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1.  Interventions to improve outpatient referrals from primary care to secondary care 
The primary care specialist interface is a key organisational feature of many health care systems. Patients are referred to specialist care when investigation or therapeutic options are exhausted in primary care and more specialised care is needed. Referral has considerable implications for patients, the health care system and health care costs. There is considerable evidence that the referral processes can be improved.
To estimate the effectiveness and efficiency of interventions to change outpatient referral rates or improve outpatient referral appropriateness.
Search methods
We conducted electronic searches of the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC) group specialised register (developed through extensive searches of MEDLINE, EMBASE, Healthstar and the Cochrane Library) (February 2002) and the National Research Register. Updated searches were conducted in MEDLINE and the EPOC specialised register up to October 2007.
Selection criteria
Randomised controlled trials, controlled clinical trials, controlled before and after studies and interrupted time series of interventions to change or improve outpatient referrals. Participants were primary care physicians. The outcomes were objectively measured provider performance or health outcomes.
Data collection and analysis
A minimum of two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed study quality.
Main results
Seventeen studies involving 23 separate comparisons were included. Nine studies (14 comparisons) evaluated professional educational interventions. Ineffective strategies included: passive dissemination of local referral guidelines (two studies), feedback of referral rates (one study) and discussion with an independent medical adviser (one study). Generally effective strategies included dissemination of guidelines with structured referral sheets (four out of five studies) and involvement of consultants in educational activities (two out of three studies). Four studies evaluated organisational interventions (patient management by family physicians compared to general internists, attachment of a physiotherapist to general practices, a new slot system for referrals and requiring a second ‘in-house’ opinion prior to referral), all of which were effective. Four studies (five comparisons) evaluated financial interventions. One study evaluating change from a capitation based to mixed capitation and fee-for-service system and from a fee-for-service to a capitation based system (with an element of risk sharing for secondary care services) observed a reduction in referral rates. Modest reductions in referral rates of uncertain significance were observed following the introduction of the general practice fundholding scheme in the United Kingdom (UK). One study evaluating the effect of providing access to private specialists demonstrated an increase in the proportion of patients referred to specialist services but no overall effect on referral rates.
Authors’ conclusions
There are a limited number of rigorous evaluations to base policy on. Active local educational interventions involving secondary care specialists and structured referral sheets are the only interventions shown to impact on referral rates based on current evidence. The effects of ‘in-house’ second opinion and other intermediate primary care based alternatives to outpatient referral appear promising.
PMCID: PMC4164370  PMID: 18843691
*Medicine [organization & administration; standards]; *Outpatients; *Practice Guidelines as Topic; *Primary Health Care [economics; organization & administration; standards]; *Specialization; Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic; Economics, Medical; Family Practice [economics; organization & administration; standards]; Information Dissemination; Referral and Consultation [economics; organization & administration; *standards]; Humans
2.  Does intravenous contrast-enhanced computed tomography cause acute kidney injury? Protocol of a systematic review of the evidence 
Systematic Reviews  2014;3:94.
Contrast-induced acute kidney injury is a common cause of iatrogenic acute kidney injury (AKI). Most of the published estimates of AKI after contrast use originate from the cardiac catheterization literature despite contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CT) scans being the more common setting for contrast use. This systematic review aims to summarize the current evidence about (1)the risk of AKI following intravenous (IV) contrast-enhanced CT scans and(2) the risk of clinical outcomes (i.e. death, hospitalization and need for renal replacement therapy) due to IV contrast-enhanced CT scans.
A systematic literature search for published studies will be performed using MEDLINE, EMBASE and The COCHRANE Library databases. Unpublished studies will be identified by searching through grey literature. No language restriction will be applied.
The review will consider all studies that have examined the association between IV contrast media and AKI. To be selected, the study should include two arms: one group of exposed patients who received IV contrast material before CT scans and one group of unexposed group who did not receive contrast material before CT scans. Two authors will independently screen titles and abstracts obtained from electronic databases, extract data and will assess the quality of the studies selected using the Cochrane's ‘Risk of Bias’ assessment tool for randomized trials and the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale for observational studies. A random-effects meta-analysis will be performed if there is no remarkable heterogeneity between studies.
