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1.  Roles of nurse practitioners and family physicians in community health centres 
Canadian Family Physician  2014;60(11):1020-1027.
To describe the models of practice used by nurse practitioners (NPs) and FPs in community health centres (CHCs), and to examine the roles of NPs and FPs in these models.
Cross-sectional study using an organizational survey completed by managers of the CHC sites, as well as administrative data on patient sociodemographic characteristics and encounter activities.
A total of 21 CHCs (13 main sites and 8 satellite sites) operating in eastern Ontario during the period from December 1, 2006, to November 30, 2008.
A total of 44 849 patients, 53 full-time equivalent FPs, and 41 full-time equivalent NPs.
Main outcome measures
Family physicians’ and NPs’ models of practice, the sociodemographic characteristics and medical profiles of patients who were treated in each model of practice, and FPs’ and NPs’ use of time.
Patients were attributed to 1 of 3 models of practice in CHCs based on the proportion of visits to FPs and NPs: FP care (53% of patients), NP care (29%), and shared care (18%). Patients who received care in the NP model of practice were younger and more likely to be female, be homeless, and not have postsecondary education. Patients who received care in the FP model of practice had more complex medical conditions (cardiovascular disease, mental illness, lung disease, and diabetes) and more annual visits. Patients who received care in the shared care model had intermediate profiles. Nurse practitioners performed more off-site care and walk-in visits. Family physicians and NPs spent a similar proportion of time performing various duties such as direct clinical care and administration tasks.
Although NPs mainly cared for their own patient panels (in the NP care model), they did share some patients with FPs and provide some care to patients under the FP model of practice. Patients who were cared for by FPs and NPs had quite different characteristics.
PMCID: PMC4229163  PMID: 25551130
2.  Does health literacy affect patients’ receipt of preventative primary care? A multilevel analysis 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15(1):171.
People with limited health literacy are more likely to be socioeconomically disadvantaged and have risk factors for preventable chronic diseases. General practice is the ideal setting to address these inequalities however these patients engage less in preventive activities and experience difficulties navigating health services.
This study aimed to compare primary care patients with and without sufficient health literacy in terms of their lifestyle risk factors, and explore factors associated with receiving advice and referral for these risk factors from their GPs.
A mailed survey of 739 patients from 30 general practices across four Australian states was conducted in 2012. Health literacy was measured using the Health Literacy Management Scale. Patients with a mean score of <4 within any domain were defined as having insufficient health literacy. Multilevel logistic regression was used to adjust for clustering of patients within practices.
Patients with insufficient health literacy (n = 351; 48%) were more likely to report being overweight or obese, and less likely to exercise adequately. Having insufficient health literacy increased a patient’s chance of receiving advice on diet, physical activity or weight management, and referral to and attendance at lifestyle modification programs. Not speaking English at home; being overweight or obese; and attending a small sized practice also increased patients’ chances of receiving advice on these lifestyle risks. Few (5%, n = 37) of all patients reported being referred to lifestyle modification program and of those around three-quarters had insufficient health literacy. Overweight or obese patients were more likely to be referred to lifestyle modification programs and patients not in paid employment were more likely to be referred to and attend lifestyle programs.
Patients with insufficient health literacy were more likely to report receiving advice and being referred by GPs to attend lifestyle modification. Although the number of patients referred from this sample was very low, these findings are positive in that they indicate that GPs are identifying patients with low health literacy and appropriately referring them for assistance with lifestyle modification. Future research should measure the effectiveness of these lifestyle programs for patients with low health literacy.
PMCID: PMC4212097
Health literacy; Obesity; Nutrition; Physical activity; Weight; Primary health care; Behavioural risk factors
4.  Under the radar: a cross-sectional study of the challenge of identifying at-risk alcohol consumption in the general practice setting 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:74.
Primary care providers are an important source of information regarding appropriate alcohol consumption. As early presentation to a provider for alcohol-related concerns is unlikely, it is important that providers are able to identify at-risk patients in order to provide appropriate advice. This study aimed to report the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value and negative predictive value of General Practitioner (GP) assessment of alcohol consumption compared to patient self-report, and explore characteristics associated with GP non-detection of at-risk status.
