Objective. To estimate the frequency of psychological and social classification codes employed by general practitioners (GPs) and to explore the extent to which GPs ascribed health problems to biomedical, psychological, or social factors. Design. A cross-sectional survey based on questionnaire data from GPs. Setting. Danish primary care. Subjects. 387 GPs and their face-to-face contacts with 5543 patients. Main outcome measures. GPs registered consecutive patients on registration forms including reason for encounter, diagnostic classification of main problem, and a GP assessment of biomedical, psychological, and social factors’ influence on the contact. Results. The GP-stated reasons for encounter largely overlapped with their classification of the managed problem. Using the International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC-2-R), GPs classified 600 (11%) patients with psychological problems and 30 (0.5%) with social problems. Both codes for problems/complaints and specific disorders were used as the GP's diagnostic classification of the main problem. Two problems (depression and acute stress reaction/adjustment disorder) accounted for 51% of all psychological classifications made. GPs generally emphasized biomedical aspects of the contacts. Psychological aspects were given greater importance in follow-up consultations than in first-episode consultations, whereas social factors were rarely seen as essential to the consultation. Conclusion. Psychological problems are frequently seen and managed in primary care and most are classified within a few diagnostic categories. Social matters are rarely considered or classified.
Classification; Denmark; diagnosis; general practice; ICPC; mental disorders; primary health care; social problems
Walk-in open access in general practice may influence the general practitioner's (GP's) work, but very little research has been done on the consequences. In this study from Danish general practice, we compare the prevalence of burnout between GPs with a walk-in open access and those without. In a questionnaire study (2004), we approached all 458 active GPs in the county of Aarhus, Denmark, and 376 (82.8%) GPs returned the questionnaire. Walk-in open access was defined as at least 30 minutes every weekday where patients could attend practice without an appointment. Burnout was measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Analyses using logistic regression were adjusted for gender, age, marital status, job satisfaction, minutes per consultation, practice organisation, working hours, number of listed patients per GP, number of contacts per GP, continuing medical education- (CME-) activities, and clusters of GPs. In all, 8% of GPs had open access and the prevalence of burnout was 24%. GPs with walk-in open access were more likely to suffer from burnout. Having open access was associated with a 3-fold increased likelihood of burnout (OR = 3.1 (95% CI: 1.1–8.8, P = 0.035)). Although the design cannot establish causality, it is recommended to closely monitor possible negative consequences of open access in general practice.
To develop an internationally validated measure of cancer awareness and beliefs; the awareness and beliefs about cancer (ABC) measure.
Design and setting
Items modified from existing measures were assessed by a working group in six countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the UK). Validation studies were completed in the UK, and cross-sectional surveys of the general population were carried out in the six participating countries.
Testing in UK English included cognitive interviewing for face validity (N=10), calculation of content validity indexes (six assessors), and assessment of test–retest reliability (N=97). Conceptual and cultural equivalence of modified (Canadian and Australian) and translated (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Canadian French) ABC versions were tested quantitatively for equivalence of meaning (≥4 assessors per country) and in bilingual cognitive interviews (three interviews per translation). Response patterns were assessed in surveys of adults aged 50+ years (N≥2000) in each country.
Psychometric properties were evaluated through tests of validity and reliability, conceptual and cultural equivalence and systematic item analysis. Test–retest reliability used weighted-κ and intraclass correlations. Construction and validation of aggregate scores was by factor analysis for (1) beliefs about cancer outcomes, (2) beliefs about barriers to symptomatic presentation, and item summation for (3) awareness of cancer symptoms and (4) awareness of cancer risk factors.
The English ABC had acceptable test–retest reliability and content validity. International assessments of equivalence identified a small number of items where wording needed adjustment. Survey response patterns showed that items performed well in terms of difficulty and discrimination across countries except for awareness of cancer outcomes in Australia. Aggregate scores had consistent factor structures across countries.
The ABC is a reliable and valid international measure of cancer awareness and beliefs. The methods used to validate and harmonise the ABC may serve as a methodological guide in international survey research.
early detection of cancer; cancer early diagnosis; validation studies; cross-cultural comparison; reliability and validity
To analyse the effectiveness of hospital-based case management (CM) in terms of patient-reported outcomes.