This systematic review will provide synthesis of current evidence around the effect of IV contrast material on AKI and other clinical outcomes. Results will be helpful for making evidence-based recommendations and guidelines for clinical and radiologic settings.
Systematic review registration
PROSPERO CRD42013003799.
PMCID: PMC4144700  PMID: 25148933
Contrast nephropathy; Acute kidney injury; Systematic review; Meta-analysis; Intravenous contrast; Contrast-enhanced computed tomography
3.  Prevention of Contrast-Induced Acute Kidney Injury: Is Simple Oral Hydration Similar To Intravenous? A Systematic Review of the Evidence 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e60009.
Pre-procedural intravenous fluid administration is an effective prophylaxis measure for contrast-induced acute kidney injury. For logistical ease, the oral route is an alternative to the intravenous. The objective of this study was to compare the efficacy of the oral to the intravenous route in prevention of contrast-induced acute kidney injury.
Study Design
A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials with a stratified analysis and metaregression. Databases included MEDLINE (1950 to November 23 2011), EMBASE (1947 to week 47 2011), Cochrane CENTRAL (3rd quarter 2011). Two reviewers identified relevant trials and abstracted data.
Settings and Population
Trials including patients undergoing a contrast enhanced procedure.
Selection Criteria
Randomised controlled trial; adult (>18 years) population; comparison of oral versus intravenous volume expansion.
Oral route of volume expansion compared to the intravenous route.
Any measure of acute kidney injury, need for renal replacement therapy, hospitalization and death.
Six trials including 513 patients met inclusion criteria. The summary odds ratio was 1.19 (95% CI 0.46, 3.10, p = 0.73) suggesting no difference between the two routes of volume expansion. There was significant heterogeneity (Cochran’s Q = 11.65, p = 0.04; I2 = 57). In the stratified analysis, inclusion of the five studies with a prespecified oral volume expansion protocol resulted in a shift towards oral volume expansion (OR 0.75, 95% CI 0.37, 1.50, p = 0.42) and also resolved the heterogeneity (Q = 3.19, P = 0.53; I2 = 0).
Small number of studies identified; lack of hard clinical outcomes.
The oral route may be as effective as the intravenous route for volume expansion for contrast-induced acute kidney injury prevention. Adequately powered trials with hard endpoints should be done given the potential advantages of oral (e.g. reduced patient burden and cost) over intravenous volume expansion.
PMCID: PMC3608617  PMID: 23555863
4.  Heme iron polypeptide for the treatment of iron deficiency anemia in non-dialysis chronic kidney disease patients: a randomized controlled trial 
BMC Nephrology  2013;14:64.
Anemia secondary to iron deficiency is common in patients with non-dialysis dependent chronic kidney disease (ND-CKD) but it is unclear if oral supplementation is as effective as intravenous (IV) supplementation in re-establishing iron stores. The purpose of this study was to determine if oral Heme Iron Polypeptide (HIP) is as effective as IV iron sucrose in the treatment of iron-deficiency anemia for patients with ND-CKD.
Forty ND-CKD patients were randomized; 18 to HIP 11 mg orally 3 times per day and 22 to IV iron sucrose 200 mg monthly for 6 months. Baseline clinical and laboratory data were collected for all patients. The primary and secondary outcomes for the study were hemoglobin (Hgb) concentration and iron indices [ferritin and percentage transferrin saturation (TSAT)] at the end of 6 months respectively. Adverse events were also compared.
The baseline demographic characteristics and laboratory values were similar for the two groups. After 6 months of treatment, Hb in the HIP group was 117 g/L and 113 g/L in the IV sucrose group (p = 0.37). The TSAT at 6 months was not different between the two groups {p = 0.82}but the serum ferritin was significantly higher in the IV iron sucrose group {85.5 ug/L in HIP and 244 ug/L; p = 0.004}. Overall adverse events were not different between the groups.
HIP is similar in efficacy to IV iron sucrose in maintaining hemoglobin in ND-CKD patients with no differences in adverse events over 6 months. It is unclear if the greater ferritin values in the IV iron sucrose group are clinically significant.