GP practices were selected from metropolitan and regional locations in Australia. Eligible patients were adults presenting for general practice care who were able to understand English and provide informed consent. Patients completed a modified AUDIT-C by touchscreen computer as part of an omnibus health survey while waiting for their appointment. GPs completed a checklist for each patient, including whether the patient met current Australian guidelines for at-risk alcohol consumption. Patient self-report and GP assessments were compared for each patient.
GPs completed the checklist for 1720 patients, yielding 1565 comparisons regarding alcohol consumption. The sensitivity of GPs’ detection of at-risk alcohol consumption was 26.5%, with specificity of 96.1%. Higher patient education was associated with GP non-detection of at-risk status.
GP awareness of which patients might benefit from advice regarding at-risk alcohol consumption appears low. Given the complexities associated with establishing whether alcohol consumption is ‘at-risk’, computer-based approaches to routine screening of patients are worthy of exploration as a method for prompting the provision of advice in primary care.
PMCID: PMC4004529  PMID: 24766913
General practice; Alcohol; Detection; Accuracy; Sensitivity
5.  Understanding diagnosis and management of dementia and guideline implementation in general practice: a qualitative study using the theoretical domains framework 
Dementia is a growing problem, causing substantial burden for patients, their families, and society. General practitioners (GPs) play an important role in diagnosing and managing dementia; however, there are gaps between recommended and current practice. The aim of this study was to explore GPs’ reported practice in diagnosing and managing dementia and to describe, in theoretical terms, the proposed explanations for practice that was and was not consistent with evidence-based guidelines.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with GPs in Victoria, Australia. The Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) guided data collection and analysis. Interviews explored the factors hindering and enabling achievement of 13 recommended behaviours. Data were analysed using content and thematic analysis. This paper presents an in-depth description of the factors influencing two behaviours, assessing co-morbid depression using a validated tool, and conducting a formal cognitive assessment using a validated scale.
A total of 30 GPs were interviewed. Most GPs reported that they did not assess for co-morbid depression using a validated tool as per recommended guidance. Barriers included the belief that depression can be adequately assessed using general clinical indicators and that validated tools provide little additional information (theoretical domain of ‘Beliefs about consequences’); discomfort in using validated tools (‘Emotion’), possibly due to limited training and confidence (‘Skills’; ‘Beliefs about capabilities’); limited awareness of the need for, and forgetting to conduct, a depression assessment (‘Knowledge’; ‘Memory, attention and decision processes’). Most reported practising in a manner consistent with the recommendation that a formal cognitive assessment using a validated scale be undertaken. Key factors enabling this were having an awareness of the need to conduct a cognitive assessment (‘Knowledge’); possessing the necessary skills and confidence (‘Skills’; ‘Beliefs about capabilities’); and having adequate time and resources (‘Environmental context and resources’).
This is the first study to our knowledge to use a theoretical approach to investigate the barriers and enablers to guideline-recommended diagnosis and management of dementia in general practice. It has identified key factors likely to explain GPs’ uptake of the guidelines. The results have informed the design of an intervention aimed at supporting practice change in line with dementia guidelines, which is currently being evaluated in a cluster randomised trial.
PMCID: PMC4015883  PMID: 24581339
Dementia; General practitioners (GPs); Cognitive assessment; Depression assessment; Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF); Guideline implementation
6.  Patient-reported access to primary care in Ontario 
Canadian Family Physician  2014;60(1):e24-e31.
To describe patient-reported access to primary health care across 4 organizational models of primary care in Ontario, and to explore how access is associated with patient, provider, and practice characteristics.
Cross-sectional survey.
One hundred thirty-seven randomly selected primary care practices in Ontario using 1 of 4 delivery models (fee for service, established capitation, reformed capitation, and community health centres).
Patients included were at least 18 years of age, were not severely ill or cognitively impaired, were not known to the survey administrator, had consenting providers at 1 of the participating primary care practices, and were able to communicate in English or French either directly or through a translator.
