drugs to those who need them. Our experience with RCT recruitment suggests the need to consider changing the unit of allocation to divisions instead of individuals within divisions, among other lessons.
This protocol for this study is published in Implementation Science and registered with ClinicalTrials.gov (HHS/FHS REB 10–267).
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12961-015-0066-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Despite the availability of evidence-based guidelines for the management of mild traumatic brain injury in the emergency department (ED), variations in practice exist. Interventions designed to implement recommended behaviours can reduce this variation. Using theory to inform intervention development is advocated; however, there is no consensus on how to select or apply theory. Integrative theoretical frameworks, based on syntheses of theories and theoretical constructs relevant to implementation, have the potential to assist in the intervention development process. This paper describes the process of applying two theoretical frameworks to investigate the factors influencing recommended behaviours and the choice of behaviour change techniques and modes of delivery for an implementation intervention.
A stepped approach was followed: (i) identification of locally applicable and actionable evidence-based recommendations as targets for change, (ii) selection and use of two theoretical frameworks for identifying barriers to and enablers of change (Theoretical Domains Framework and Model of Diffusion of Innovations in Service Organisations) and (iii) identification and operationalisation of intervention components (behaviour change techniques and modes of delivery) to address the barriers and enhance the enablers, informed by theory, evidence and feasibility/acceptability considerations. We illustrate this process in relation to one recommendation, prospective assessment of post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) by ED staff using a validated tool.
Four recommendations for managing mild traumatic brain injury were targeted with the intervention. The intervention targeting the PTA recommendation consisted of 14 behaviour change techniques and addressed 6 theoretical domains and 5 organisational domains. The mode of delivery was informed by six Cochrane reviews. It was delivered via five intervention components : (i) local stakeholder meetings, (ii) identification of local opinion leader teams, (iii) a train-the-trainer workshop for appointed local opinion leaders, (iv) local training workshops for delivery by trained local opinion leaders and (v) provision of tools and materials to prompt recommended behaviours.
Two theoretical frameworks were used in a complementary manner to inform intervention development in managing mild traumatic brain injury in the ED. The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the developed intervention is being evaluated in a cluster randomised trial, part of the Neurotrauma Evidence Translation (NET) program.
Intervention design; Intervention development; Theory use; Theoretical domains framework; Diffusion of innovations in service organisations
Study Design Systematic review.
Objective We assessed the current state of spine registries by collecting spine trauma data and assessing their compliance to defined registry standards of being clinical quality. We ascertained if these registries collected spinal cord injury data alone or with spine column trauma data.
Methods A systematic review was performed using MEDLINE and Embase databases for articles describing dedicated spinal cord and spine column databases published between January 1990 and April 2011. Correspondence with these registries was performed via e-mail or post. When no correspondence was possible, the registries were analyzed with best information available.
Results Three hundred eight full-text articles were reviewed. Of 41 registries identified, 20 registries fulfilled the criteria of being clinical quality. The main reason for failure to attain clinical quality designation was due to the unavailability of patient outcomes. Eight registries collected both spine column and spinal cord injury data with 33 collecting only traumatic spinal cord injury data.
Conclusion There is currently a paucity of clinical quality spine trauma registries. Clinical quality registries are important tools for demonstrating trends and outcomes, monitoring care quality, and resolving controversies in the management of spine trauma. An international spine trauma data set (containing both spinal cord and spine column injury data) and standardized approach to recording and analysis are needed to allow international multicenter collaboration and benchmarking.
clinical quality; registry; database; spine trauma; benchmarking
The production of high quality systematic reviews requires rigorous methods that are time-consuming and resource intensive. Citation screening is a key step in the systematic review process. An opportunity to improve the efficiency of systematic review production involves the use of non-expert groups and new technologies for citation screening. We performed a pilot study of citation screening by medical students using four screening methods and compared students’ performance to experienced review authors.
The aims of this pilot randomised controlled trial were to provide preliminary data on the accuracy of title and abstract screening by medical students, and on the effect of screening modality on screening accuracy and efficiency. Medical students were randomly allocated to title and abstract screening using one of the four modalities and required to screen 650 citations from a single systematic review update. The four screening modalities were a reference management software program (EndNote), Paper, a web-based systematic review workflow platform (ReGroup) and a mobile screening application (Screen2Go). Screening sensitivity and specificity were analysed in a complete case analysis using a chi-squared test and Kruskal-Wallis rank sum test according to screening modality and compared to a final set of included citations selected by expert review authors.
