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author:("vested, Peter")
1.  The role of general practice in routes to diagnosis of lung cancer in Denmark: a population-based study of general practice involvement, diagnostic activity and diagnostic intervals 
Lung cancer stage at diagnosis predicts possible curative treatment. In Denmark and the UK, lung cancer patients have lower survival rates than citizens in most other European countries, which may partly be explained by a comparatively longer diagnostic interval in these two countries. In Denmark, a pathway was introduced in 2008 allowing general practitioners (GPs) to refer patients suspected of having lung cancer directly to fast-track diagnostics. However, symptom presentation of lung cancer in general practice is known to be diverse and complex, and systematic knowledge of the routes to diagnosis is needed to enable earlier lung cancer diagnosis in Denmark. This study aims to describe the routes to diagnosis, the diagnostic activity preceding diagnosis and the diagnostic intervals for lung cancer in the Danish setting.
We conducted a national registry-based cohort study on 971 consecutive incident lung cancer patients in 2010 using data from national registries and GP questionnaires.
GPs were involved in 68.3% of cancer patients’ diagnostic pathways, and 27.4% of lung cancer patients were referred from the GP to fast-track diagnostic work-up. A minimum of one X-ray was performed in 85.6% of all cases before diagnosis. Patients referred through a fast-track route more often had diagnostic X-rays (66.0%) than patients who did not go through fast-track (49.4%). Overall, 33.6% of all patients had two or more X-rays performed during the 90 days before diagnosis. Patients whose symptoms were interpreted as non-alarm symptoms or who were not referred to fast-track were more likely to experience a long diagnostic interval than patients whose symptoms were interpreted as alarm symptoms or who were referred to fast-track.
Lung cancer patients followed several diagnostic pathways. The existing fast-track pathway must be supplemented to ensure earlier detection of lung cancer. The high incidence of multiple X-rays warrants a continued effort to develop more accurate lung cancer tests for use in primary care.
PMCID: PMC4307896  PMID: 25608462
Lung cancer; Cancer pathways; General practice; X-ray; Diagnostic intervals; Denmark
2.  Understanding the inverse care law: a register and survey-based study of patient deprivation and burnout in general practice 
According to the inverse care law, there is a mismatch between patients’ medical needs and medical care supply. As an example, the number of doctors is often lower in areas with high deprivation compared to areas with no deprivation, and doctors with a deprived patient population may experience a high work pressure, have insufficient time for comprehensive tasks and be at higher risk for developing burnout. The mechanisms responsible for the inverse care law might be mutually reinforcing, but we know very little about this process. In this study, the association between patient deprivation and burnout in the general practitioners (GPs) was examined.
Active GPs in the Central Denmark Region were invited to participate in a survey on job satisfaction and burnout and 601 GPs returned the questionnaire (72%). The Danish Regions provided information about which persons were registered with each practice, and information concerning socioeconomic characteristics for each patient on the list was obtained from Statistics Denmark. A composite deprivation index was also used.
There was significantly more burnout among GPs in the highest quartile of the deprivation index compared to GPs in the lowest quartile (OR: 1.91; 95% CI: 1.06-3.44; p-value: 0.032). Among the eight variables included in the deprivation index, a high share of patients on social benefits was most strongly associated with burnout (OR: 2.62; 95% CI: 1.45-4.71; p-value: 0.001).
A higher propensity of GP burnout was found among GPs with a high share of deprived patients on their lists compared to GPs with a low share of deprived patients. This applied in particular to patients on social benefits. This indicates that beside lower supply of GPs in deprived areas, people in these areas may also be served by GPs who are in higher risk of burnout and not performing optimally.
PMCID: PMC4272764  PMID: 25495229
Burnout; General practice; Inverse care law; Medical care supply; Patient deprivation
3.  Alarm symptoms of soft-tissue and bone sarcoma in patients referred to a specialist center 
Acta Orthopaedica  2014;85(6):657-662.
Background and purpose —
The Danish Cancer Patient Pathway for sarcoma defines a set of alarm symptoms as criteria for referral to a sarcoma center. This may exclude cancer patients without alarm symptoms, so we investigated the presence of alarm symptoms (defined as being indicative of a sarcoma) in patients who had been referred to the Aarhus Sarcoma Center.
Patients and methods —
We reviewed the medical records of all 1,126 patients who had been referred, with suspected sarcoma, from other hospitals in the period 2007–2010 for information on symptoms, clinical findings, and diagnosis. Alarm symptoms were analyzed for predictive values in diagnosing sarcoma.
Results —
179 (69%) of 258 sarcoma patients were referred with alarm symptoms (soft-tissue tumor > 5 cm or deep-seated, fast-growing soft-tissue tumor, palpable bone tumor, or deep persisting bone pain). The remaining 79 sarcomas were found accidentally. “Size over 5 cm” for soft-tissue tumors, and “deep persisting bone pain” for bone tumors had the highest sensitivity and positive predictive value. Of the 79 sarcoma patients who were referred without alarm symptoms, 7 were found accidentally on imaging, 5 were referred with suspected recurrence of a sarcoma, 64 were referred with a confirmed histological diagnosis, and 3 were referred for other reasons.
Interpretation —
Defined alarm symptoms are predictive of sarcoma, but one-third of the patients were found accidentally. Further studies on presenting symptoms in primary care are needed to assess the true value of alarm symptoms.