Randomised controlled trial allocating participants 1 : 1 to either a CM intervention or a control group. Allocation status was evident to participants and case managers, but blinded to researchers.
Patients were recruited at a Danish surgical department where the case managers were situated.
Colorectal cancer patients who were to undergo further investigation or treatment. Exclusion criteria were participation in another study, poor Danish language skills or apparent cognitive impairment. 140 participants were randomised to each group. Recruitment period was 11 March 2009 to 29 December 2010.
Control group patients had usual care. Intervention group patients had usual care supplemented by hospital-based CM started at first visit to the out-patient clinic (before treatment start) and ended 4 weeks after completed cancer treatment. CM was conducted by nurse case managers who undertook care pathway supervision, information dissemination to health professionals and outreaching patient support.
Patient-reported global quality of life measured with the EORTC QLQ-C30 and eight ad hoc, piloted patient evaluation items assessed at eight, 30 and 52 weeks after randomisation.
The two groups were comparable as to questionnaire response rates and completed scales/items. There were no statistically significant group differences on any of the health-related quality of life subscales at eight, 30 or 52 weeks. In patient evaluations, all point estimates favoured CM at week 8 and 30; at week 52, 6 of 7 estimates favoured CM.
We found no evidence that CM influenced colorectal cancer patients’ health-related quality of life. Patients allocated to CM evaluated their care more positively than patients receiving usual care.
Clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT00845247.
A population-based breast cancer screening programme was implemented in the Central Denmark Region in 2008–09. The objective of this registry-based study was to examine the association between socio-demographic characteristics and screening participation and to examine whether the group of non-participants can be regarded as a homogeneous group of women.
Participation status was obtained from a regional database for all women invited to the first screening round in the Central Denmark Region in 2008–2009 (n=149,234). Participation data was linked to registries containing socio-demographic information. Distance to screening site was calculated using ArcGIS. Participation was divided into ‘participants’ and ‘non-participants’, and non-participants were further stratified into ‘active non-participants’ and ‘passive non-participants’ based on whether the woman called and cancelled her participation or was a ‘no-show’.
The screening participation rate was 78.9%. In multivariate analyses, non-participation was associated with older age, immigrant status, low OECD-adjusted household income, high and low level education compared with middle level education, unemployment, being unmarried, distance to screening site >20 km, being a tenant and no access to a vehicle. Active and passive non-participants comprised two distinct groups with different socio-demographic characteristics, with passive non-participants being more socially deprived compared with active non-participants.
Non-participation was associated with low social status e.g. low income, unemployment, no access to vehicle and status as tenant. Non-participants were also more likely than participants to be older, single, and of non-Danish origin. Compared to active non-participants, passive non-participants were characterized by e.g. lower income and lower educational level. Different interventions might be warranted to increase participation in the two non-participant groups.
Screening; Mammography; Non-participation; Socio-demography; Inequality
Implementation of new guidelines into clinical practice is often incomplete. Direct mail is a simple way of providing information to physicians and may improve implementation of new guidelines on basic life support (BLS). The aim of this study was to describe knowledge of the most recent European Resuscitation Council (ERC) Guidelines for BLS among general practitioners (GPs) and investigate whether direct mail improves theoretical knowledge of these guidelines.
All general practice clinics (n=351) in Central Denmark Region were randomised to receive either direct mail (intervention) or no direct mail (control). The direct mail consisted of the official ERC BLS/AED poster and a cover letter outlining changes in compression depth and frequency in the new guidelines. In general practice clinics randomised to intervention, every GP received a direct mail addressed personally to him/her. Two weeks later, a multiple-choice questionnaire on demographics and BLS guidelines were mailed to GPs in both groups.
In total, 830 GPs were included in this study (direct mail, n=408; control, n=422). The response rate was 58%. The majority (91%) of GPs receiving direct mail were familiar with BLS Guidelines 2010 compared to 72% in the control group (P<0.001). Direct mail improved knowledge of the new recommended chest compression depth (67% vs. 40%, P<0.001) and chest compression frequency (62% vs. 40%, P<0.001).
