While the barriers to electronic medical record (EMR) adoption by physicians are well-known, we have much less knowledge about the broader challenges regarding EMR use faced by primary healthcare (PHC) EMR stakeholders in Canada. Therefore, we conducted interviews (from June 2009 to September 2010) and consultation sessions (in October and November 2009) with these stakeholders, as well as carrying out a research capacity assessment, to identify, describe and prioritize gaps in PHC EMR knowledge and research. Twelve thematic gaps emerged; four were identified as the most important: the need to ascertain the value of EMRs, the need to better understand elements of EMR implementation and adoption, the need to develop innovative data entry and extraction procedures, and a lack of agreement and understanding of data sharing. To advance EMR use, Canada needs to address these gaps; yet, we currently have a lack of research capacity with which to accomplish this.
Case management allows us to respond to the complex needs of a vulnerable clientele through a structured approach that promotes enhanced interaction between partners. Syntheses on the subject converge towards a need for a better description of the relationships between programmes and their local context, as well as the characteristics of the clienteles and programmes that contribute to positive impacts. The purpose of this project is thus to describe and evaluate the case management programmes of four health and social services centres in the Saguenay-Lac- Saint-Jean region of Québec, Canada, in order to inform their improvement while creating knowledge on case management that can be useful in other contexts.
Methods and analysis
This research relies on a multiple embedded case study design based on a developmental evaluation approach. We will work with the case management programme for high users of hospital services of each centre. Three different units of analysis will be interwoven to obtain an in-depth understanding of each case, that is: (1) health and social services centre and local services network, (2) case management programme and (3) patients who are high users of services. Two strategies for programme evaluation (logic models and implementation analysis) will guide the mixed data collection based on qualitative and quantitative methods. This data collection will rely on: (1) individual interviews and focus groups; (2) participant observation; (3) document analysis; (4) clinical and administrative data and (5) questionnaires. Description and comparison of cases, and integration of qualitative and quantitative data will be used to guide the data analysis.
Ethics and dissemination
The study protocol was approved by the Ethics Research Boards of the four health and social services centres (HSSCs) involved. Findings will be disseminated by publications in peer-reviewed journals, conferences, and policy and practice partners in local and national government.
Frequent users; Case study
As the population ages, practice and policy need to be guided by accurate estimates of chronic disease burden in primary care.
To produce a preliminary set of methodological considerations for cross-sectional and retrospective cohort studies of multi-morbidity in primary care using three studies as examples. Prevalence rate results from the three studies were re-estimated using identical age–sex groups.
We compared the methods and results of three separate studies in primary care: (i) patients in the Saguenay region of Quebec, Canada (2005); (ii) a substudy of the BEACH (Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health) programme in Australia (2008); and (iii) the DELPHI (Deliver Primary Health Care Information) project in South-western Ontario, Canada (2009). Areas where the methods of multi-morbidity studies may differ were identified. The percentage of patients with two or more chronic conditions was compared by age–sex groups.
Multi-morbidity prevalence varied by as much as 61%, where reported prevalence was 95% among females aged 45–64 in the Saguenay study, 46% in the BEACH substudy and 34% in the DELPHI study. Several aspects of the methods and study designs were identified as differing among the studies, including the sampling of frequent attenders, sampling period, source of data, and both the definition and count of chronic conditions.
Understanding the differences among the methods used to produce prevalence data on multi-morbidity in primary care can help explain the varying results. Standardization of methods would allow for more valid inter-study comparisons.
Chronic disease; co-morbidity; morbidity; prevalence; primary health care.
Lifestyle factors have been associated mostly with individual chronic diseases. We investigated the relationship between lifestyle factors (individual and combined) and the co-occurrence of multiple chronic diseases.