PMCID: PMC4259033  PMID: 25175662
4.  The 30-day prognosis of chronic-disease patients after contact with the out-of-hours service in primary healthcare 
Objective. Little is known about the prognosis of patients with chronic disease who contact the out-of-hours (OOH) service in primary care. The characteristics of contacts with the Danish out-of-hours service and daytime general practice, hospitalization, and death were studied during a 30-day follow-up period in patients with chronic heart diseases. Design. Cohort study. Setting and subjects. The study was based on data from 11 897 adults aged 18 + years from a Danish survey of OOH contacts, including information on consultation type. Reason for encounter (RFE) was categorized by OOH GPs at triage as either “exacerbation” or “new health problem”. Registry data were used to identify eligible patients, and the cohort was followed for 30 days after OOH contact through nationwide registries on healthcare use and mortality. Main outcome measures. The 30-day prognosis of chronic-disease patients after OOH contact. Results. Included patients with chronic disease had a higher risk of new OOH contact, daytime GP contact, and hospitalization than other patients during the 30-day follow-up period. OOH use was particularly high among patients with severe mental illness. A strong association was seen between chronic disease and risk of dying during follow-up. Conclusion. Patients with chronic disease used both daytime general practice and the out-of-hours service more often than others during the 30-day follow-up period; they were more often hospitalized and had higher risk of dying. The findings call for a proactive approach to future preventive day care and closer follow-up of this group, especially patients with psychiatric disease.
PMCID: PMC4278395  PMID: 25471829
Chronic disease; Denmark; general practice; OOH; out-of-hours service; primary healthcare; reasons for encounter
5.  Antibiotic prescribing patterns in out-of-hours primary care: A population-based descriptive study 
Objective. To describe the frequency and characteristics of antibiotic prescribing for different types of contacts with the Danish out-of-hours (OOH) primary care service. Design. Population-based observational registry study using routine registry data from the OOH registration system on patient contacts and ATC-coded prescriptions. Setting. The OOH primary care service in the Central Denmark Region. Subjects. All contacts with OOH primary care during a 12-month period (June 2010–May 2011). Main outcome measures. Descriptive analyses of antibiotic prescription proportions stratified for type of antibiotic, patient age and gender, contact type, and weekdays or weekend. Results. Of the 644 777 contacts registered during the study period, 15.0% received an antibiotic prescription: 26.1% resulted from clinic consultations, 10.7% from telephone consultations, and 10.9% from home visits. The prescription proportion was higher for weekends (17.6%) than for weekdays (10.6%). The most frequently prescribed antibiotic drugs were beta-lactamase sensitive penicillins (34.9%), antibiotic eye drops (21.2%), and broad-spectrum penicillins (21.0%). Most antibiotic eye drops (73%) were prescribed in a telephone consultation. Most antibiotics were prescribed at 4–6 p.m. on weekdays. Young infants received most antibacterial eye drops (41.3%), patients aged 5–17 years and 18–60 years received most beta-lactamase sensitive penicillins (44.6% and 38.9%, respectively), while patients aged 60 + years received most broad-spectrum penicillins (32.9% of all antibiotic prescriptions). Conclusion. Antibiotics were most often prescribed in clinic consultations, but, in absolute terms, many were also prescribed by telephone. The high prescription proportion, particularly antibacterial eye drops for young infants, suggests room for improvement in rational antibiotic use.
PMCID: PMC4278398  PMID: 25350313
After hours; anti-bacterial agents; Denmark; drug prescriptions; general practice; infection; primary care
6.  Implementing Direct Access to Low-Dose Computed Tomography in General Practice—Method, Adaption and Outcome 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112162.
Early detection of lung cancer is crucial as the prognosis depends on the disease stage. Chest radiographs has been the principal diagnostic tool for general practitioners (GPs), but implies a potential risk of false negative results, while computed tomography (CT) has a higher sensitivity. The aim of this study was to describe the implementation of direct access to low-dose CT (LDCT) from general practice.
We conducted a cohort study nested in a randomised study. A total of 119 general practices with 266 GPs were randomised into two groups. Intervention GPs were offered direct access to chest LDCT combined with a Continuing Medical Education (CME) meeting on lung cancer diagnosis.
During a 19-month period, 648 patients were referred to LDCT (0.18/1000 adults on GP list/month). Half of the patients needed further diagnostic work-up, and 15 (2.3%, 95% CI: 1.3–3.8%) of the patients had lung cancer; 60% (95% CI: 32.3–83.7%) in a localised stage. The GP referral rate was 61% higher for CME participants compared to non-participants.
Of all patients referred to LDCT, 2.3% were diagnosed with lung cancer with a favourable stage distribution. Half of the referred patients needed additional diagnostic work-up. There was an association between participation in CME and use of CT scan. The proportion of cancers diagnosed through the usual fast-track evaluation was 2.2 times higher in the group of CME-participating GPs. The question remains if primary care case-finding with LDCT is a better option for patients having signs and symptoms indicating lung cancer than a screening program. Whether open access to LDCT may provide earlier diagnosis of lung cancer is yet unknown and a randomised trial is required to assess any effect on outcome.