Direct mail improved knowledge of changes in BLS guidelines and thus facilitated the implementation of this knowledge into clinical practice. Resuscitation councils and medical societies may consider using direct mail as a simple strategy to facilitate implementation of changes in clinical guidelines.
Basic life support; First aid; Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); Education; Guidelines; General practice
Information is essential in healthcare. Recording, handling and sharing healthcare information is important in order to ensure high quality of delivered healthcare. Information and communication technology (ICT) may be a valuable tool for handling these challenges. One way of enhancing the exchange of information could be to establish a link between patient-specific and general information sent to the general practitioner (GP). The aim of the present paper is to study GPs' use of a hyperlink inserted into electronic test result communication.
We inserted a hyperlink into the electronic test result communication sent to the patients’ GPs who participated in a regional, systematic breast cancer screening program. The hyperlink target was a web-site with information on the breast cancer screening program and breast cancer in general. Different strategies were used to increase the GPs’ use of this hyperlink. The outcome measure was the GPs’ self-reported use of the link. Data were collected by means of a one-page paper-based questionnaire.
The response rate was 73% (n=242). In total, 108 (45%) of the GPs reported to have used the link. In all, 22% (n=53) of the GPs used the web-address from a paper letter and 37% (n=89) used the hyperlink in the electronic test result communication (Δ = 15%[95%confidence int erval(CI) = 8 − 22%P < 0.001]). We found no statistically significant associations between use of the web-address/hyperlink and the GP’s gender, age, or attitude towards mammography screening.
The results suggest that hyperlinks in electronic test result communication could be a feasible strategy for combining and sharing different types of healthcare information.
It is puzzling to note that British and Danish citizens have a poorer cancer prognosis than citizens from other countries, and this study hypothesises that their low cancer survival could be partly rooted in the gatekeeper function undertaken by general practice in these two countries.
To test the association between principles of gatekeeper systems and cancer survival.
Design and setting
An ecologic study with data from EUROCARE-4 and primary care structure.
This hypothesis was tested in an ecologic study on the association between three principles of gatekeeper systems and cancer survival in 19 European countries for which valid and full data were available.
It was found that healthcare systems with a gatekeeper system do have a significantly lower 1-year relative cancer survival than systems without such gatekeeperfunctions.
The possible mechanisms behind this finding are discussed, and while all the positive aspects of gatekeeping are recognised, it is strongly recommended that further research be conducted to confirm or reject the study hypothesis on this possible serious adverse effect of gatekeeping.
cancer; Denmark; family practice, organisation; survival
Knowledge of patterns in cancer patients’ health care utilisation around the time of diagnosis may guide health care resource allocation and provide important insights into this groups’ demand for health care services. The health care need of patients with comorbid conditions far exceeds the oncology capacity and it is therefore important to elucidate the role of both primary and secondary care. The aim of this paper is to describe the use of health care services amongst incident cancer patients in Denmark one year before and one year after cancer diagnosis.
The present study is a national population-based case–control (1:10) registry study. All incident cancer patients (n = 127,210) diagnosed between 2001 and 2006 aged 40 years or older were identified in the Danish Cancer Registry. Data from national health registries were provided for all cancer patients and for 1,272,100 controls. Monthly consultation frequencies, monthly proportions of persons receiving health services and three-month incidence rate ratios for one year before and one year after the cancer diagnosis were calculated. Data were analysed separately for women and men.
Three months before their diagnosis, cancer patients had twice as many general practitioner (GP) consultations, ten to eleven times more diagnostic investigations and five times more hospital contacts than the reference population. The demand for GP services peaked one month before diagnosis, the demand for diagnostic investigations one month after diagnosis and the number of hospital contacts three months after diagnosis. The proportion of cancer patients receiving each of these three types of health services remained more than 10% above that of the reference population from two months before diagnosis until the end of the study period.
Cancer patients’ health service utilisation rose dramatically three months before their diagnosis. This increase applied to all services in general throughout the first year after diagnosis and to the patients’ use of hospital contacts in particular. Cancer patients’ heightened demand for GP services one year after their diagnosis highlights the importance of close coordination and communication between the primary and the secondary healthcare sector.
