Considering the scarcity of health care resources and the high costs associated with cardiovascular diseases, we investigated the spending on cardiovascular primary preventive activities and the prescribing behaviour of primary preventive cardiovascular medication (PPCM) in Dutch family practices (FPs).
A mixed methods design was used, which consisted of a questionnaire (n = 80 FPs), video recordings of hypertension- or cholesterol-related general practitioner visits (n = 56), and the database of Netherlands Information Network of General Practice (n = 45 FPs; n = 157,137 patients). The questionnaire and video recordings were used to determine the average frequency and time spent on cardiovascular primary preventive activities per FP respectively. Taking into account the annual income and full time equivalents of general practitioners, health care assistants, and practice nurses as well as the practice costs, the total spending on cardiovascular primary preventive activities in Dutch FPs was calculated. The database of Netherlands Information Network of General Practice was used to determine the prescribing behaviour in Dutch FPs by conducting multilevel regression models and adjusting for patient and practice characteristics.
Total expenditure on cardiovascular primary preventive activities in FPs in 2009 was €38.8 million (€2.35 per capita), of which 47% was spent on blood pressure measurements, 26% on cardiovascular risk profiling, and 11% on lifestyle counselling. Fifteen percent (€11 per capita) of all cardiovascular medication prescribed in FPs was a PPCM. FPs differed greatly on prescription of PPCM (odds ratio of 3.1).
Total costs of cardiovascular primary preventive activities in FPs such as blood pressure measurements and lifestyle counselling are relatively low compared to the costs of PPCM. There is considerable heterogeneity in prescribing behaviour of PPCM between FPs. Further research is needed to determine whether such large differences in prescription rates are justified. Striving for an optimal use of cardiovascular primary preventive activities might lead to similar health outcomes, but may achieve important cost savings.