Main outcome measures
Patient-reported access was measured by a 4-item scale derived from the previously validated adult version of the Primary Care Assessment Tool. Questions were asked about physician availability during and outside of regular office hours and access to health information via telephone. Responses to the scale were normalized, with higher scores reflecting greater patient-reported access. Linear regressions were used to identify characteristics independently associated with access to care.
Established capitation model practices had the highest patient-reported access, although the difference in scores between models was small. Our multilevel regression model identified several patient factors that were significantly (P = .05) associated with higher patient-reported access, including older age, female sex, good-to-excellent self-reported health, less mental health disability, and not working. Provider experience (measured as years since graduation) was the only provider or practice characteristic independently associated with improved patient-reported access.
This study adds to what is known about access to primary care. The study found that established capitation models outperformed all the other organizational models, including reformed capitation models, independent of provider and practice variables save provider experience. This suggests that the capitation models might provide better access to care and that it might take time to realize the benefits of organizational reforms.
PMCID: PMC3994832  PMID: 24452575
7.  Prostate specific antigen testing in family practice: a cross sectional survey of self-reported rates of and reasons for testing participation and risk disclosure 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:186.
Despite controversy about the benefits of routine prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing, rates of participation continue to rise. It is important to ensure that men are fully informed about the potential risks associated with this test. Little is known about the processes of shared decision making for PSA testing in the family practice setting. This study aimed to explore men’s experiences of PSA testing participation and risk disclosure for PSA testing.
A cross-sectional survey of male family practice attendees aged 40 years or older, with no previous history of prostate cancer, between June 2010 and November 2011. Questions related to whether participants had undertaken PSA testing or discussed this with their doctor over the past 5 years, whether the patient or doctor had initiated the discussion, reasons for undergoing testing, and whether their doctor had discussed particular risks associated with PSA testing.
Sixty-seven percent (215/320) of men recalled having a PSA test in the past five years. Of the respondents who reported not having a test, 14% had discussed it with their doctor. The main reasons for having a PSA test were doctor recommendation and wanting to keep up to date with health tests. Thirty-eight percent or fewer respondents reported being advised of each potential risk.
Despite debate over the benefits of routine PSA testing, a high proportion of male family practice attendees report undertaking this test. Risks associated with testing appear to be poorly disclosed by general practitioners. These results suggest the need to improve the quality of informed consent for PSA testing in the family practice setting.
PMCID: PMC4029150  PMID: 24321004
Prostate cancer; Screening; Prostate specific antigen; Family practice
8.  A narrative synthesis of the impact of primary health care delivery models for refugees in resettlement countries on access, quality and coordination 
Refugees have many complex health care needs which should be addressed by the primary health care services, both on their arrival in resettlement countries and in their transition to long-term care. The aim of this narrative synthesis is to identify the components of primary health care service delivery models for such populations which have been effective in improving access, quality and coordination of care.
A systematic review of the literature, including published systematic reviews, was undertaken. Studies between 1990 and 2011 were identified by searching Medline, CINAHL, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Scopus, Australian Public Affairs Information Service – Health, Health and Society Database, Multicultural Australian and Immigration Studies and Google Scholar. A limited snowballing search of the reference lists of all included studies was also undertaken. A stakeholder advisory committee and international advisers provided papers from grey literature. Only English language studies of evaluated primary health care models of care for refugees in developed countries of resettlement were included.
Twenty-five studies met the inclusion criteria for this review of which 15 were Australian and 10 overseas models. These could be categorised into six themes: service context, clinical model, workforce capacity, cost to clients, health and non-health services. Access was improved by multidisciplinary staff, use of interpreters and bilingual staff, no-cost or low-cost services, outreach services, free transport to and from appointments, longer clinic opening hours, patient advocacy, and use of gender-concordant providers. These services were affordable, appropriate and acceptable to the target groups. Coordination between the different health care services and services responding to the social needs of clients was improved through case management by specialist workers. Quality of care was improved by training in cultural sensitivity and appropriate use of interpreters.
The elements of models most frequently associated with improved access, coordination and quality of care were case management, use of specialist refugee health workers, interpreters and bilingual staff. These findings have implications for workforce planning and training.