Trial registration NCT00318812
PMCID: PMC3606612  PMID: 23514036
Anemia; Iron; Chronic kidney disease
5.  Quality of cardiovascular disease care in Ontario, Canada: missed opportunities for prevention - a cross sectional study 
Primary care plays a key role in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease (CVD). We examined primary care practice adherence to recommended care guidelines associated with the prevention and management of CVD for high risk patients.
We conducted a secondary analysis of cross-sectional baseline data collected from 84 primary care practices participating in a large quality improvement initiative in Eastern Ontario from 2008 to 2010. We collected medical chart data from 4,931 patients who either had, or were at high risk of developing CVD to study adherence rates to recommended guidelines for CVD care and to examine the proportion of patients at target for clinical markers such as blood pressure, lipid levels and hemoglobin A1c.
Adherence to preventive care recommendations was poor. Less than 10% of high risk patients received a waistline measurement, half of the smokers received cessation advice, and 7.7% were referred to a smoking cessation program. Gaps in care exist for diabetes and kidney disease as 54.9% of patients with diabetes received recommended hemoglobin-A1c screenings, and only 55.8% received an albumin excretion test. Adherence rates to recommended guidelines for coronary artery disease, hypertension, and dyslipidemia were high (>75%); however <50% of patients were at target for blood pressure or LDL-cholesterol levels (37.1% and 49.7% respectively), and only 59.3% of patients with diabetes were at target for hemoglobin-A1c.
There remain significant opportunities for primary care providers to engage high risk patients in prevention activities such as weight management and smoking cessation. Despite high adherence rates for hypertension, dyslipidemia, and coronary artery disease, a significant proportion of patients failed to meet treatment targets, highlighting the complexity of caring for people with multiple chronic conditions.
Trial Registration
PMCID: PMC3477034  PMID: 22970753
Cardiovascular disease; Primary care; Diabetes; Evidence-based care; Preventive care; Quality of care
6.  Change in appropriate referrals to nephrologists after the introduction of automatic reporting of the estimated glomerular filtration rate 
Use of the serum creatinine concentration, the most widely used marker of kidney function, has been associated with under-reporting of chronic kidney disease and late referral to nephrologists, especially among women and elderly people. To improve appropriateness of referrals, automatic reporting of the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) by laboratories was introduced in the province of Ontario, Canada, in March 2006. We hypothesized that such reporting, along with an ad hoc educational component for primary care physicians, would increase the number of appropriate referrals.
We conducted a population-based before–after study with interrupted time-series analysis at a tertiary care centre. All referrals to nephrologists received at the centre during the year before and the year after automatic reporting of the eGFR was introduced were eligible for inclusion. We used regression analysis with autoregressive errors to evaluate whether such reporting by laboratories, along with ad hoc educational activities for primary care physicians, had an impact on the number and appropriateness of referrals to nephrologists.
A total of 2672 patients were included in the study. In the year after automatic reporting began, the number of referrals from primary care physicians increased by 80.6% (95% confidence interval [CI] 74.8% to 86.9%). The number of appropriate referrals increased by 43.2% (95% CI 38.0% to 48.2%). There was no significant change in the proportion of appropriate referrals between the two periods (−2.8%, 95% CI −26.4% to 43.4%). The proportion of elderly and female patients who were referred increased after reporting was introduced.
The total number of referrals increased after automatic reporting of the eGFR began, especially among women and elderly people. The number of appropriate referrals also increased, but the proportion of appropriate referrals did not change significantly. Future research should be directed to understanding the reasons for inappropriate referral and to develop novel interventions for improving the referral process.
PMCID: PMC3307581  PMID: 22331970
7.  Improved delivery of cardiovascular care (IDOCC) through outreach facilitation: study protocol and implementation details of a cluster randomized controlled trial in primary care 
There is a need to find innovative approaches for translating best practices for chronic disease care into daily primary care practice routines. Primary care plays a crucial role in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease. There is, however, a substantive care gap, and many challenges exist in implementing evidence-based care. The Improved Delivery of Cardiovascular Care (IDOCC) project is a pragmatic trial designed to improve the delivery of evidence-based care for the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease in primary care practices using practice outreach facilitation.