Cross-sectional analysis of results from the Program of Research on the Evolution of a Cohort Investigating Health System Effects (PRECISE) in Quebec, Canada. Subjects aged 45 years and older. A randomly-selected cohort in the general population recruited by telephone. Multimorbidity (3 or more chronic diseases) was measured by a simple count of self-reported chronic diseases from a list of 14. Five lifestyle factors (LFs) were evaluated: 1) smoking habit, 2) alcohol consumption, 3) fruit and vegetable consumption, 4) physical activity, and 5) body mass index (BMI). Each LF was given a score of 1 (unhealthy) if recommended behavioural targets were not achieved and 0 otherwise. The combined effect of unhealthy LFs (ULFs) was evaluated using the total sum of scores.
A total of 1,196 subjects were analyzed. Mean number of ULFs was 2.6 ± 1.1 SD. When ULFs were considered separately, there was an increased likelihood of multimorbidity with low or high BMI [Odd ratio (95% Confidence Interval): men, 1.96 (1.11-3.46); women, 2.57 (1.65-4.00)], and present or past smoker [men, 3.16 (1.74-5.73)]. When combined, in men, 4-5 ULFs increased the likelihood of multimorbidity [5.23 (1.70-16.1)]; in women, starting from a threshold of 2 ULFs [1.95 (1.05-3.62)], accumulating more ULFs progressively increased the likelihood of multimorbidity.
The present study provides support to the association of lifestyle factors and multimorbidity.
Multimorbidity; Lifestyle factors; Smoking habit; Alcohol consumption; Fruit and vegetable consumption; Physical activity; Body mass index
The increasing number of patients with chronic diseases represents a challenge for health care systems. The Chronic Care Model suggests a multi-component remodelling of chronic disease services to improve patient outcomes. To meet the complex and ongoing needs of patients, chronic disease prevention and management (CDPM) has been advocated as a key feature of primary care producing better outcomes, greater effectiveness and improved access to services compared to other sectors. The objective of this study is to evaluate the adaptation and implementation of an intervention involving the integration of chronic disease prevention and management (CDPM) services into primary health care.
The implementation of the intervention will be evaluated using descriptive qualitative methods to collect data from various stakeholders (decision-makers, primary care professionals, CDPM professionals and patients) before, during and after the implementation. The evaluation of the effects will be based on a combination of experimental designs: a randomized trial using a delayed intervention arm (n = 326), a before-and-after design with repeated measures (n = 163), and a quasi-experimental design using a comparative cohort (n = 326). This evaluation will utilize self-report questionnaires measuring self-efficacy, empowerment, comorbidity, health behaviour, functional health status, quality of life, psychological well-being, patient characteristics and co-interventions. The study will take place in eight primary care practices of the Saguenay region of Quebec (Canada). To be included, patients will have to be referred by their primary care provider and present at least one of the following conditions (or their risk factors): diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma. Patients presenting serious cognitive problems will be excluded.
In the short-term, improved patient self-efficacy and empowerment are expected. In the mid-term, we expect to observe an improvement in health behaviour, functional health status, quality of life and psychological well-being. At the organizational level, the project should lead to coordinated service delivery, improved patient follow-up mechanisms and enhanced interprofessional collaboration. Integration of CDPM services at the point of care in primary care practices is a promising innovation in care delivery that needs to be thoroughly evaluated.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01319656
The aim of this paper is to share the results of a scoping review that examined the relationship between health care disparities and the multiplicity of vulnerability factors that are often clustered together.
The conceptual framework used was an innovative dynamic model that we developed to analyze the co-existence of multiple vulnerability factors (multi-vulnerability) related to the phenomenon of the ‘Inverse Care Law’. A total of 759 candidate references were identified through a literature search, of which 23 publications were deemed relevant to our scoping review.
The review confirmed our hypothesis of a direct correlation between co-existing vulnerability factors and health care disparities. Several gaps in the literature were identified, such as a lack of research on vulnerable populations’ perception of their own vulnerability and on multimorbidity and immigrant status as aspects of vulnerability.
Future research addressing the revealed gaps would help foster primary care interventions that are responsive to the needs of vulnerable people and, eventually, contribute to the reduction of health care disparities in society.