PMCID: PMC3835619  PMID: 24199588
Access; Coordination; Health care models; Primary health care; Quality of care; Refugee; Migrant; Immigrant; Health services evaluation
9.  Practice size, financial sharing and quality of care 
Although we are observing a general move towards larger primary care practices, surprisingly little is known about the influence of key components of practice organization on primary care. We aimed to determine the relationships between practice size, and revenue sharing agreements, and quality of care.
As part of a large cross sectional study, group practices were randomly selected from different primary care service delivery models in Ontario. Patient surveys and chart reviews were used to assess quality of care. Multilevel regressions controlled for patient, provider and practice characteristics.
Positive statistically significant associations were found between the logarithm of group size and access, comprehensiveness, and disease prevention. Negative significant associations were found between logarithm group size and continuity. No differences were found for chronic disease management and health promotion. Practices that shared revenues were found to deliver superior health promotion compared to those who did not. Interacting group size with the presence of a revenue-sharing arrangement had a negative impact on health promotion.
Despite the limitations of our study, our findings have provided preliminary evidence of the tradeoffs inherent with increasing practice size. Larger group size is associated with better access and comprehensiveness but worse continuity of care. Revenue sharing in group practices was associated with higher health promotion compared to sharing only common costs. Further work is required to better inform policy makers and practitioners as to whether the pattern revealed in larger practices mitigates any of the previously reported benefits of continuity of primary care. We found few benefits of revenue sharing – even then the effect of revenue sharing on health promotion seemed diminished in larger practices.
PMCID: PMC3819507  PMID: 24165413
Group size; Quality measures; Revenue sharing
10.  The effects of a mindfulness-based lifestyle programme for adults with Parkinson’s disease: protocol for a mixed methods, randomised two-group control study 
BMJ Open  2013;3(10):e003326.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in developed countries. There is an increasing interest in the use of mindfulness-related interventions in the management of patients with a chronic disease. In addition, interventions that promote personal control, stress-management and other lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, assist in reducing disability and improving quality of life in people with chronic illnesses. There has been little research in this area for people with PD.
A prospective mixed-method randomised clinical trial involving community living adults with PD aged <76 years and with moderate disease severity (Hoehn and Yahr stage 2) PD. Participants will be randomised into the ESSENCE 6-week programme or a matched wait list control group. ESSENCE is a multifaceted, healthy lifestyle and mindfulness programme designed to improve quality of life. We aim to determine whether participation in a mindfulness and lifestyle programme could improve PD-related function and explore self-management related experiences and changing attitudes towards self-management. The outcome measures will include 5 self-administered questionnaires: PD function and well-being questionnaire (PDQ39), Health Behaviours, Mental health, Multidimensional locus of control, and Freiburg mindfulness inventory. An embedded qualitative protocol will include in-depth interviews with 12 participants before and after participation in the 6-week programme and a researcher will observe the programme and take notes.
Repeated measures of Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) will examine the outcome measures for any significant effects from the group allocation, age, sex, adherence score and attendance. Qualitative data will be analysed thematically. We will outline the benefits of, and barriers to, the uptake of the intervention.
This protocol has received ethics approval from the Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee project number CF11/2662–2011001553.
This is the first research of its kind in Australia involving a comprehensive, lifestyle-based programme for people with PD and has the potential to involve a broader range of providers than standard care. The findings will be disseminated through peer reviewed journals, primary care conferences in Australia as well as abroad and through the Parkinson's community.
Registration details
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) ACTRN12612000440820.
PMCID: PMC3796271  PMID: 24114370
11.  Evidence-based care of older people with suspected cognitive impairment in general practice: protocol for the IRIS cluster randomised trial 
Dementia is a common and complex condition. Evidence-based guidelines for the management of people with dementia in general practice exist; however, detection, diagnosis and disclosure of dementia have been identified as potential evidence-practice gaps. Interventions to implement guidelines into practice have had varying success. The use of theory in designing implementation interventions has been limited, but is advocated because of its potential to yield more effective interventions and aid understanding of factors modifying the magnitude of intervention effects across trials. This protocol describes methods of a randomised trial that tests a theory-informed implementation intervention that, if effective, may provide benefits for patients with dementia and their carers.