Cancer; General practice; Diagnostic; Hospital admission; Outpatient visit; Health services; Consultation; Registry study; Aftercare; Denmark
Breast cancer screening in Denmark is organised by the health services in the five regions. Although general practitioners (GPs) are not directly involved in the screening process, they are often the first point of contact to the health care system and thus play an important advisory role. No previous studies, in a health care setting like the Danish system, have investigated the association between GPs’ attitudes towards breast cancer screening and women’s participation in the screening programme.
Data on women’s screening participation was obtained from the regional screening authorities. Data on GPs’ attitudes towards breast cancer screening was taken from a previous survey among GPs in the Central Denmark Region. This study included women aged 50-69 years who were registered with a singlehanded GP who had participated in the survey.
The survey involved 67 singlehanded GPs with a total of 13,288 women on their lists. Five GPs (7%) had a negative attitude towards breast cancer screening. Among registered women, 81% participated in the first screening round. Multivariate analyses revealed that women registered with a GP with a negative attitude towards breast cancer screening were 17% (95% CI: 2-34%) more likely to be non-participants compared with women registered with a GP with a positive attitude towards breast cancer screening.
The GPs' attitudes may influence the participation rate even in a system where GPs are not directly involved in the screening process. However, further studies are needed to investigate this association.
Breast cancer screening; Participation; General practice
Self-management support is considered to be an essential part of diabetes care. However, the implementation of self-management support within healthcare settings has appeared to be challenging and there is increased interest in “real world” best practice examples to guide policy efforts. In order to explore how different approaches to diabetes care and differences in management structure influence the provision of SMS we selected two healthcare systems that have shown to be comparable in terms of budget, benefits and entitlements. We compared the extent of SMS provided and the self-management behaviors of people living with diabetes in Kaiser Permanente (KP) and the Danish Healthcare System (DHS).
Self-administered questionnaires were used to collect data from a random sample of 2,536 individuals with DM from KP and the DHS in 2006–2007 to compare the level of SMS provided in the two systems and identify disparities associated with educational attainment. The response rates were 75 % in the DHS and 56 % in KP. After adjusting for gender, age, educational level, and HbA1c level, multiple linear regression analyses determined the level of SMS provided and identified disparities associated with educational attainment.
Receipt of SMS varied substantially between the two systems. More people with diabetes in KP reported receiving all types of SMS and use of SMS tools compared to the DHS (p < .0001). Less than half of all respondents reported taking diabetes medication as prescribed and following national guidelines for exercise.
Despite better SMS support in KP compared to the DHS, self-management remains an under-supported area of care for people receiving care for diabetes in the two health systems. Our study thereby suggests opportunity for improvements especially within the Danish healthcare system and systems adopting similar SMS support strategies.
Self-management support; Type 2 diabetes mellitus; Health system; International comparison
About 30% of the Danish population has one or more chronic conditions, and general practitioners (GPs) play a key role in effective chronic care management. However, little is known about these encounters in general practice. The aim was to describe the frequency of patients with one or more chronic conditions in general practice and how these consultations were experienced by the GPs.
All GPs in the Central Denmark Region were invited to register all contacts during one day in the 12‒month study period from December; 404 (46%) accepted. For each patient contact, the GPs were asked to fill in a one‒page registration form covering information on chronic disease, reason for encounter, diagnosis, number of additional psychosocial problems raised by the patient during the consultation, time consumption, experienced burden of the consultation, referral to specialized care, and whether a nurse could have substituted the GP. Patients were categorized according to the number of chronic conditions (none, one, two, three or more) and the categories compared with regard to the GP‒experienced burden of the contacts. Moreover, we examined which chronic conditions posed the the greatest challenge to the GPs.
Patients aged 40 years or more had a total of 8,236 contacts. Among these patients 2,849 (34.6%; 95% CI 33.6‒35.6) had one and 2,596 (31.5%; CI 30.5‒32.5) had more than one chronic disease. The time consumption and the burden of their contacts tended to rise with the number of chronic conditions. Being present in 22.9% (CI 21.6‒24.3) of all face‒to‒face contacts, hypertension was the most common chronic condition. The burden of the contacts was experienced as particularly heavy for patients with depression and dementia due to more additional psychosocial problems and the time consumption.