Trial Registration NCT01527214
PMCID: PMC4226510  PMID: 25383780
7.  A geographical cluster randomised stepped wedge study of continuing medical education and cancer diagnosis in general practice 
Denmark has inferior cancer survival rates compared with many European countries. The main reason for this is suggested to be late diagnosis at advanced cancer stages. Cancer diagnostic work-up begins in general practice in 85% of all cancer cases. Thus, general practitioners (GPs) play a key role in the diagnostic process. The latest Danish Cancer Plan included continuing medical education (CME) on early cancer diagnosis in general practice to improve early diagnosis. This dual aims of this protocol are, first, to describe the conceptualisation, operationalisation and implementation of the CME and, second, to describe the study design and outcomes chosen to evaluate the effects of the CME.
The intervention is a CME in early cancer diagnosis targeting individual GPs. It was developed by a step-wise approach. Barriers for early cancer diagnosis at GP level were identified systematically and analysed using the behaviour system involving capability, opportunity and motivation described by Michie et al. The study will be designed as a geographical cluster randomised stepped wedge study. The study population counts 836 GPs from 417 general practices in the Central Denmark Region, geographically divided into eight clusters. GPs from each cluster will be invited to a CME meeting at a certain date three weeks apart. The primary outcomes will be primary care interval and GP referral rate on cancer suspicion. Data will be obtained from national registries, GP-completed forms on patients referred to cancer fast-track pathways and GP-completed online questionnaires before and after the intervention.
To our knowledge, this will be the first study to measure the effect of a theory-based CME in early cancer diagnosis at three levels: GP knowledge and attitude, GP activity and patient outcomes. The achieved knowledge will contribute to the understanding of whether and how general practice’s ability to perform cancer diagnosis may be improved.
Trial registration
Registered as NCT02069470 on
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13012-014-0159-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4229614  PMID: 25377520
Denmark; General Practice; Continuing Medical Education; Diagnosis; Early Detection of Cancer; Barriers
8.  Daytime use of general practice and use of the Out-of-Hours Primary Care Service for patients with chronic disease: a cohort study 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15(1):156.
The importance of proactive chronic care has become increasingly evident. Yet, it is unknown whether the use of general practice (GP) during daytime may affect the use of Out-of-Hours (OOH) Primary Care Service for people with chronic disease. We aimed to analyse the association between use of daytime general practice (GP) and use of OOH services for heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, psychiatric disease, or cancer. In particular, we intended to study the association between OOH contacts due to chronic disease exacerbation and recent use of daytime GP.
Data comprised a random sample of contacts to the OOH services (‘LV-KOS2011’). Included patients were categorised into the following chronic diseases: heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, psychiatric disease, or cancer. Information on face-to-face contacts to daytime GP was obtained from the Danish National Health Insurance Service Registry and information about exacerbation or new episodes from the LVKOS2011 survey. Associations between number of regular daytime consultations and annual follow-up consultations during one, three, six, and 12 months prior to index contacts, and outcomes of interest were estimated by using logistic regression.
In total, 11,897 patients aged ≥ 18 years were included. Of these, 2,665 patients (22.4%) were identified with one of the five selected chronic diseases; 673 patients (5.7%) had two or more. A higher odds ratio (OR) for exacerbation as reason for encounter (RFE) at the index contact was observed among patients with psychiatric disease (OR = 2.15) and cancer (OR = 2.17) than among other patients for ≥2 daytime recent contacts. When receiving an annual follow-up, exacerbation OR at index contact lowered for patients with lung disease (OR = 0.68), psychiatric disease (OR = 0.42), or ≥2 diseases (OR = 0.61).
Recent and frequent use of daytime GP for patients with the selected chronic diseases was associated with contacts to the OOH services due to exacerbation. These findings indicate that the most severely chronically ill patients tend to make more use of general practice. The provision of an annual follow-up daytime GP consultation may indicate a lower risk of contacting OOH due to exacerbation.
PMCID: PMC4262984  PMID: 25238694
9.  How might healthcare systems influence speed of cancer diagnosis: A narrative review 
Social Science & Medicine (1982)  2014;116(100):56-63.
Striking differences exist in outcomes for cancer between developed countries with comparable healthcare systems. We compare the healthcare systems of 3 countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden), 3 UK jurisdictions (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), 3 Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario) and 2 Australian states (New South Wales, Victoria) using a framework which assesses the possible contribution of primary care systems to a range of health outcomes, drawing on key characteristics influencing population health.
For many of the characteristics we investigated there are no significant differences between those countries with poorer cancer outcomes (England and Denmark) and the rest. In particular, regulation, financing, the existence of patient lists, the GP gatekeeping role, direct access to secondary care, the degree of comprehensiveness of primary care services, the level of cost sharing and the type of primary care providers within healthcare systems were not specifically and consistently associated with differences between countries. Factors that could have an influence on patient and professional behaviour, and consequently contribute to delays in cancer diagnosis and poorer cancer outcomes in some countries, include centralisation of services, free movement of patients between primary care providers, access to secondary care, and the existence of patient list systems.
It was not possible to establish a causal correlation between healthcare system characteristics and cancer outcomes. Further studies should explore in greater depth the associations between single health system factors and cancer outcomes, recognising that in complex systems where context is all-important, it will be difficult to establish causal relationships. Better understanding of the interaction between healthcare system variables and patient and professional behaviour may generate new hypotheses for further research.