This trial aims to estimate the effectiveness of a theory-informed intervention to increase GPs’ (in Victoria, Australia) adherence to a clinical guideline for the detection, diagnosis, and management of dementia in general practice, compared with providing GPs with a printed copy of the guideline. Primary objectives include testing if the intervention is effective in increasing the percentage of patients with suspected cognitive impairment who receive care consistent with two key guideline recommendations: receipt of a i) formal cognitive assessment, and ii) depression assessment using a validated scale (primary outcomes for the trial).
The design is a parallel cluster randomised trial, with clusters being general practices. We aim to recruit 60 practices per group. Practices will be randomised to the intervention and control groups using restricted randomisation. Patients meeting the inclusion criteria, and GPs’ detection and diagnosis behaviours directed toward these patients, will be identified and measured via an electronic search of the medical records nine months after the start of the intervention. Practitioners in the control group will receive a printed copy of the guideline. In addition to receipt of the printed guideline, practitioners in the intervention group will be invited to participate in an interactive, opinion leader-led, educational face-to-face workshop. The theory-informed intervention aims to address identified barriers to and enablers of implementation of recommendations. Researchers responsible for identifying the cohort of patients with suspected cognitive impairment, and their detection and diagnosis outcomes, will be blind to group allocation.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12611001032943 (date registered 28 September, 2011).
PMCID: PMC3765181  PMID: 23958469
12.  How Many Patients Should a Family Physician Have? Factors to Consider in Answering a Deceptively Simple Question 
Healthcare Policy  2012;7(4):26-34.
The ratio of patients to physicians has long been used as a tool for measuring and planning healthcare resources in Canada. Some current changes in primary care, such as enrolment of patients with physicians, make this ratio easier to calculate, while others, such as changing practice structure, make it more complex to interpret. Based on information gleaned from a review of the literature, we argue that before panel size can be used as an accountability measure for individual physicians or practices in primary care, we must understand its relationship to quality and outcomes at individual and population levels, as well as the contextual factors that affect it.
PMCID: PMC3359082  PMID: 23634160
13.  Patient-centred access to health care: conceptualising access at the interface of health systems and populations 
Access is central to the performance of health care systems around the world. However, access to health care remains a complex notion as exemplified in the variety of interpretations of the concept across authors. The aim of this paper is to suggest a conceptualisation of access to health care describing broad dimensions and determinants that integrate demand and supply-side-factors and enabling the operationalisation of access to health care all along the process of obtaining care and benefiting from the services.
A synthesis of the published literature on the conceptualisation of access has been performed. The most cited frameworks served as a basis to develop a revised conceptual framework.
Here, we view access as the opportunity to identify healthcare needs, to seek healthcare services, to reach, to obtain or use health care services, and to actually have a need for services fulfilled. We conceptualise five dimensions of accessibility: 1) Approachability; 2) Acceptability; 3) Availability and accommodation; 4) Affordability; 5) Appropriateness. In this framework, five corresponding abilities of populations interact with the dimensions of accessibility to generate access. Five corollary dimensions of abilities include: 1) Ability to perceive; 2) Ability to seek; 3) Ability to reach; 4) Ability to pay; and 5) Ability to engage.
This paper explains the comprehensiveness and dynamic nature of this conceptualisation of access to care and identifies relevant determinants that can have an impact on access from a multilevel perspective where factors related to health systems, institutions, organisations and providers are considered with factors at the individual, household, community, and population levels.
PMCID: PMC3610159  PMID: 23496984
Access to healthcare; Accessibility; Utilisation of health services; Availability
14.  Preventive evidence into practice (PEP) study: implementation of guidelines to prevent primary vascular disease in general practice protocol for a cluster randomised controlled trial 
There are significant gaps in the implementation and uptake of evidence-based guideline recommendations for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes in Australian general practice. This study protocol describes the methodology for a cluster randomised trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a model that aims to improve the implementation of these guidelines in Australian general practice developed by a collaboration between researchers, non-government organisations, and the profession.