Sensitivity of medical students’ screening decisions ranged from 46.7% to 66.7%, with students using the web-based platform performing significantly better than the paper-based group. Specificity ranged from 93.2% to 97.4% with the lowest specificity seen with the web-based platform. There was no significant difference in performance between the other three modalities.
Medical students are a feasible population to engage in citation screening. Future studies should investigate the effect of incentive systems, training and support and analytical methods on screening performance.
Systematic review registration
Cochrane Database CD001048
Systematic review; Citation screening; Title and abstract screening; Medical students; Methodology; Technology; Randomised controlled trial; Clinical practice guideline
Acquired brain injury (ABI) is the leading cause of disability worldwide yet there is little information regarding the most effective way to organise ABI health care services. The aim of this review was to identify the most up-to-date high quality evidence to answer specific questions regarding the organisation of health care services for people with an ABI.
We conducted a systematic review of English papers using MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, CINAHL and the Cochrane Library. We included the most recently published high quality systematic reviews and any randomised controlled trials, non-randomised controlled trials, controlled before after studies or interrupted time series studies published subsequent to the systematic review. We searched for papers that evaluated pre-defined organisational interventions for adults with an ABI. Organisational interventions of interest included fee-for-service care, integrated care, integrated care pathways, continuity of care, consumer engagement in governance and quality monitoring interventions. Data extraction and appraisal of included reviews and studies was completed independently by two reviewers.
A total of five systematic reviews and 21 studies were included in the review; eight of the papers (31%) included people with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or ABI and the remaining papers (69%) included only participants with a diagnosis of stroke. We found evidence supporting the use of integrated care to improve functional outcome and reduce length of stay and evidence supporting early supported discharge teams for reducing morbidity and mortality and reducing length of stay for stroke survivors. There was little evidence to support case management or the use of integrated care pathways for people with ABI. We found evidence that a quality monitoring intervention can lead to improvements in process outcomes in acute and rehabilitation settings. We were unable to find any studies meeting our inclusion criteria regarding fee-for-service care or engaging consumers in the governance of the health care organisation.
The review found evidence to support integrated care, early supported discharge and quality monitoring interventions however, this evidence was based on studies conducted with people following stroke and may not be appropriate for all people with an ABI.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-397) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Brain injuries; Craniocerebral trauma; Stroke; Systematic review; Rehabilitation; Case management; Delivery of health care; Quality assurance (Health Care)
Few guidelines exist for the initial management of wounds in disaster settings. As wounds sustained are often contaminated, there is a high risk of further complications from infection, both local and systemic. Healthcare workers with little to no surgical training often provide early wound care, and where resources and facilities are also often limited, and clear appropriate guidance is needed for early wound management.
We undertook a systematic review focusing on the nature of wounds in disaster situations, and the outcomes of wound management in recent disasters. We then presented the findings to an international consensus panel with a view to formulating a guideline for the initial management of wounds by first responders and subsequent healthcare personnel as they deploy.
We included 62 studies in the review that described wound care challenges in a diverse range of disasters, and reported high rates of wound infection with multiple causative organisms. The panel defined a guideline in which the emphasis is on not closing wounds primarily but rather directing efforts toward cleaning, debridement, and dressing wounds in preparation for delayed primary closure, or further exploration and management by skilled surgeons.
Good wound care in disaster settings, as outlined in this article, can be achieved with relatively simple measures, and have important mortality and morbidity benefits.
Mild head injuries commonly present to emergency departments. The challenges facing clinicians in emergency departments include identifying which patients have traumatic brain injury, and which patients can safely be sent home. Traumatic brain injuries may exist with subtle symptoms or signs, but can still lead to adverse outcomes. Despite the existence of several high quality clinical practice guidelines, internationally and in Australia, research shows inconsistent implementation of these recommendations. The aim of this trial is to test the effectiveness of a targeted, theory- and evidence-informed implementation intervention to increase the uptake of three key clinical recommendations regarding the emergency department management of adult patients (18 years of age or older) who present following mild head injuries (concussion), compared with passive dissemination of these recommendations. The primary objective is to establish whether the intervention is effective in increasing the percentage of patients for which appropriate post-traumatic amnesia screening is performed.