Vulnerability; Health care disparities; Inverse care law; Scoping review
Ensuring access to timely and appropriate primary healthcare for people living in poverty is an issue facing all countries, even those with universal healthcare systems. The transformation of healthcare practices and organization could be improved by involving key stakeholders from the community and the healthcare system in the development of research interventions. The aim of this project is to stimulate changes in healthcare organizations and practices by encouraging collaboration between care teams and people living in poverty. Our objectives are twofold: 1) to identify actions required to promote the adoption of professional practices oriented toward social competence in primary care teams; and 2) to examine factors that would encourage the inclusion of people living in poverty in the process of developing social competence in healthcare organizations.
This study will use a participatory action research design applied in healthcare organizations. Participatory research is an increasingly recognized approach that is helpful for involving the people for whom the research results are intended. Our research team consists of 19 non-academic researchers, 11 academic researchers and six partners. A steering committee composed of academic researchers and stakeholders will have a decision-making role at each step, including knowledge dissemination and recommendations for new interventions. In this project we will adopt a multiphase approach and will use a variety of methods, including photovoice, group discussions and interviews.
The proposed study will be one of only a few using participatory research in primary care to foster changes aimed at enhancing quality and access to care for people living in poverty. To our knowledge this will be the first study to use photovoice in healthcare organizations to promote new interventions. Our project includes partners who are targeted for practice changes and improvements in delivering primary care to persons living in poverty. By involving knowledge users, including service recipients, our study is more likely to produce a transformation of professional practices and encourage healthcare organizations to take into account the needs of persons living in poverty.
Participatory research; Poverty; Primary care; Photovoice; Knowledge transfer
Chronic diseases represent a major challenge for health care and social services. A number of people with chronic diseases require more services due to characteristics that increase their vulnerability. Given the burden of increasingly vulnerable patients on primary care, a pragmatic intervention in four Family Medicine Groups (primary care practices in Quebec, Canada) has been proposed for individuals with chronic diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, musculoskeletal diseases and/or chronic pain) who are frequent users of hospital services. The intervention combines case management by a nurse with group support meetings encouraging self-management based on the Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Program. The goals of this study are to: (1) analyze the implementation of the intervention in the participating practices in order to determine how the various contexts have influenced the implementation and the observed effects; (2) evaluate the proximal (self-efficacy, self-management, health habits, activation and psychological distress) and intermediate (empowerment, quality of life and health care use) effects of the intervention on patients; (3) conduct an economic analysis of the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the intervention.
The analysis of the implementation will be conducted using realistic evaluation and participatory approaches within four categories of stakeholders (Family Medicine Group and health centre management, Family Medicine Group practitioners, patients and their families, health centre or community partners). The data will be obtained through individual and group interviews, project documentation reviews and by documenting the intervention. Evaluation of the effects on patients will be based on a pragmatic randomized before-after experimental design with a delayed intervention control group (six months). Economic analysis will include cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis.
The integration of a case management intervention delivered by nurses and self-management group support into primary care practices has the potential to positively impact patient empowerment and quality of life and hopefully reduce the burden on health care. Decision-makers, managers and health care professionals will be aware of the factors to consider in promoting the implementation of this intervention into other primary care practices in the region and elsewhere.
Chronic diseases; Primary care; Family Medicine Group; Frequent users; Case management; Self-management; Primary care nursing; Services integration
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is becoming increasingly prevalent in North America and has been described in association with specific chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases. In primary care, where the prevalence of co-occurring chronic conditions is very high, the potential association with OSA is unknown. The purpose of this study was to explore the association between OSA and 1) the presence and severity of multimorbidity (multiple co-occurring chronic conditions), and 2) subcategories of multimorbidity.
A cluster sampling technique was used to recruit 120 patients presenting with OSA of various severities from the records of a sleep laboratory in 2008. Severity of OSA was based on the results of the polysomnography. Patients invited to participate received a mail questionnaire including questions on sociodemographic characteristics and the Disease Burden Morbidity Assessment (DBMA). They also consented to give access to their medical records. The DBMA was used to provide an overall multimorbidity score and sub-score of diseases affecting various systems.