•We examined cancer outcomes in six developed countries with comparable healthcare systems.•Clear differences exist in cancer outcomes between countries with comparable healthcare systems.•Centralisation, movement of patients between providers, access to secondary care, and list systems appear influential.•Better understanding of interactions between system variables and patient and professional behaviour may improve outcomes.
PMCID: PMC4124238  PMID: 24980792
Cancer; Primary care; Health systems; International comparisons; Early diagnosis
10.  Cancer suspicion in general practice, urgent referral and time to diagnosis: a population-based GP survey and registry study 
BMC Cancer  2014;14(1):636.
Many countries have implemented standardised cancer patient pathways (CPPs) to ensure fast diagnosis of patients suspected of having cancer. Yet, studies are sparse on the impact of such CPPs, and few have distinguished between referral routes. For incident cancer patients, we aimed to determine how often GPs suspected cancer at the time of first presentation of symptoms in general practice and to describe the routes of referral for further investigation. In addition, we aimed to analyse if the GP’s suspicion of cancer could predict the choice of referral to a CPP. Finally, we aimed to analyse associations between not only cancer suspicion and time to cancer diagnosis, but also between choice of referral route and time to cancer diagnosis.
We conducted a population-based, cross-sectional study of incident cancer patients in Denmark who had attended general practice prior to their diagnosis of cancer. Data were collected from GP questionnaires and national registers. We estimated the patients’ chance of being referred to a CPP (prevalence ratio (PR)) using Poisson regression. Associations between the GP’s symptom interpretation, use of CPP and time to diagnosis were estimated using quantile regression.
5,581 questionnaires were returned (response rate: 73.8%). A GP was involved in diagnosing the cancer in 4,101 (73.5%) cases (3,823 cases analysed). In 48.2% of these cases, the GP interpreted the patient’s symptoms as ‘alarm’ symptoms suggestive of cancer. The GP used CPPs in 1,426 (37.3%) cases. Patients, who had symptoms interpreted as ‘vague’ had a lower chance of being referred to a CPP than when interpreted as ‘alarm’ symptoms (PR = 0.53 (95%CI: 0.48;0.60)). Patients with ‘vague’ symptoms had a 34 (95% CI: 28;41) days longer median time to diagnosis than patients with ‘alarm’ symptoms.
GPs suspect cancer more often than they initiate a CPP, and patients were less likely to be referred to a CPP when their symptoms were not interpreted as alarm symptoms of cancer. The GP’s choice of referral route was a strong predictor of the duration of the diagnostic interval, but the GP’s symptom interpretation was approximately twice as strong an indicator of a longer diagnostic interval.
PMCID: PMC4164756  PMID: 25175155
Fast-track; Neoplasm; (Early) diagnosis; General practice; Delay; Cancer suspicion; Denmark
11.  Drug prescription by telephone consultation in Danish out-of-hours primary care: a population-based study of frequency and associations with clinical severity and diagnosis 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:142.
Danish general practitioners (GPs) answer all calls to the out-of-hours primary care service. About 60% of the calls are terminated on the telephone through provision of medical advice and prescription of medication. Nevertheless, little is known about the prescription patterns of telephone consultations, such as prescription frequency and indications for drug use. Our aim was to examine the characteristics of patients and GPs in telephone consultations resulting in drug prescription.
The study was based on a 12-month survey on reasons for encounter in the Danish out-of-hours primary care service. A total of 385 GPs (55.5% of all GPs from Central Denmark Region on duty during a year) participated in answering electronic pop-up questionnaires integrated in the electronic patient administration system. The questionnaires contained items on reasons for encounter (e.g. existing chronic disease or new health problem), diagnoses, and GP-assessed severity of the health problem. Data on time of contact, patient gender and age, and prescribed medication (Anatomic Therapeutic Chemical classifications) for telephone consultations were obtained from the patient administration system. Differences in characteristics of patients, general practitioners, and contacts were examined, and associations with prescribed medication were analysed using a multivariate analysis with prevalence ratios.
Medication was prescribed in 19.9% of the included 4,173 telephone consultations; antibiotics and analgesics were prescribed most frequently (10.8% and 2.5%, respectively). GPs tended to assess contacts resulting in antibiotic prescription as more severe than other contacts. For high-severity contacts, there was a lower likelihood for prescription (prevalence ratio = 0.28 (0.16-0.47)). Children aged 0-4 years had lower probability of receiving a prescription compared with patients aged 18-40 years. The prescription rate was highest during the first four hours of the opening hours of the out-of-hours primary care service.
One in five of all telephone consultations involved drug prescription; antibiotics constituted half of these prescriptions. Drug prescription by telephone was less likely to be offered in cases involving ‘severe’ reason for encounter or children. This study calls for further studies of drug prescriptions issued via out-of-hours primary care telephone consultations.
PMCID: PMC4236596  PMID: 25139205
Denmark; General practice; After-hours care; Prescriptions; Telephone
12.  Cancer awareness and socio-economic position: results from a population-based study in Denmark 
BMC Cancer  2014;14(1):581.
Differences in cancer awareness between individuals may explain variations in healthcare seeking behaviour and ultimately also variations in cancer survival. It is therefore important to examine cancer awareness and to investigate possible differences in cancer awareness among specific population subgroups. The aim of this study is to assess awareness of cancer symptoms, risk factors and perceived 5-year survival from bowel, breast, ovarian, and lung cancer in a Danish population sample and to analyse the association between these factors and socio-economic position indicators.