The design of this study is a cluster randomised trial. We aim to include 34 Australian 24-hour emergency departments, which will be randomised to an intervention or control group. Control group departments will receive a copy of the most recent Australian evidence-based clinical practice guideline on the acute management of patients with mild head injuries. The intervention group will receive an implementation intervention based on an analysis of influencing factors, which include local stakeholder meetings, identification of nursing and medical opinion leaders in each site, a train-the-trainer day and standardised education and interactive workshops delivered by the opinion leaders during a 3 month period of time. Clinical practice outcomes will be collected retrospectively from medical records by independent chart auditors over the 2 month period following intervention delivery (patient level outcomes). In consenting hospitals, eligible patients will be recruited for a follow-up telephone interview conducted by trained researchers. A cost-effectiveness analysis and process evaluation using mixed-methods will be conducted. Sample size calculations are based on including 30 patients on average per department. Outcome assessors will be blinded to group allocation.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12612001286831 (date registered 12 December 2012).
Mild traumatic brain injury; Cluster trial; Emergency department
Julian Elliott and colleagues discuss how the current inability to keep systematic reviews up-to-date hampers the translation of knowledge into action. They propose living systematic reviews as a contribution to evidence synthesis to enhance the accuracy and utility of health evidence.
Mild traumatic brain injury is a frequent cause of presentation to emergency departments. Despite the availability of clinical practice guidelines in this area, there is variation in practice. One of the aims of the Neurotrauma Evidence Translation program is to develop and evaluate a targeted, theory- and evidence-informed intervention to improve the management of mild traumatic brain injury in Australian emergency departments. This study is the first step in the intervention development process and uses the Theoretical Domains Framework to explore the factors perceived to influence the uptake of four key evidence-based recommended practices for managing mild traumatic brain injury.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with emergency staff in the Australian state of Victoria. The interview guide was developed using the Theoretical Domains Framework to explore current practice and to identify the factors perceived to influence practice. Two researchers coded the interview transcripts using thematic content analysis.
A total of 42 participants (9 Directors, 20 doctors and 13 nurses) were interviewed over a seven-month period. The results suggested that (i) the prospective assessment of post-traumatic amnesia was influenced by: knowledge; beliefs about consequences; environmental context and resources; skills; social/professional role and identity; and beliefs about capabilities; (ii) the use of guideline-developed criteria or decision rules to inform the appropriate use of a CT scan was influenced by: knowledge; beliefs about consequences; environmental context and resources; memory, attention and decision processes; beliefs about capabilities; social influences; skills and behavioral regulation; (iii) providing verbal and written patient information on discharge was influenced by: beliefs about consequences; environmental context and resources; memory, attention and decision processes; social/professional role and identity; and knowledge; (iv) the practice of providing brief, routine follow-up on discharge was influenced by: environmental context and resources; social/professional role and identity; knowledge; beliefs about consequences; and motivation and goals.
Using the Theoretical Domains Framework, factors thought to influence the management of mild traumatic brain injury in the emergency department were identified. These factors present theoretically based targets for a future intervention.
Emergency department management; Mild traumatic brain injury; Theoretical Domains Framework; Semi-structured interviews
David Studdert and colleagues identified disputes over informed consent among malpractice claims and serious health care complaints in Australia and provide an analysis of disagreements between patients and doctors over whether particular clinical risks should have been disclosed before treatment.
The Neurotrauma Evidence Translation (NET) program was funded in 2009 to increase the uptake of research evidence in the clinical care of patients who have sustained traumatic brain injury. This paper reports the rationale and plan for this five-year knowledge translation research program. The overarching aims of the program are threefold: to improve outcomes for people with traumatic brain injury; to create a network of neurotrauma clinicians and researchers with expertise in knowledge translation and evidence-based practice; and to contribute knowledge to the field of knowledge translation research. The program comprises a series of interlinked projects spanning varying clinical environments and disciplines relevant to neurotrauma, anchored within four themes representing core knowledge translation activities: reviewing research evidence; understanding practice; developing and testing interventions for practice change; and building capacity for knowledge translation in neurotrauma. The program uses a range of different methods and study designs, including: an evidence fellowship program; conduct of and training in systematic reviews; mixed method study designs to describe and understand factors that influence current practices (e.g., semi-structured interviews and surveys); theory-based methods to develop targeted interventions aiming to change practice; a cluster randomised trial to test the effectiveness of a targeted theory-informed intervention; stakeholder involvement activities; and knowledge translation events such as consensus conferences.