Bivariate analysis did not demonstrate an association between OSA and multimorbidity (r = 0.117; p = 0.205). However, severe OSA was associated with multimorbidity (adjusted odds ratio = 7.33 [1.67-32.23], p = 0.05). OSA was moderately correlated with vascular (r = 0.26, p = 0.01) and metabolic syndrome (r = 0.26, p = 0.01) multimorbidity sub-scores.
This study showed that severe OSA is associated with severe multimorbidity and sub-scores of multimorbidity. These results do not allow any causal inference. More research is required to confirm these associations. However, primary care providers should be aware of these potential associations and investigate OSA when deemed appropriate.
Obstructive sleep apnea; Multimorbidity; Disease Burden Morbidity Assessment; Chronic disease; Severity
Multimorbidity is now acknowledged as a research priority in primary care. The identification of risk factors and people most at risk is an important step in guiding prevention and intervention strategies. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between literacy and multimorbidity while controlling for potential confounders.
Participants were adult patients attending the family medicine clinic of a regional health centre in Saguenay (Quebec), Canada. Literacy was measured with the Newest Vital Sign (NVS). Multimorbidity was measured with the Disease Burden Morbidity Assessment (DBMA) by self-report. Information on potential confounders (age, sex, education and family income) was also collected. The association between literacy (independent variable) and multimorbidity was examined in bivariate and multivariate analyses. Two operational definitions of multimorbidity were used successively as the dependent variable; confounding variables were introduced into the model as potential predictors.
One hundred three patients (36 men) 19–83 years old were recruited; 41.8% had completed 12 years of school or less. Forty-seven percent of patients provided fewer than four correct answers on the NVS (possible low literacy) whereas 53% had four correct responses or more. Literacy and multimorbidity were associated in bivariate analyses (p < 0.01) but not in multivariate analyses, including age and family income.
This study suggests that there is no relationship between literacy and multimorbidity when controlling for age and family income.
The Disease Burden Morbidity Assessment (DBMA) is a self-report questionnaire used to estimate the disease burden experienced by patients. The aim of this study was to test and to measure the properties of the French translation of the DBMA (DBMA-Fv).
The original version of the DBMA was translated into French (Canadian) and first assessed during cognitive interviews. In the validation study, patients recruited during consecutive consultation periods completed the DBMA-Fv questionnaire while they were in the waiting room of a primary care setting (T1). Participants completed the same questionnaire mailed to their home two weeks later (T2). Concomitant validity of the DBMA-Fv was assessed using the Cumulative Illness Rating Scale (CIRS). Patient medical records were reviewed to verify chronic diseases and past medical history.
Ninety-seven patients were recruited and 85 (88%) returned the mailed questionnaires; 5 (5.9%) were incomplete. DBMA-Fv scores of the 80 participants with a complete questionnaire at T2 ranged from 0 to 30 (median 5.5, mean 7.7, SD = 7.0). Test-retest reliability of the DBMA-Fv was high (ICC: 0.86, 95% CI: 0.79-0.92). The DBMA-Fv and the CIRS correlated moderately at T1 (r = 0.46, 95% CI: 0.26 - 0.62, p < 0.01) and T2 (r = 0.56, 95% CI: 0.38 - 0.70, p < 0.01). The mean (SD) sensitivity of patient reports of a condition in relation to chart review at T2 was 73.9 (8.4) (range 62.5% to 90%). The overall mean (SD) specificity was 92.2 (6.7) (range 77.6% to 98.6%).
The DBMA-Fv's properties are similar to its English counterpart as to its median sensitivity and specificity compared to chart reviews. It correlated moderately with an established index of multimorbidity. A high percentage of patients were able to complete the test correctly as a mail questionnaire and it showed high test-retest reliability.
Clinical guidelines have been the subject of much criticism in primary care literature partly due to potential conflicts in their implementation among patients with multiple chronic conditions. We assessed the relevance of selected Canadian clinical guidelines on chronic diseases for patients with comorbidity and examined their quality.