General practitioners considered consultations with multimorbid patients demanding and not easily delegated to nurses. As the number of patients with chronic conditions and multimorbidity is increasing, GPs can be expected to face a heavier workload in the future.
Primary care; Chronic disease; Multimorbidity; Workload
Approximately 98% of Danish citizens are listed with a general practice which they consult for medical advice. Although 85% of the population contact their general practitioner (GP) every year, little is known about these contacts. The aim of the present paper is to gain updated knowledge about patients’ reasons for encounter and the GP activities and to make comparisons with a similar study from 1993.
All GPs in the Central Denmark Region were invited to register all contacts during one randomly chosen day within a year. The registration included questions about patients’ reasons for encounter, the types and contents of the contacts, referrals, and distribution between new episodes and follow-up contacts. Aggregated data were compared with the results from 1993.
A total of 404 (46%) GPs participated. The number of contacts per 1000 inhabitants had risen by 19.7%. The reasons for encounter and final diagnoses resembled those in 1993. Musculoskeletal, psychological, and respiratory problems were the most common reasons for encounter, psychological problems being the only type to increase over the period. Interestingly, the proportion of diagnoses within the ICPC ‘A’ chapter rose from 13.5 to 19.7%. The referral rate rose by 2% (relative: 18.7%) from 10.7% to 12.7% and the share of follow-up contacts rose from 45.9% to 50.4% (relative: 8.7%).
Quite small changes were seen in the patterns of reasons for encounter and diagnoses from 1993 to 2009. However, an increase was found in contacts with general practice and referrals and in the proportion of follow-ups.
Denmark; diagnoses; general practice; reasons for encounter; referral rate
An important prerequisite for the Chronic Care Model is to be able to identify, in a valid, simple and inexpensive way, the population with a chronic condition that needs proactive and planned care. We investigated if a set of administrative data could be used to identify patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in a Danish population.
Seven general practices were asked to identify patients with known Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in their practices. For the 266 patients (population A), we used administrative data on hospital admissions for lung-related diagnoses, redeemed prescriptions for lung-diseases drugs and lung- function tests combined to develop an algorithm that identified the highest proportion of patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease with the fewest criteria involved. We tested nine different algorithms combining two to four criteria. The simplest algorithm with highest positive predictive value identified 532 patients (population B); with possible diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in five general practices. The doctors were asked to confirm the diagnosis. The same algorithm identified 2,895 patients whom were asked to confirm their diagnosis (population C).
In population A the chosen algorithm had a positive predictive value of 72.2 % and three criteria: a) discharged patients with a chronic lung-disease diagnosis at least once during the preceding 5 years; or b) redeemed prescription of lung-medication at least twice during the preceding 12 months; or c) at least two spirometries performed at different dates during the preceding 12 months. In population B the positive predictive value was 65.0 % [60.8;69.1 %] and the sensitivity 44.8 % [41.3;48.4 %)] when the “uncertain” were added to where doctors agreed with the diagnosis. For the 1,984 respondents in population C, the positive predictive value was 72.9 % [70.8;74.8 %] and the sensitivity 29.7 % [28.4;31.0 %].
An algorithm based on administrative data has been developed and validated with sufficient positive predictive value to be used as a tool for identifying patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Some of the identified patients had other chronic lung-diseases (asthma). The algorithm should mostly be regarded as a tool for identifying chronic lung-disease and further development of the algorithm is needed.
General practice plays an important role in the cancer care pathway. The initial diagnostic phase may be crucial for the relationship between the patient and the GP.
The aim was to describe whether patients' confidence in their GP changed after a cancer diagnosis, and analyse whether the change in confidence was associated with doctor delay.
Design and setting
Population-based cohort study with 1892 questionnaires sent to patients and their GPs in general practices in the former Aarhus County, Denmark.
Information on patients' confidence in their GP was obtained from the patient questionnaire. Information on doctor delay was obtained from the GPs and defined as a period of 14 days or more from the date of first symptom presentation to the GP until cancer-specific investigation was initiated.