Knowledge translation research; Study protocol; Neurotrauma; Traumatic brain injury
Evidence mapping describes the quantity, design and characteristics of research in broad topic areas, in contrast to systematic reviews, which usually address narrowly-focused research questions. The breadth of evidence mapping helps to identify evidence gaps, and may guide future research efforts. The Global Evidence Mapping (GEM) Initiative was established in 2007 to create evidence maps providing an overview of existing research in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Spinal Cord Injury (SCI).
The GEM evidence mapping method involved three core tasks:
1. Setting the boundaries and context of the map: Definitions for the fields of TBI and SCI were clarified, the prehospital, acute inhospital and rehabilitation phases of care were delineated and relevant stakeholders (patients, carers, clinicians, researchers and policymakers) who could contribute to the mapping were identified. Researchable clinical questions were developed through consultation with key stakeholders and a broad literature search.
2. Searching for and selection of relevant studies: Evidence search and selection involved development of specific search strategies, development of inclusion and exclusion criteria, searching of relevant databases and independent screening and selection by two researchers.
3. Reporting on yield and study characteristics: Data extraction was performed at two levels - 'interventions and study design' and 'detailed study characteristics'. The evidence map and commentary reflected the depth of data extraction.
One hundred and twenty-nine researchable clinical questions in TBI and SCI were identified. These questions were then prioritised into high (n = 60) and low (n = 69) importance by the stakeholders involved in question development. Since 2007, 58 263 abstracts have been screened, 3 731 full text articles have been reviewed and 1 644 relevant neurotrauma publications have been mapped, covering fifty-three high priority questions.
GEM Initiative evidence maps have a broad range of potential end-users including funding agencies, researchers and clinicians. Evidence mapping is at least as resource-intensive as systematic reviewing. The GEM Initiative has made advancements in evidence mapping, most notably in the area of question development and prioritisation. Evidence mapping complements other review methods for describing existing research, informing future research efforts, and addressing evidence gaps.
Health-system policy makers need timely access to synthesised research evidence to inform the policy-making process. No efforts to address this need have been evaluated using an experimental quantitative design. We developed an evidence service that draws inputs from Health Systems Evidence, which is a database of policy-relevant systematic reviews. The reviews have been (a) categorised by topic and type of review; (b) coded by the last year searches for studies were conducted and by the countries in which included studies were conducted; (c) rated for quality; and (d) linked to available user-friendly summaries, scientific abstracts, and full-text reports. Our goal is to evaluate whether a "full-serve" evidence service increases the use of synthesized research evidence by policy analysts and advisors in the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) as compared to a "self-serve" evidence service.
We will conduct a two-arm randomized controlled trial (RCT), along with a follow-up qualitative process study in order to explore the findings in greater depth. For the RCT, all policy analysts and policy advisors (n = 168) in a single division of the MOHLTC will be invited to participate. Using a stratified randomized design, participants will be randomized to receive either the "full-serve" evidence service (database access, monthly e-mail alerts, and full-text article availability) or the "self-serve" evidence service (database access only). The trial duration will be ten months (two-month baseline period, six-month intervention period, and two month cross-over period). The primary outcome will be the mean number of site visits/month/user between baseline and the end of the intervention period. The secondary outcome will be participants' intention to use research evidence. For the qualitative study, 15 participants from each trial arm (n = 30) will be purposively sampled. One-on-one semi-structured interviews will be conducted by telephone on their views about and their experiences with the evidence service they received, how helpful it was in their work, why it was helpful (or not helpful), what aspects were most and least helpful and why, and recommendations for next steps.
To our knowledge, this will be the first RCT to evaluate the effects of an evidence service specifically designed to support health-system policy makers in finding and using research evidence.
This article is part of a series written for people responsible for making decisions about health policies and programmes and for those who support these decision makers.
Differences between health systems may often result in a policy or programme option that is used in one setting not being feasible or acceptable in another. Or these differences may result in an option not working in the same way in another setting, or even achieving different impacts in another setting. A key challenge that policymakers and those supporting them must face is therefore the need to understand whether research evidence about an option can be applied to their setting. Systematic reviews make this task easier by summarising the evidence from studies conducted in a variety of different settings. Many systematic reviews, however, do not provide adequate descriptions of the features of the actual settings in which the original studies were conducted. In this article, we suggest questions to guide those assessing the applicability of the findings of a systematic review to a specific setting. These are: 1. Were the studies included in a systematic review conducted in the same setting or were the findings consistent across settings or time periods? 2. Are there important differences in on-the-ground realities and constraints that might substantially alter the feasibility and acceptability of an option? 3. Are there important differences in health system arrangements that may mean an option could not work in the same way? 4. Are there important differences in the baseline conditions that might yield different absolute effects even if the relative effectiveness was the same? 5. What insights can be drawn about options, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation? Even if there are reasonable grounds for concluding that the impacts of an option might differ in a specific setting, insights can almost always be drawn from a systematic review about possible options, as well as approaches to the implementation of options and to monitoring and evaluation.