We selected 16 chronic medical conditions according to their frequency of occurrence, complexity of treatment, and pertinence to primary care. Recent Canadian clinical guidelines (2004 - 2009) on these conditions, published in English or French, were retrieved. We assessed guideline relevance to the care of patients with comorbidity with a tool developed by Boyd and colleagues. Quality was assessed using the Appraisal of Guidelines Research and Evaluation (AGREE) instrument.
Regarding relevance, 56.2% of guidelines addressed treatment for patients with multiple chronic conditions and 18.8% addressed the issue for older patients. Fifteen guidelines (93.8%) included specific recommendations for patients with one concurrent condition; only three guidelines (18.8%) addressed specific recommendations for patients with two comorbid conditions and one for more than two concurrent comorbid conditions. Quality of the evaluated guidelines was good to very good in four out of the six domains measured using the AGREE instrument. The domains with lower mean scores were Stakeholder Involvement and Applicability.
The quality of the Canadian guidelines examined is generally good, yet their relevance for patients with two or more chronic conditions is very limited and there is room for improvement in this respect.
Patient enablement can be defined as the extent to which a patient is capable of understanding and coping with his or her health issues. This concept is linked to a number of health outcomes such as self-management of chronic diseases and quality of life. The Patient Enablement Instrument (PEI) was designed to measure this concept after a medical consultation. The instrument, in its original form and its translations into several languages, has proven to be reliable and valid. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the reliability of the French version of the PEI (PEI-Fv) in a family practice setting.
One hundred and ten participants were recruited in a family medicine clinic in the Saguenay region of Quebec (Canada). The PEI-Fv was completed twice, immediately after consultation with a physician (T1) and 2 weeks after the consultation (T2). The internal consistency of the tool was assessed with Cronbach's α and test-retest reliability by intraclass correlation coefficient.
The mean score for the PEI-Fv was 5.06 ± 3.97 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 4.30-5.81) at T1 and 4.63 ± 3.90 (95% CI: 3.82-5.44) at T2. Cronbach's α was high at T1 (α1 = 0.93; 95% CI: 0.91-0.95) and T2 (α2 = 0.93; 95% CI: 0.91-0.95). The intraclass correlation coefficient was 0.62 (95% CI: 0.48-0.74), indicating a moderate test-retest reliability.
The internal consistency of the PEI-Fv is excellent. Test-retest reliability was moderate to good. Test-retest reliability should be examined in further studies at a less than 2-week interval to reduce maturation bias. This instrument can be used to measure enablement after consultation in a French-speaking family practice setting.
In October 2006, federal funding was announced for the development of a national strategy to fight cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Canada. The comprehensive, independent, stakeholder-driven Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan (CHHS-AP) was delivered to the Minister of Health on February 24, 2009.
The mandate of CHHS-AP Theme Working Group (TWG) 6 was to identify the optimal chronic disease management model that incorporated timely access to rehabilitation services and end-of-life planning and care. The purpose of the present paper was to provide an overview of worldwide approaches to CVD and cardiac rehabilitation (CR) strategies and recommendations for CR care in Canada, within the context of the well-known Chronic Care Model (CCM). A separate paper will address end-of-life issues in CVD.
TWG 6 was composed of content representatives, primary care representatives and patients. Input in the area of Aboriginal and indigenous cardiovascular health was obtained through individual expert consultation. Information germane to the present paper was gathered from international literature and best practice guidelines. The CCM principles were discussed and agreed on by all. Prioritization of recommendations and overall messaging was discussed and decided on within the entire TWG. The full TWG report was presented to the CHHS-AP Steering Committee and was used to inform the recommendations of the CHHS-AP.
Specific actionable recommendations for CR are made in accordance with the key principles of the CCM.
The present CR blueprint, as part of the CHHS-AP, will be a first step toward reducing the health care burden of CVD in Canada.
Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan; Cardiac rehabilitation; Chronic care model
The inverse care law persists: people living in poverty have the greatest needs and face considerable challenges in getting the care they need. Evidence reveals that GPs encounter difficulties in delivering care to poor patients, while many of those patients feel stigmatized by healthcare professionals. Patients living in poverty report negative healthcare experiences and unmet healthcare needs. Indeed, there is a growing recognition in primary care research of the importance of addressing the capabilities and social conditions of the poor when delivering care. Few studies have looked at the factors contributing to effective and "socially responsive" care for people living in poverty.
Our study adopts a qualitative ethnographic approach in four healthcare organizations in deprived areas of metropolitan Montreal (Québec, Canada), using patient shadowing techniques and interviews. Data will be collected through fieldwork observations and informal interviews with patients before and after consultations. We will observe medical consultations, care organization activities, and waiting areas and reception of patients. We will conduct a total of 36 individual interviews with 12 GPs and 24 patients. The interviews will be audio-recorded and transcribed for purposes of analysis. The analysis consists of debriefing sessions, coding and interpretive analysis.
This study aims to investigate how positive healthcare interactions between physicians and patients can improve the management of chronic conditions. We hypothesize that factors related to care organization, to healthcare professionals' experience and to patients may enhance the quality of healthcare interactions, which may have positive impacts for preventing and managing chronic conditions. Our study will provide a unique set of data grounded in the perspectives of healthcare professionals and of patients living in poverty.
Among the strategies used to reform primary care, the participation of nurses in primary care practices appears to offer a promising avenue to better meet the needs of vulnerable patients. The present study explores the perceptions and expectations of patients with multimorbidity regarding nurses' presence in primary care practices.
18 primary (health) care patients with multimorbidity participated in semi-directed interviews, in order to explore their perceptions and expectations in regard to the involvement of nurses in primary care practices. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. After reviewing the transcripts, the principal investigator and research assistants performed thematic analysis independently and reached consensus on the retained themes.
Patients with multimorbidity were open to the participation of nurses in primary care practices. They expected greater accessibility, for both themselves and for new patients. However, the issue of shared roles between nurses and doctors was a source of concern. Many patients held the traditional view of the nurse's role as an assistant to the doctor in his or her various duties. In general, participants said they were confident about nurses' competency but expressed concern about nurses performing certain acts that their doctor used to, notwithstanding a close collaboration between the two professionals.
Patients with multimorbidity are open to the involvement of nurses in primary care practices. However, they expect this participation to be established using clear definitions of professional roles and fields of practice.
Massive efforts in Canada have been made to renew primary healthcare. However, although early evaluations of initiatives and research on certain aspects of the reform are promising, none have examined the link between patient assessments of care and health outcomes or the impacts at a population level. The goal of this project is to examine the effect of patient-centred and effective primary healthcare on the evolution of chronic illness burden and health functioning in a population, and in particularly vulnerable groups: the multi-morbid and the poor.
A randomly selected cohort of 2000 adults aged 25 to 75 years will be recruited within the geographic boundaries of four local healthcare networks in Quebec. At recruitment, cohort members will report on socio-demographic information, functional health and healthcare use. Two weeks, 12 months and 24 months after recruitment, cohort participants will complete a self-administered questionnaire on current health and health behaviours in order to evaluate primary healthcare received in the previous year.
The dependent variables are calculated as change over time of functional health status, chronic illness burden, and health behaviours. Dimensions of patient-centred care and clinical processes are measured using sub-scales of validated instruments. We will use Poisson regression modelling to estimate the incidence rate of chronic illness burden scores and structural equation modelling to explore relationships between variables and to examine the impact of dimensions of patient-centred care and effective primary healthcare.
Results will provide valuable information for primary healthcare clinicians on the course of chronic illness over time and the impact on health outcomes of accessible, patient-centred and effective care. A demonstration of impact will contribute to the promotion of continuous quality improvement activities at a clinical level. While considerable advances have been made in the management of specific chronic illnesses, this will make a unique contribution to effective care for persons with multiple morbidities. Furthermore, the cohort and data architecture will serve as a research platform for future projects.