The IDOCC project is a stepped-wedge cluster randomized control trial in which Practice Outreach Facilitators work with primary care practices to improve cardiovascular disease prevention and management for patients at highest risk. Primary care practices in a large health region in Eastern Ontario, Canada, were eligible to participate. The intervention consists of regular monthly meetings with the Practice Outreach Facilitator over a one- to two-year period. Starting with audit and feedback, consensus building, and goal setting, the practices are supported in changing practice behavior by incorporating chronic care model elements. These elements include (a) evidence-based decision support for providers, (b) delivery system redesign for practices, (c) enhanced self-management support tools provided to practices to help them engage patients, and (d) increased community resource linkages for practices to enhance referral of patients. The primary outcome is a composite score measured at the level of the patient to represent each practice's adherence to evidence-based guidelines for cardiovascular care. Qualitative analysis of the Practice Outreach Facilitators' written narratives of their ongoing practice interactions will be done. These textual analyses will add further insight into understanding critical factors impacting project implementation.
This pragmatic, stepped-wedge randomized controlled trial with both quantitative and process evaluations demonstrates innovative methods of implementing large-scale quality improvement and evidence-based approaches to care delivery. This is the first Canadian study to examine the impact of a large-scale multifaceted cardiovascular quality-improvement program in primary care. It is anticipated that through the evaluation of IDOCC, we will demonstrate an effective, practical, and sustainable means of improving the cardiovascular health of patients across Canada.
Trial Registration NCT00574808
PMCID: PMC3197547  PMID: 21952084
8.  Development of the Champlain primary care cardiovascular disease prevention and management guideline 
Canadian Family Physician  2011;57(6):e202-e207.
Problem addressed
A well documented gap remains between evidence and practice for clinical practice guidelines in cardiovascular disease (CVD) care.
Objective of program
As part of the Champlain CVD Prevention Strategy, practitioners in the Champlain District of Ontario launched a large quality-improvement initiative that focused on increasing the uptake in primary care practice settings of clinical guidelines for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and CVD risk factors.
Program description
The Champlain Primary Care CVD Prevention and Management Guideline is a desktop resource for primary care clinicians working in the Champlain District. The guideline was developed by more than 45 local experts to summarize the latest evidence-based strategies for CVD prevention and management, as well as to increase awareness of local community-based programs and services.
Evidence suggests that tailored strategies are important when implementing specific practice guidelines. This article describes the process of creating an integrated clinical guideline for improvement in the delivery of cardiovascular care.
PMCID: PMC3114691  PMID: 21673196
10.  Why do family physicians fail to detect renal impairment? 
Canadian Family Physician  2006;52(2):213.
To investigate why many patients with renal impairment (30.7%) were not recognized by their family physicians despite an earlier educational intervention on detecting renal impairment; and to determine whether certain factors related to physicians, patients, or the intervention itself were associated with whether renal impairment was detected.
Qualitative approach using grounded theory.
A Health Service Organization in Ottawa, Ont.
A purposeful sample of six family physicians.
In semistructured interviews, participants were asked to describe the workup ordered and their decision-making processes for patients in whom they had recently detected renal impairment. They were also asked to evaluate the six components of an educational intervention designed to help them to detect renal impairment. Finally, one patient’s chart was reviewed (a chart containing a laboratory report noting an abnormal result for kidney function and having no indication that renal impairment had been recognized) to identify reasons for lack of detection.
Most physicians did not investigate every patient with renal impairment (glomerular filtration rate of <78 mL/min) in the same way because they took individual patient factors into consideration. Reasons for not detecting renal impairment were “managed differently” or “missed,” with the former being the most common. The educational intervention physicians remembered most often was chart rounds, and these were viewed as helpful. “Missed” cases were more often deliberately managed differently than unintentionally not detected.
Physicians used various approaches to detect and manage renal impairment despite interventions that recommended a consistent procedure.
PMCID: PMC1479723  PMID: 16926964

Results 1-10 (10)