A population-based telephone survey was carried out among 1,000 respondents aged 30–49 years and 2,000 respondents aged 50 years and older using the Awareness and Beliefs about Cancer measure. Information on socio-economic position was obtained by data linkage through Statistics Denmark. Prevalence ratios were used to determine the association between socio-economic position and cancer awareness.
A strong socio-economic gradient in cancer awareness was found. People with a low educational level and a low household income were more likely to have a lower awareness of cancer symptoms, cancer risk factors and the growing risk of cancer with age. Furthermore, men and people outside the labour force tended to be less aware of these factors than women and people within the labour force. However, women were more likely than men to lack awareness of the relationship between age and cancer risk. No clear associations were found between socio-economic position and lack of awareness of 5-year survival from bowel, breast, ovarian, and lung cancers.
As cancer awareness has shown to be positively associated with cancer-related behaviour, e.g. healthcare seeking, consideration must be given to tackle inequalities in cancer awareness and to address this issue in future public health strategies, which should be targeted at and tailored to the intended recipient groups.
PMCID: PMC4138385  PMID: 25108301
Denmark; Cancer; Awareness; Socio-economic position; Inequality
13.  The Danish Symptom Cohort: Questionnaire and Feasibility in the Nationwide Study on Symptom Experience and Healthcare-Seeking among 100 000 Individuals 
Introduction. In order to develop strategies to prevent delay in diagnosis, it is important to gain knowledge of symptoms and healthcare-seeking processes in the population. This paper describes a combined survey and register-based study with (1) focus on development of a questionnaire concerning experience of symptoms and subsequent consequences and (2) feasibility of the study. Methods. The study is a nationwide cohort study of 100 000 individuals randomly selected from the Danish general population. A comprehensive questionnaire concerning experience of symptoms and subsequent consequences was developed. The methodological framework for the development included defining the domains to be measured, identification of previous items, scales and questionnaires in the literature, and pilot and field testing. Results. A total of five domains and 16 subdomains were defined covering the area of symptom experience, symptom characteristics, reaction in response to symptom experience, external factors, and personality characteristics with potential influence on the symptom experience. In total, 49 706 questionnaires were completed, yielding a response rate of 52.2%. Conclusion. We developed a comprehensive questionnaire used in a large combined survey and register-based study concerning experience of symptoms and subsequent consequences of symptom experiences. We succeeded in conducting a large survey providing the groundwork for The Danish Symptom Cohort.
PMCID: PMC4132324  PMID: 25147736
14.  Existing data sources for clinical epidemiology: Danish Cancer in Primary Care cohort 
Clinical Epidemiology  2014;6:237-246.
In this paper, we describe the settings, content, and possibilities of the Danish Cancer in Primary Care (CaP) cohort as well as some of the key findings so far. Further, we describe the future potential of the cohort as an international resource for epidemiological and health services research studies.
The CaP cohort comprises information from three Danish subcohorts set up in 2004–2005, 2007–2008, and 2010 on newly diagnosed cancer patients aged 18 years or older. General practitioner (GP)-reported and patient-reported data from six questionnaires generated information on causes and consequences of delayed diagnosis of cancer, and these data were supplemented with complete information on, eg, death, migration, health care utilization, medication use, and socioeconomic data from Denmark’s comprehensive health and administrative registers. The cohort is followed up in terms of emigration, death, hospitalization, medication, and socioeconomics, and data are updated regularly.
In total, we identified 22,169 verified incident cancer cases. Completed GP questionnaires were returned for 17,566 (79%) of the verified cases, and patient questionnaires were completed by 8,937 (40%) respondents. Patients with participating GPs did not differ from patients with nonparticipating GPs in regard to one-year survival, comorbidity, or educational level. However, compared with nonparticipating GPs, patients listed with participating GPs were more likely to be women, younger, to have a higher disposable income, to have more regional or distant spread of tumors, were also more likely to have breast cancer, and were less likely to have prostate cancer. Responding patients were more likely to be women, aged 45–74 years, and diagnosed with breast cancer or malignant melanoma, and have higher one-year survival rates, more localized tumors, higher educational background, and higher disposable income.
The cohort is an international resource for epidemiological and health service research, and data are accessible for well defined and approved collaborative studies.
PMCID: PMC4108454  PMID: 25083137
public health; epidemiology; cohort studies; cancer; early diagnosis
15.  Development of a survey instrument to investigate the primary care factors related to differences in cancer diagnosis between international jurisdictions 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:122.
Survival rates following a diagnosis of cancer vary between countries. The International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP), a collaboration between six countries with primary care led health services, was set up in 2009 to investigate the causes of these differences. Module 3 of this collaboration hypothesised that an association exists between the readiness of primary care physicians (PCP) to investigate for cancer – the ‘threshold’ risk level at which they investigate or refer to a specialist for consideration of possible cancer – and survival for that cancer (lung, colorectal and ovarian). We describe the development of an international survey instrument to test this hypothesis.
The work was led by an academic steering group in England. They agreed that an online survey was the most pragmatic way of identifying differences between the jurisdictions. Research questions were identified through clinical experience and expert knowledge of the relevant literature.