We hypothesise that the intervention will alter the behaviour of clinicians and patients resulting in improvements of recording of lifestyle and physiological risk factors (by 20%) and increased adherence to guideline recommendations for: the management of CVD and diabetes risk factors (by 20%); and lifestyle and physiological risk factors of patients at risk (by 5%). Thirty-two general practices will be randomised in a 1:1 allocation to receive either the intervention or continue with usual care, after stratification by state. The intervention will be delivered through: small group education; audit of patient records to determine preventive care; and practice facilitation visits adapted to the needs of the practices. Outcome data will be extracted from electronic medical records and patient questionnaires, and qualitative evaluation from provider and patient interviews.
We plan to disseminate study findings widely and directly inform implementation strategies by governments, professional bodies, and non-government organisations including the partner organisations.
PMCID: PMC3564812  PMID: 23327664
Primary care; Family medicine; Guidelines; Preventive care; Cardiovascular disease
15.  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
16.  Assessing methods for measurement of clinical outcomes and quality of care in primary care practices 
To evaluate the appropriateness of potential data sources for the population of performance indicators for primary care (PC) practices.
This project was a cross sectional study of 7 multidisciplinary primary care teams in Ontario, Canada. Practices were recruited and 5-7 physicians per practice agreed to participate in the study. Patients of participating physicians (20-30) were recruited sequentially as they presented to attend a visit. Data collection included patient, provider and practice surveys, chart abstraction and linkage to administrative data sets. Matched pairs analysis was used to examine the differences in the observed results for each indicator obtained using multiple data sources.
Seven teams, 41 physicians, 94 associated staff and 998 patients were recruited. The survey response rate was 81% for patients, 93% for physicians and 83% for associated staff. Chart audits were successfully completed on all but 1 patient and linkage to administrative data was successful for all subjects. There were significant differences noted between the data collection methods for many measures. No single method of data collection was best for all outcomes. For most measures of technical quality of care chart audit was the most accurate method of data collection. Patient surveys were more accurate for immunizations, chronic disease advice/information dispensed, some general health promotion items and possibly for medication use. Administrative data appears useful for indicators including chronic disease diagnosis and osteoporosis/ breast screening.
Multiple data collection methods are required for a comprehensive assessment of performance in primary care practices. The choice of which methods are best for any one particular study or quality improvement initiative requires careful consideration of the biases that each method might introduce into the results. In this study, both patients and providers were willing to participate in and consent to, the collection and linkage of information from multiple sources that would be required for such assessments.
PMCID: PMC3431283  PMID: 22824551
Performance measurement; Primary care; Quality of care; Evaluation
17.  Touch screen computer health assessment in Australian general practice patients: a cross-sectional study protocol 
BMJ Open  2012;2(4):e001405.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer are leading causes of death globally. Early detection of cancer and risk factors for CVD may improve health outcomes and reduce mortality. General practitioners (GPs) are accessed by the majority of the population and play a key role in the prevention and early detection of chronic disease risk factors. This cross-sectional study aims to assess the acceptability of an electronic method of data collection in general practice patients. The study will describe the proportion screened in line with guidelines for CVD risk factors and cancer as well as report the prevalence of depression, lifestyle risk factors, level of provision of preconception care, cervical cancer vaccination and bone density testing. Lastly, the study will assess the level of agreement between GPs and patients perception regarding presence of risk factors and screening.
Methods and analysis
The study has been designed to maximise recruitment of GPs by including practitioners in the research team, minimising participation burden on GPs and offering remuneration for participation. Patient recruitment will be carried out by a research assistant located in general practice waiting rooms. Participants will be asked regarding the acceptability of the touch screen computer and to report on a range of health risk and preventive behaviours using the touch screen computer. GPs will complete a one-page survey indicating their perception of the presence of risk behaviours in their patients. Descriptive statistics will be generated to describe the acceptability of the touch screen and prevalence of health risk behaviours. Cohen's κ will be used to assess agreement between GP and patient perception of presence of health risk behaviours.
Ethics and dissemination
This study has been approved by the human research committees in participating universities. Findings will be disseminated via peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations as well as practice summaries provided to participating practices.