Before the cancer diagnosis, 88.4% of the patients had confidence in their GP, which decreased to 80.0% after the diagnosis (P<0.001); 15.8% of the patients who experienced no doctor delay reported a decrease in confidence after the cancer diagnosis, compared with 29.1% of the patients with a doctor delay (P<0.001). Patients presenting with alarm symptoms and experiencing doctor delay were 3.8 times more likely to lose confidence compared with those presenting with alarm symptoms who experienced no doctor delay (P = 0.048).
The majority of the patients had high levels of confidence in their GP before, as well as after, the cancer diagnosis. Nevertheless, a substantial amount had low confidence in the GP, especially when experiencing doctor delay in the initial phase of the pathway.
early detection of cancer; general practice; trust
To investigate associations between cancer survivors’ sex, age, and diagnosis in relation to their (1) need for rehabilitation, (2) participation in rehabilitation activities, and (3) unmet needs for rehabilitation in a 14-month period following date of diagnosis.
A population-based cohort study was performed on incident cancer patients diagnosed from 1 October 2007 to 30 September 2008. Fourteen months after diagnosis, participants completed a questionnaire developed to measure the aspects of rehabilitation. Logistic regression analyses were used to explore the association between sex, age, and diagnosis, and the outcome variables for rehabilitation.
A total of 3,439 patients participated, yielding an overall response rate of 70%. One third of the cancer patients reported a need for physical rehabilitation and one third for psychological rehabilitation. Half of the patients participated in at least one activity. Unmet needs were most often reported in psychological, sexual, and financial areas. Women expressed more needs, participated more often in rehabilitation activities, and had, to a higher extent, their emotional needs fulfilled. Breast cancer patients participated more often in physical rehabilitation. Elderly who expressed rehabilitation needs more often had them unresolved.
A substantial variation in rehabilitation needs, participation in activities, and unmet needs in relation to sex, age, and cancer type was observed. Cancer care ought to systematically address the wide range of needs in all groups through integration of systematic needs assessment and targeted supply of offers.
Cancer; Patient; Rehabilitation; Unmet needs; Participation
It has now for many years been recognised that patient evaluations should be undertaken as an integral part of the complex task of improving the quality of general practice care. Yet little is known about the general practitioners' (GPs') benefit from patient evaluations. Aim 1 was to study the impact on the GPs of a patient evaluation and subsequent feedback of results presented at a plenary session comprising a study guide for the results and group discussions. Aim 2 was to study possible facilitators and barriers to the implementations of the results raised by the patient evaluation process.
A patient evaluation survey of 597 voluntarily participating GPs was performed by means of the EUROPEP questionnaire. Evaluation results were fed back to the GPs as written reports at a single feedback meeting with group discussions of the results. Between 3 and 17 months after the feedback, the 597 GPs received a questionnaire with items addressing their experience with and perceived benefit from the evaluations.
79.4% of the GPs responded. 33% of the responding GPs reported that the patient evaluation had raised their attention to the patient perspective on the quality of general practice care. Job satisfaction had improved among 26%, and 21% had developed a more positive attitude to patient evaluations. 77% of the GPs reported having learnt from the evaluation. 54% had made changes to improve practice, 82% would recommend a patient evaluation to a colleague and 75% would do another patient evaluation if invited. 14% of the GPs had become less positive towards patient evaluations, and job satisfaction had decreased among 3%.
We found a significant impact on the GPs regarding satisfaction with the process and attitude towards patient evaluations, GPs' attention to the patients' perspective on care quality and their job satisfaction. Being benchmarked against the average seemed to raise barriers to the concept of patient evaluations and difficulties interpreting the results may have formed a barrier to their implementation which was partly overcome by adding qualitative data to the quantitative results. The GPs' significant willingness to share and discuss the results with others may have served as a facilitator.
Delay in diagnosis of cancer may worsen prognosis. The aim of this study is to explore patient-, general practitioner (GP)- and system-related delay in the interval from first cancer symptom to diagnosis and treatment, and to analyse the extent to which delays differ by cancer type.
Population-based cohort study conducted in 2004-05 in the County of Aarhus, Denmark (640,000 inhabitants). Data were collected from administrative registries and questionnaires completed by GPs on 2,212 cancer patients newly diagnosed during a 1-year period. Median delay (in days) with interquartile interval (IQI) was the main outcome measure.