A survey comprising a set of direct questions and five clinical scenarios was developed to investigate the hypothesis. The survey content was discussed and refined concurrently and repeatedly with international partners. The survey was validated using an iterative process in England. Following validation the survey was adapted to be relevant to the health systems operating in other jurisdictions and translated into Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, and into Canadian and Australian English.
This work has produced a survey with face, content and cross cultural validity that will be circulated in all six countries. It could also form a benchmark for similar surveys in countries with similar health care systems.
The vignettes could also be used as educational resources. This study is likely to impact on healthcare policy and practice in participating countries.
PMCID: PMC4073814  PMID: 24938306
Survey; Primary care; Cancer; Diagnosis; International
16.  Chronic-disease patients and their use of out-of-hours primary health care: a cross-sectional study 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:114.
The general practitioner (GP) plays an important role for chronic disease care. Continuous and close contact with daytime general practice is intended to prevent medical problems arising outside office hours due to already diagnosed chronic disease. However, previous studies indicate that patients with chronic diseases are frequent users of out-of-hours primary care services (OOH), but knowledge is limited on reasons for encounter (RFE), severity of symptoms, and OOH patient handling. We aimed to describe contacts to the OOH services from patients with chronic heart disease, lung disease, severe psychiatric disorders, diabetes, and cancer in terms of RFE, OOH GP diagnosis, assessed severity of symptoms, and actions taken by the GP.
Eligible patients (aged 18 years and older) were randomly sampled from a one-year cross-sectional study comprising 15,229 contacts to the OOH services in the Central Denmark Region. A cohort of patients with one or more of the five selected chronic diseases were identified by linking data on the Danish civil registration number (CPR) through specific nationwide Danish health registers.
Out of 13,930 identified unique patients, 4,912 had at least one of the five chronic diseases. In total, 25.9% of all calls to the OOH services came from this chronic disease patient group due to an acute exacerbation; 32.6% of these calls came from patients with psychiatric diagnoses. Patients with chronic disease were more likely to receive a face-to-face contact than the remaining group of patients, except for calls from patients with a psychiatric disorder who were more often completed through a telephone consultation. Patients with heart disease calling due to a new health problem formed the largest proportion of all OOH referrals to hospital (13.3%) compared to calls from the other groups with chronic disease (3.4-6.7%).
A third of the patients randomly sampled by their OOH call had one or more of the five selected chronic diseases (i.e. chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, psychiatric disease, or cancer). Patients with chronic disease were more often managed by OOH GPs than other patients.
PMCID: PMC4064509  PMID: 24912378
Out-of-hours services; OOH; Chronic disease; General practice; Primary health care; Reasons for encounter
17.  Survival of patients with small cell lung cancer undergoing lung resection in England, 1998–2009 
Thorax  2013;69(3):269-273.
Chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy is the recommended treatment for small cell lung cancer (SCLC), except in stage I disease where clinical guidelines state there may be a role for surgery based on favourable outcomes in case series. Evidence supporting adjuvant chemotherapy in resected SCLC is limited but this is widely offered.
Data on 359 873 patients who were diagnosed with a first primary lung cancer in England between 1998 and 2009 were grouped according to histology (SCLC or non-SCLC (NSCLC)) and whether they underwent a surgical resection. We explored their survival using Kaplan–Meier analysis and Cox regression, adjusting for age, sex, comorbidity and socioeconomic status.
The survival of 465 patients with resected SCLC was lower than patients with resected NSCLC (5-year survival 31% and 45%, respectively), but much higher than patients of either group who were not resected (3%). The difference between resected SCLC and NSCLC diminished with time after surgery. Survival was superior for the subgroup of 198 ‘elective’ SCLC cases where the diagnosis was most likely known before resection than for the subgroup of 267 ‘incidental’ cases where the SCLC diagnosis was likely to have been made after resection.
These data serve as a natural experiment testing the survival after surgical management of SCLC according to NSCLC principles. Patients with SCLC treated surgically for early stage disease may have survival outcomes that approach those of NSCLC, supporting the emerging clinical practice of offering surgical resection to selected patients with SCLC.
PMCID: PMC3932952  PMID: 24172710
Lung Cancer; Small Cell Lung Cancer
18.  Risk of Burnout in Danish GPs and Exploration of Factors Associated with Development of Burnout: A Two-Wave Panel Study 
Background. We assessed risk of burnout in GPs during a 7-year followup and examined whether (1) thoughts about changing medical specialty increased the risk of burnout and (2) burned out GPs had higher job turnover rates than burnout-free GPs. Methods. In 2004 and 2012, all GPs in the county of Aarhus, Denmark, were invited to participate in a survey. Retirement status of physicians who participated in 2004 was obtained through the Registry of Health Providers in 2012. Results. 216 GPs completed both surveys. The risk of developing burnout during the 7-year followup was 13.2% (8.2–19.6%). GPs who in 2004 were burnout-free and reported that they would not select general practice as medical specialty again had a statistically significant increased risk of burnout in 2012 (OR = 4.5; 95% CI = 1.2–16.5; P = 0.023). Among GPs with burnout in 2004, 25.0% had withdrawn from general practice during followup compared to 28.8% of burnout-free GPs in 2004 (adj. OR = 0.99; 95% CI = 0.48–2.02; P = 0.975). Conclusion. The 7-year incidence of burnout was 13%. Thoughts about changing medical specialty were an important predictor of burnout. Burned out GPs had not higher job turnover rates than burnout-free GPs.