Article summary
Article focus
Cross-sectional study assessing the acceptability of the use of a portable touch screen computer in order to assess CVD and cancer-related health risk factors as well as the level of preventive behaviours in general practice patients.
This study will also assess whether a touch screen computer health assessment is likely to provide useful information to GPs by assessing the level of agreement between GP and patient self-report on the presence of health risk behaviours.
Key message
With touch screen technology becoming more accessible, there is likely to be increased potential to use these technologies to assist in health risk factor assessment as well as delivery of healthcare advice particularly in general practice.
Whether this technology is acceptable to patients and GPs are key indicators of the potential of touch screen assessment to be integrated in delivery of healthcare in the general practice setting.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The study has been designed in order to maximise recruitment of GPs.
A large sample size of almost 3000 patients will be obtained.
As this is a cross-sectional study, no causal relationships can be identified.
PMCID: PMC3448137  PMID: 22761290
18.  Estimating patient demographic profiles from practice location 
Canadian Family Physician  2012;58(4):414-419.
To test the accuracy of imputing a practice population’s average socioeconomic characteristics (such as average education levels and average income) using census data centred on the location of the practice.
Comparison of census data with survey data collected in primary care offices.
A cross-sectional sample of patients from 116 urban practices.
Main outcome measures
Patient data were compared with census data at different levels of aggregation using mean absolute relative error (ARE), median ARE, and Spearman rank correlations.
A total of 4413 patient surveys were collected. Differences between patient profiles and census data were large. Most mean AREs were clustered between 0.70 and 0.80, and median AREs were as high as 1.67. Correlations were low (ρ = 0.02) to moderate (ρ = 0.48). These results held across both levels of aggregation.
The use of imputation techniques based on practice location is inadvisable, given the large differences that were observed.
PMCID: PMC3325457  PMID: 22611611
19.  Impact of remuneration and organizational factors on completing preventive manoeuvres in primary care practices 
Several jurisdictions attempting to reform primary care have focused on changes in physician remuneration. The goals of this study were to compare the delivery of preventive services by practices in four primary care funding models and to identify organizational factors associated with superior preventive care.
In a cross-sectional study, we included 137 primary care practices in the province of Ontario (35 fee-for-service practices, 35 with salaried physicians [community health centres], 35 practices in the new capitation model [family health networks] and 32 practices in the established capitation model [health services organizations]). We surveyed 288 family physicians. We reviewed 4108 randomly selected patient charts and assigned prevention scores based on the proportion of eligible preventive manoeuvres delivered for each patient.
A total of 3284 patients were eligible for at least one of six preventive manoeuvres. After adjusting for patient profile and contextual factors, we found that, compared with prevention scores in practices in the new capitation model, scores were significantly lower in fee-for-service practices (β estimate for effect on prevention score = −6.3, 95% confidence interval [CI] −11.9 to −0.6) and practices in the established capitation model (β = −9.1, 95% CI −14.9 to −3.3) but not for those with salaried remuneration (β = −0.8, 95% CI −6.5 to 4.8). After accounting for physician characteristics and organizational structure, the type of funding model was no longer a statistically significant factor. Compared with reference practices, those with at least one female family physician (β = 8.0, 95% CI 4.2 to 11.8), a panel size of fewer than 1600 patients per full-time equivalent family physician (β = 6.8, 95% CI 3.1 to 10.6) and an electronic reminder system (β = 4.6, 95% CI 0.4 to 8.7) had superior prevention scores. The effect of these three factors was largely but not always consistent across the funding models; it was largely consistent across the preventive manoeuvres.
No funding model was clearly associated with superior preventive care. Factors related to physician characteristics and practice structure were stronger predictors of performance. Practices with one or more female physicians, a smaller patient load and an electronic reminder system had superior prevention scores. Our findings raise questions about reform initiatives aimed at increasing patient numbers, but they support the adoption of information technology.
PMCID: PMC3273534  PMID: 22143227
20.  Age equity in different models of primary care practice in Ontario 
Canadian Family Physician  2011;57(11):1300-1309.
