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1.  Interventions targeted at primary care practitioners to improve the identification and referral of patients with co-morbid obesity: a realist review protocol 
Systematic Reviews  2015;4:61.
Obesity is one of the most significant public health challenges in the developed world. Recent policy has suggested that more can be done in primary care to support adults with obesity. In particular, general practitioners (GPs) and practice nurses (PNs) could improve the identification and referral of adults with obesity to appropriate weight management services. Previous interventions targeted at primary care practitioners in this area have had mixed results, suggesting a more complex interplay between patients, practitioners, and systems. The objectives of this review are (i) to identify the underlying ‘programme theory’ of interventions targeted at primary care practitioners to improve the identification and referral of adults with obesity and (ii) to explore how and why GPs and PNs identify and refer individuals with obesity, particularly in the context of weight-related co-morbidity. This protocol will explain the rationale for using a realist review approach and outline the key steps in this process.
Realist review is a theory-led approach to knowledge synthesis that provides an explanatory analysis aimed at discerning what works, for whom, in what circumstances, how, and why. In this review, scoping interviews with key stakeholders involved in the planning and delivery of adult weight management services in Scotland helped to inform the identification of formal theories - from psychology, sociology, and implementation science - that will be tested as the review progresses. A comprehensive search strategy is described, including scope for iterative searching. Data analysis is outlined in three stages (describing context-mechanism-outcome configurations, exploring patterns in these configurations, and developing and testing middle-range theories, informed by the formal theories previously identified), culminating in the production of explanatory programme theory that considers individual, interpersonal, and institutional/systems-level components.
This is the first realist review that we are aware of looking at interventions targeted at primary care practitioners to improve the weight management of adults with obesity. Engagement with stakeholders at an early stage is a unique feature of realist review. This shapes the scope of the review, identification of candidate theories and dissemination strategies. The findings of this review will inform policy and future interventions.
Systematic review registration
PROSPERO CRD42014009391
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13643-015-0046-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4426175  PMID: 25927993
Realist review; Realist synthesis; Obesity; Primary care; General practitioners; Practice nurses; Referral; Weight management; Effectiveness
2.  Active video gaming in patients with renal transplant: a pilot study 
Patients with renal transplant are at higher risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared with the general population. Physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of CVD mortality in these patients. Unfortunately, barriers such as the harsh Canadian climate prevent patients from engaging in and harvesting the health benefits of physical activity. This pilot study explored active video gaming (AVG) as a way for patients with renal transplant to obtain physical activity and examined its effect on their functional status and quality of life (QOL).
Main text
We recruited nine patients for an 8-week prospective pilot study. All patients received a Microsoft Xbox 360™ video gaming console, a Microsoft Kinect™ sensor, and the video game Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012. Assessment of each participant before and after the intervention included blood pressure measures, a 6-minute walk test, and the Godin Leisure Time Questionnaire (GLTQ). We analyzed all nine patients at the end of the 8-week study period, and found no changes in blood pressure or GLTQ scores. However, there was a significant increase in the 6-minute walk distance (P = 0.022), which represented a consistent increase for most patients (correlation = 0.977). In addition, participants over the age of 45 years (n = 4) were more likely to use the AVG system (P = 0.042).
AVG has the potential to improve the functional status in patients with renal transplant. Further research is required to corroborate the full health benefits of AVG in this patient population.
PMCID: PMC4128824  PMID: 25114788
Transplantation; Renal transplantation; Active video gaming; Xbox; Rehabilitation; Physical activity; Functional status; Quality of life
3.  Rethinking the patient: using Burden of Treatment Theory to understand the changing dynamics of illness 
In this article we outline Burden of Treatment Theory, a new model of the relationship between sick people, their social networks, and healthcare services. Health services face the challenge of growing populations with long-term and life-limiting conditions, they have responded to this by delegating to sick people and their networks routine work aimed at managing symptoms, and at retarding – and sometimes preventing – disease progression. This is the new proactive work of patient-hood for which patients are increasingly accountable: founded on ideas about self-care, self-empowerment, and self-actualization, and on new technologies and treatment modalities which can be shifted from the clinic into the community. These place new demands on sick people, which they may experience as burdens of treatment.