PMCID: PMC3871500  PMID: 24383000
20.  Could the patient have been seen by a nurse; a questionnaire based survey of GP and patient views in Danish general practice 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:171.
Nurses in Denmark have been increasingly involved in general practice care, which may have implications for the role of the general practitioner (GP) and patients’ experience of primary care. The aim of this study was to explore possibilities of doctor-nurse substitution seen from GP and patient perspectives and patient preferences in regard to consultations with a personal GP.
The study was based on data from a Danish survey on disease patterns in general practice (KOS 2008). Background information on patients and GPs was linked with their responses to whether a nurse could have substituted the GP in consultations and patient-assessed importance of seeing a personal GP. Associations were measured with prevalence rate ratio (PR).
Doctor-nurse substitution was a possibility in 14.8% of consultations according to GPs and in 11.7% according to patients. GP and patient agreed on substitution in 3.5% of consultations (Kappa = 0.164). Follow-up consultations were more often feasible for substitution than new episode according to GPs (adj. PR = 2.06 (1.62-2.62)), but not according to patients (adj. PR = 1.02 (0.64-1.33)). Follow-up consultations were related to high importance of seeing the personal GP (adj. PR = 1.18 (1.05-1.33). For both patients and GPs, consultations with patients with chronic conditions were not significantly associated with nurse substitution. Male and younger patients did more often suggest substitution than women and older patients. For GPs, increasing patient age was associated with relevance of substitution. Patients who found it 'very important’ to see their personal GP were less likely to consider nurse substitution a possibility (adj. PR = 0.57 (0.45-0.71).
GPs and patients found nurse substitution relevant in more than one in ten consultations, although they rarely agreed on which consultations. Follow-up consultations and consultations with older patients were associated with GPs considering nurse substitution appropriate more often. For patients, male and younger patients most often found substitution relevant. High importance of seeing the personal GP may contribute to patient reluctance to nurse substitution, especially for follow-up consultations. The results indicate a need for involving patients’ perspective when altering the future roles of primary health care professionals.
PMCID: PMC3835405  PMID: 24225183
Denmark; General practice; Doctor-nurse substitution; Patients’ perspective; Chronic conditions; Follow-up consultations; Health service delivery; Patient-doctor-relationship
21.  Patient-experienced effect of an active implementation of a disease management programme for COPD – a randomised trial 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:147.
People living with chronic disease currently account for the majority of the total healthcare costs. The Central Denmark Region implemented a disease management programme (DMP) for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2008. This presented an opportunity to examine the effect of an evidence-based, planned and proactive implementation of a DMP compared to the usual implementation strategy.
We performed a block- and cluster-randomised controlled trial with two groups and an extra external control group. The primary outcome was patients’ assessment of their care after using an active implementation model for a DMP for COPD measured with the Patient-Assessment-of-Chronic-Illness-Care (PACIC) instrument. At baseline, questionnaires were sent to 2,895 patients identified by an algorithm based on health registry data on lung-related contacts to the healthcare system. Patients were asked to confirm or refute their diagnosis of COPD. Of those who responded, 1,445 (72.8%) confirmed their diagnosis. PACIC data were collected at baseline and at a 12-month follow-up for 744 (51.1%) patients.
Comparing the three groups after the implementation of the DMP, we found a statistically significantly higher change in the PACIC score in the intervention group than in the control groups. No statistically significant differences were found between the control and the external control groups in any of the dimensions.
Reinforcing the role of general practice as coordinator for care-and self-management-support with an active implementation of a DMP for COPD made patients score higher on the PACIC instrument, which indicates a better experience of the received healthcare.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3850694  PMID: 24088417
PACIC; Implementation; Disease management programme; Patient evaluation; COPD; Chronic care model; RCT
22.  The effect of an active implementation of a disease management programme for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on healthcare utilization - a cluster-randomised controlled trial 
The growing population living with chronic conditions calls for efficient healthcare-planning and effective care. Implementing disease-management-programmes is one option for responding to this demand. Knowledge is scarce about the effect of implementation processes and their effect on patients; only few studies have reported the effectiveness of disease-management-programmes targeting patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The objective of this paper was to determine the effect on healthcare-utilization of an active implementation model for a disease-management-programme for patients with one of the major multimorbidity diseases, COPD.
The standard implementation of a new disease-management-programme for COPD was ongoing during the study-period from November 2008 to November 2010 in the Central Denmark Region. We wanted to test a strategy using Breakthrough Series, academic detailing and lists of patients with COPD. It targeted GPs and three hospitals serving approx. 60,000 inhabitants aged 35 or older and included interventions directed at professionals, organisations and patients. The study was a non-blinded block- and cluster-randomised controlled trial with GP-practices as the unit of randomisation. In Ringkoebing-Skjern Municipality, Denmark, 16 GP-practices involving 38 GPs were randomised to either the intervention-group or the control-group. A comparable neighbouring municipality acted as an external-control-group which included nine GP-practices with 25 GPs. An algorithm based on health-registry-data on lung-related contacts to the healthcare-system identified 2,736 patients who were alive at the end of the study-period. The population included in this study counted 1,372 (69.2%) patients who responded to the baseline questionnaire and confirmed their COPD diagnosis; 458 (33.4%) patients were from the intervention-group, 376 (27.4%) from the control-group and 538(39.2%) from the external-control-group. The primary outcome was adherence to the disease-management-programme measured at patient-level by use of specific services from general practice. Secondary outcomes were use of out-of-hours-services, outpatient-clinic, and emergency-department and hospital-admissions.