To assess whether the model of service delivery affects the equity of the care provided across age groups.
Cross-sectional study.
One hundred thirty-seven practices, including traditional fee-for-service practices, salaried community health centres (CHCs), and capitation-based family health networks and health service organizations.
Main outcome measures
To compare the quality of care across age groups using multilevel linear or logistic regressions. Health service delivery measures and health promotion were assessed through patient surveys (N = 5111), which were based on the Primary Care Assessment Tool, and prevention and chronic disease management were assessed, based on Canadian recommendations for care, through chart abstraction (N = 4 108).
Older individuals reported better health service delivery in all models. This age effect ranged from 1.9% to 5.7%, and was larger in the 2 capitation-based models. Individuals aged younger than 30 years attending CHCs had more features of disadvantage (ie, living below the poverty line and without high school education) and were more likely than older individuals to report discussing at least 1 health promotion subject at the index visit. These differences were deemed an appropriate response to greater needs in these younger individuals. The prevention score showed an age-sex interaction in all models, with adherence to recommended care dropping with age for women. These results are largely attributable to the fact that maneuvers recommended for younger women are considerably more likely to be performed than other maneuvers. Chronic disease management scores showed an inverted U relationship with age in fee-for-service practices, family health networks, and health service organizations but not in CHCs.
The salaried model might have an organizational structure that is more conducive to providing appropriate care across age groups. The thrust toward adopting capitation-based payment is unlikely to have an effect on age disparities.
PMCID: PMC3215613  PMID: 22084464
21.  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
22.  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
23.  Performance feedback: An exploratory study to examine the acceptability and impact for interdisciplinary primary care teams 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:14.
This mixed methods study was designed to explore the acceptability and impact of feedback of team performance data to primary care interdisciplinary teams.
Seven interdisciplinary teams were offered a one-hour, facilitated performance feedback session presenting data from a comprehensive, previously-conducted evaluation, selecting highlights such as performance on chronic disease management, access, patient satisfaction and team function.
Several recurrent themes emerged from participants' surveys and two rounds of interviews within three months of the feedback session. Team performance measurement and feedback was welcomed across teams and disciplines. This feedback could build the team, the culture, and the capacity for quality improvement. However, existing performance indicators do not equally reflect the role of different disciplines within an interdisciplinary team. Finally, the effect of team performance feedback on intentions to improve performance was hindered by a poor understanding of how the team could use the data.
The findings further our understanding of how performance feedback may engage interdisciplinary team members in improving the quality of primary care and the unique challenges specific to these settings. There is a need to develop a shared sense of responsibility and agenda for quality improvement. Therefore, more efforts to develop flexible and interactive performance-reporting structures (that better reflect contributions from all team members) in which teams could specify the information and audience may assist in promoting quality improvement.
PMCID: PMC3078845  PMID: 21443806
24.  Barriers and facilitators to recruitment of physicians and practices for primary care health services research at one centre 
While some research has been conducted examining recruitment methods to engage physicians and practices in primary care research, further research is needed on recruitment methodology as it remains a recurrent challenge and plays a crucial role in primary care research. This paper reviews recruitment strategies, common challenges, and innovative practices from five recent primary care health services research studies in Ontario, Canada.
We used mixed qualitative and quantitative methods to gather data from investigators and/or project staff from five research teams. Team members were interviewed and asked to fill out a brief survey on recruitment methods, results, and challenges encountered during a recent or ongoing project involving primary care practices or physicians. Data analysis included qualitative analysis of interview notes and descriptive statistics generated for each study.
Recruitment rates varied markedly across the projects despite similar initial strategies. Common challenges and creative solutions were reported by many of the research teams, including building a sampling frame, developing front-office rapport, adapting recruitment strategies, promoting buy-in and interest in the research question, and training a staff recruiter.
Investigators must continue to find effective ways of reaching and involving diverse and representative samples of primary care providers and practices by building personal connections with, and buy-in from, potential participants. Flexible recruitment strategies and an understanding of the needs and interests of potential participants may also facilitate recruitment.
PMCID: PMC3017524  PMID: 21144048

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