Median total delay was 98 days (IQI 57-168). Most of the total delay stemmed from patient (median 21 days (7-56)) and system delay (median 55 days (32-93)). Median GP delay was 0 (0-2) days. Total delay was shortest among patients with ovarian (median 60 days (45-112)) and breast cancer (median 65 days (39-106)) and longest among patients with prostate (median 130 days (89-254)) and bladder cancer (median 134 days (93-181)).
System delay accounted for a substantial part of the total delay experienced by cancer patients. This points to a need for shortening clinical pathways if possible. A long patient delay calls for research into patient awareness of cancer. For all delay components, special focus should be given to the 4th quartile of patients with the longest time intervals and we need research into the quality of the diagnostic work-up process. We found large variations in delay for different types of cancer. Improvements should therefore target both the population at large and the specific needs associated with individual cancer types and their symptoms.
Delay in cancer diagnosis may have serious prognostic consequences, and some patients experience delays lasting several months. However, we have no knowledge whether such delays are associated with general practitioner (GP) characteristics. The aim of the present study was to analyse whether GP and practice characteristics are associated with the length of delay in cancer diagnosis.
The study was designed as a population-based cohort study. The setting was the County of Aarhus, Denmark (640,000 inhabitants). Participants include 334 GPs and their 1,525 consecutive, newly diagnosed cancer patients. During one year (September 2004 to August 2005), patients with incident cancer were enrolled from administrative registries. GPs completed questionnaires on the patients' diagnostic pathways and on GP and practice characteristics. Delay was categorised as patient-related (more than 60 days), doctor-related (more than 30 days) and system-related (more than 90 days). The associations between delay and characteristics were assessed in a logistic regression model using odds ratios (ORs).
No GP characteristics (seniority, practice organization, list size, participation in continuing medical education, job satisfaction and level of burnout) were associated with doctor delay. Patients of female GPs more often had a short patient delay than patients of male GPs (OR 0.44, 95% confidence interval (95%CI) 0.28 to 0.71). Patients whose GPs provided many services (OR 0.66, 95%CI 0.44 to 0.95) and patients attending GPs with little former knowledge of their patients (OR 0.68, 95%CI 0.47 to 0.99) more often experienced a short system delay than patients attending GPs with less activity and more knowledge of their patients. Patients listed with a female GP more often experienced a long system delay than patients of male GPs (OR 1.50, 95%CI 1.02 to 2.21). Finally, patients with low GP-reported compliance more often experienced a long system delay (OR 1.73, 95%CI 1.07 to 2.80) than patients with higher compliance.
GP characteristics were not statistically significantly associated with doctor delay. However, some GP characteristics were associated with patient and system delay, which indicates that these factors may be important for understanding patient delay (e.g. perceived GP accessibility and the GP-patient relationship) and system delay (e.g. the GP's experience and opportunities for referring and coordinating diagnostic work-up).
Cancer diagnosis; delay; GP characteristics; Denmark; family practice
The absence of a more significant improvement in cancer survival in countries such as the UK and Denmark may be partly rooted in delayed care-seeking among cancer patients. Past research on patient delay has mainly focused on patient characteristics (e.g. sociodemographic and psychological factors and symptom recognition) as causes of delayed care-seeking, while few studies have examined how the organizational structure of health care systems may influence patients’ reflections on seeking care. The aim of this study was to explore this relationship.
The analysis presented is based on semi-structured interviews with 30 cancer patients and their families.
The article raises two hypotheses on the relationship between structural elements of a health care system and people's reflections on seeking health care: (1) Gatekeeping introduces an asymmetrical relationship between the patient and the GP which potentially results in self-restricting care-seeking, (2) Continuity in the doctor–patient relationship may negatively influence patient reflections on access to health care, as the focus shifts from the medical issues of the consultation to reflections on how to properly interact with the GP and the system in which she/he is situated.
It is concluded that these hypotheses form a sound basis for further primary care research on how the organizational structure of health care systems influences patient reflections on access to medical care.
Cancer; care-seeking; health care systems; patient delay