We introduce a primary care practice model for caring for patients with multimorbidity. Primary care for these patients requires flexibility and ongoing coordination, and it often must be tailored to individual circumstances. Such complex and flexible care could be accomplished within communities of practice, whose participants are willing to learn from their shared practice, further each other’s goals, share their stories of success and failure, and promote the continued evolution of collective learning. Primary care in these communities would be conceived as a complex adaptive process in which the participants use an iterative approach to care improvement that integrates what they learn and do collectively over time. Clinicians in these communities would define common goals, cocreate care plans, and engage in reflective case-based learning. As community members manage their knowledge, gain insights, and develop new care strategies, they can improve care for patients with multiple conditions. Using a mix of methods, future research should explore the conditions that are necessary for collective learning within communities of clinicians who care for patients with multimorbidity and who develop new knowledge in practice. By understanding these conditions, we can foster the development of collective learning and improve primary care for these patients.
PMID: 20212304 CAMSID: cams1140
Primary health care; multimorbidity; community of practice; interprofessional practice; collective learning; complex adaptive systems
Time to focus on the needs of this vulnerable and growing population
Published prevalence studies on multimorbidity present diverse data collection methods, sources of data, targeted age groups, diagnoses considered and study populations, making the comparability of prevalence estimates questionable. The objective of this study was to compare prevalence estimates of multimorbidity derived from two sources and to examine the impact of the number of diagnoses considered in the measurement of multimorbidity.
Prevalence of multimorbidity was estimated in adults over 25 years of age from two separate Canadian studies: a 2005 survey of 26,000 respondents randomly selected from the general population and a 2003 study of 980 patients from 21 family practices. We estimated the prevalence of multimorbidity based on the co-occurrence of ≥ 2 and ≥ 3 diseases of the seven diseases listed in the general population survey. For primary care patients, we also estimated multimorbidity prevalence using an open list of chronic diseases.
Prevalence estimates were considerably higher for each age group in the primary care sample than in the general population. For primary care patients, the number of chronic diseases considered for estimates resulted in large differences, especially in younger age groups. The prevalence of multimorbidity increased with age in both study populations.
The prevalence of multimorbidity was substantially lower when estimated in a general population than in a family practice-based sample and was higher when the number of conditions considered increased.
The quality of the physician-patient therapeutic relationship is a key factor in the effectiveness of care. Unfortunately, physicians and people living in poverty inhabit very different social milieux, and this great social distance hinders the development of a therapeutic alliance. Social competence is a process based on knowledge, skills and attitudes that support effective interaction between the physician and patient despite the intervening social distance. It enables physicians to better understand their patients' living conditions and to adapt care to patients' needs and abilities.
This qualitative research is based on a comprehensive design using in-depth semi-structured interviews with 25 general practitioners working with low-income patients in Montreal's metropolitan area (Québec, Canada). Physicians will be recruited based on two criteria: they provide care to low-income patients with at least one chronic illness, and are identified by their peers as having expertise in providing care to a poor population. For this recruitment, we will draw upon contacts we have made in another research study (Loignon et al., 2009) involving clinics located in poor neighbourhoods. That study will include in-clinic observations and interviews with physicians, both of which will help us identify physicians who have developed skills for treating low-income patients. We will also use the snowball sampling technique, asking participants to refer us to other physicians who meet our inclusion criteria. The semi-structured interviews, of 60 to 90 minutes each, will be recorded and transcribed. Our techniques for ensuring internal validity will include data analysis of transcribed interviews, indexation and reduction of data with software qualitative analysis, and development and validation of interpretations.
This research project will allow us to identify the dimensions of the social competence process that helps physicians establish therapeutic relationships with low-income patients living with chronic illness. This study will also offer concrete recommendations for improving health interventions among low-income patients and for helping them to better manage their chronic illnesses. Ultimately, our aim is to strengthen the capacity of the health care system and of professionals to provide care that is adapted to the social conditions of people living in poverty.