Information technology (IT) has been advocated as an important means to improve the practice of clinical medicine.
To determine current prevalence of non-electronic health record (EHR) IT use by a national sample of U.S. physicians, and to identify associated physician, practice, and patient panel characteristics.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS
Survey conducted in early 2004 of 1,662 U.S. physicians engaged in direct patient care selected from 3 primary care specialties (family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics) and 3 nonprimary care specialties (anesthesiology, general surgery, cardiology).
Self-reported frequency of e-mail communication with patients or other clinicians, online access to continuing medical education or professional journals, and use of any computerized decision support (CDS) during clinical care. Survey results were weighted by specialty and linked via practice zip codes to measures of area income and urbanization.
Response rate was 52.5%. Respondents spent 49 (±19) (mean [±standard deviation]) hours per week in direct patient care and graduated from medical school 23 (±11) years earlier. “Frequent” use was highest for CDS (40.8%) and online professional journal access (39.0%), and lowest for e-mail communication with patients (3.4%). Ten percent of physicians never used any of the 5 IT tools. In separate logistic regression analyses predicting usage of each of the 5 IT tools, the strongest associations with IT use were primary care practice (adjusted odds ratios [aORs] ranging from 1.34 to 2.26) and academic practice setting (aORs 2.17 to 5.41). Years since medical school graduation (aOR 0.85 to 0.87 for every 5 years after graduation) and solo/2-person practice setting (aORs 0.21 to 0.55) were negatively associated with IT use. Practice location and patient panel characteristics were not independently associated with IT use.
In early 2004, the majority of physicians did not regularly use basic, inexpensive, and widely available IT tools in clinical practice. Efforts to increase the use of IT in medicine should focus on practice-level barriers to adoption.
information technology; physician practice patterns; primary care; academic medicine
Participants in the Cochrane Collaboration conduct and periodically update systematic reviews that address the question, “What works?” for healthcare interventions. The Cochrane Library makes available quality-appraised systematic reviews that address this question. No coordinated effort has been undertaken to conduct and periodically update systematic reviews that address the other types of questions asked by healthcare managers and policy makers, to adapt existing reviews to highlight decision-relevant information (including the factors that may affect assessments of a review’s local applicability) or to facilitate their retrieval through a “one-stop shopping” portal. Researchers interested in evaluating new methodological developments, health services and policy researchers interested in conducting and adapting systematic reviews, and research funders all have a role to play in making systematic reviews more useful for healthcare managers and policy makers.
The interface between primary care and specialist medical services is an important domain for health services research and policy. Of particular concern is optimising specialist services and the organisation of the specialist workforce to meet the needs and demands for specialist care, particularly those generated by referral from primary care. However, differences in the disease classification and reporting of the work of primary and specialist surgical sectors hamper such research. This paper describes the development of a bridging classification for use in the study of potential surgical problems in primary care settings, and for classifying referrals to surgical specialties.
A three stage process was undertaken, which involved: (1) defining the categories of surgical disorders from a specialist perspective that were relevant to the specialist-primary care interface; (2) classifying the 'terms' in the International Classification of Primary Care Version 2-Plus (ICPC-2 Plus) to the surgical categories; and (3) using referral data from 303,000 patient encounters in the BEACH study of general practice activity in Australia to define a core set of surgical conditions. Inclusion of terms was based on the probability of specialist referral of patients with such problems, and specialists' perception that they constitute part of normal surgical practice.
A four-level hierarchy was developed, containing 8, 27 and 79 categories in the first, second and third levels, respectively. These categories classified 2050 ICPC-2 Plus terms that constituted the fourth level, and which covered the spectrum of problems that were managed in primary care and referred to surgical specialists.
Our method of classifying terms from a primary care classification system to categories delineated by specialists should be applicable to research addressing the interface between primary and specialist care. By describing the process and putting the bridging classification system in the public domain, we invite comment and application in other settings where similar problems might be faced.