The intervention practices provided more planned preventive consultations, additional preventive consultations and spirometries than non-intervention practices. A comparison of the development in the intervention practices with the development in the control-practices showed that the intervention resulted in more planned preventive-consultations, fewer conventional consultations and fewer patients admitted without a lung-related-diagnosis.
Use of the active implementation model for the disease-management-programme for COPD changed the healthcare utilization in accordance with the programme.
Trial registration identifier: NCT01228708.
PMCID: PMC3851941  PMID: 24090189
Implementation; Disease management; Healthcare utilization; COPD; Chronic Care Model; RCT
23.  From Doctor to Nurse Triage in the Danish Out-of-Hours Primary Care Service: Simulated Effects on Costs 
Introduction. General practitioners (GP) answer calls to the Danish out-of-hours primary care service (OOH) in Denmark, and this is a subject of discussions about quality and cost-effectiveness. The aim of this study was to estimate changes in fee costs if nurses substituted the GPs. Methods. We applied experiences from The Netherlands on nurse performance in the OOH triage concerning the number of calls per hour. Using the 2011 number of calls in one region, we examined three hypothetical scenarios with nurse triage and calculated the differences in fee costs. Results. A new organisation with 97 employed nurses would be needed. Fewer telephone consultations may result in an increase of face-to-face contacts, resulting in an increase of 23.6% in costs fees. Under optimal circumstances (e.g., a lower demand for OOH services, a high telephone termination rate, and unchanged GP fees) the costs could be reduced by 26.2% though excluding administrative costs of a new organisation. Conclusion. Substituting GPs with nurses in OOH primary care may increase the cost in fees compared to a model with only GPs. Further research is needed involving more influencing factors, such as costs due to nurse training and running the organisation.
PMCID: PMC3806230  PMID: 24194984
24.  Secondary care intervals before and after the introduction of urgent referral guidelines for suspected cancer in Denmark: a comparative before-after study 
Urgent referral for suspected cancer was implemented in Denmark on 1 April 2008 to reduce the secondary care interval (i.e. the time interval from the general practitioner’s first referral of a patient to secondary health care until treatment is initiated). However, knowledge about the association between the secondary care interval and urgent referral remains scarce. The aim of this study was to analyse how the secondary care interval changed after the introduction of urgent referral.
This was a retrospective population-based study of 6,518 incident cancer patients based on questionnaire data from the patients’ GPs. Analyses were stratified with patients discharged from Vejle Hospital in one stratum and patients from other hospitals in another because Vejle Hospital initiated urgent referrals several years prior to the national implementation. Further, analyses were stratified according to symptom presentation and whether or not the GP referred the patient on suspicion of cancer. Symptom presentation was defined as with or without alarm symptoms based on GP interpretation of early symptoms.
The median secondary care interval decreased after the introduction of urgent referral. Patients discharged from Vejle Hospital tended to have shorter secondary care intervals than patients discharged from other hospitals. The strongest effect was seen in patients with alarm symptoms and those who were referred by their GP on suspicion of cancer. Breast cancer patients from Vejle Hospital experienced an even shorter secondary care interval after the national introduction of urgent referrals.
Urgent referral had a positive effect on the secondary care interval, and Vejle Hospital remarkably managed to shorten the intervals even further. This finding indicates that the shorter secondary care intervals not only result from the urgent referral guidelines, but also involve other factors.
PMCID: PMC3847112  PMID: 24021054
Denmark; Early detection of cancer; Family practice; Health services administration
25.  Patient Delay in Colorectal Cancer Patients: Associations with Rectal Bleeding and Thoughts about Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69700.
Rectal bleeding is considered to be an alarm symptom of colorectal cancer. However, the symptom is seldom reported to the general practitioner and it is often assumed that patients assign the rectal bleeding to benign conditions. The aims of this questionnaire study were to examine whether rectal bleeding was associated with longer patient delays in colorectal cancer patients and whether rectal bleeding was associated with cancer worries. All incident colorectal cancer patients during a 1-year period in the County of Aarhus, Denmark, received a questionnaire. 136 colorectal cancer patients returned the questionnaire (response rate: 42%). Patient delay was assessed as the interval from first symptom to help-seeking and was reported by the patient. Patients with rectal bleeding (N = 81) reported longer patient intervals than patients without rectal bleeding when adjusting for confounders including other symptoms such as pain and changes in bowel habits (HR = 0.43; p = 0.004). Thoughts about cancer were not associated with the patient interval (HR = 1.05; p = 0.887), but more patients with rectal bleeding reported to have been wondering if their symptom(s) could be due to cancer than patients without rectal bleeding (chi2 = 15.29; p<0.001). Conclusively, rectal bleeding was associated with long patient delays in colorectal cancer patients although more patients with rectal bleeding reported to have been wondering if their symptom(s) could be due to cancer than patients without rectal bleeding. This suggests that assignment of symptoms to benign conditions is not the only explanation of long patient delays in this patient group and that barriers for timely help-seeking should be examined.
PMCID: PMC3718764  PMID: 23894527

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