As the burdens accumulate some patients are overwhelmed, and the consequences are likely to be poor healthcare outcomes for individual patients, increasing strain on caregivers, and rising demand and costs of healthcare services. In the face of these challenges we need to better understand the resources that patients draw upon as they respond to the demands of both burdens of illness and burdens of treatment, and the ways that resources interact with healthcare utilization.
Burden of Treatment Theory is oriented to understanding how capacity for action interacts with the work that stems from healthcare. Burden of Treatment Theory is a structural model that focuses on the work that patients and their networks do. It thus helps us understand variations in healthcare utilization and adherence in different healthcare settings and clinical contexts.
PMCID: PMC4080515  PMID: 24969758
4.  Patient, Carer and Professional Perspectives on Barriers and Facilitators to Quality Care in Advanced Heart Failure 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e93288.
Those with advanced heart failure (HF) experience high levels of morbidity and mortality, similar to common cancers. However, there remains evidence of inequity of access to palliative care services compared to people with cancer. This study examines patient, carer, and professional perspectives on current management of advanced HF and barriers and facilitators to improved care.
Qualitative study involving semi-structured interviews and focus groups with advanced HF patients (n = 30), carers (n = 20), and professionals (n = 65). Data analysed using Normalisation Process Theory (NPT) as the underpinning conceptual framework.
Uncertainty is ubiquitous in accounts from advanced HF patients and their caregivers. This uncertainty relates to understanding of the implications of their diagnosis, appropriate treatments, and when and how to seek effective help. Health professionals agree this is a major problem but feel they lack knowledge, opportunities, or adequate support to improve the situation. Fragmented care with lack of coordination and poor communication makes life difficult. Poor understanding of the condition extends to the wider circle of carers and means that requests for help may not be perceived as legitimate, and those with advanced HF are not prioritised for social and financial supports. Patient and caregiver accounts of emergency care are uniformly poor. Managing polypharmacy and enduring concomitant side effects is a major burden, and the potential for rationalisation exists. This study has potential limitations because it was undertaken within a single geographical location within the United Kingdom.
Little progress is being made to improve care experiences for those with advanced HF. Even in the terminal stages, patients and caregivers are heavily and unnecessarily burdened by health care services that are poorly coordinated and offer fragmented care. There is evidence that these poor experiences could be improved to a large extent by simple organisational rather than complex clinical mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3968134  PMID: 24676421
6.  Uncovering Treatment Burden as a Key Concept for Stroke Care: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Research 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001473.
In a systematic review of qualitative research, Katie Gallacher and colleagues examine the evidence related to treatment burden after stroke from the patient perspective.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Patients with chronic disease may experience complicated management plans requiring significant personal investment. This has been termed ‘treatment burden’ and has been associated with unfavourable outcomes. The aim of this systematic review is to examine the qualitative literature on treatment burden in stroke from the patient perspective.
Methods and Findings
The search strategy centred on: stroke, treatment burden, patient experience, and qualitative methods. We searched: Scopus, CINAHL, Embase, Medline, and PsycINFO. We tracked references, footnotes, and citations. Restrictions included: English language, date of publication January 2000 until February 2013. Two reviewers independently carried out the following: paper screening, data extraction, and data analysis. Data were analysed using framework synthesis, as informed by Normalization Process Theory. Sixty-nine papers were included. Treatment burden includes: (1) making sense of stroke management and planning care, (2) interacting with others, (3) enacting management strategies, and (4) reflecting on management. Health care is fragmented, with poor communication between patient and health care providers. Patients report inadequate information provision. Inpatient care is unsatisfactory, with a perceived lack of empathy from professionals and a shortage of stimulating activities on the ward. Discharge services are poorly coordinated, and accessing health and social care in the community is difficult. The study has potential limitations because it was restricted to studies published in English only and data from low-income countries were scarce.
Stroke management is extremely demanding for patients, and treatment burden is influenced by micro and macro organisation of health services. Knowledge deficits mean patients are ill equipped to organise their care and develop coping strategies, making adherence less likely. There is a need to transform the approach to care provision so that services are configured to prioritise patient needs rather than those of health care systems.
Systematic Review Registration
International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews CRD42011001123
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every year, 15 million people have a stroke. About 5 million of these people die within a few days, and another 5 million are left disabled. Stroke occurs when the blood supply of the brain is suddenly interrupted by a blood vessel in the brain being blocked by a blood clot (ischemic stroke) or bursting (hemorrhagic stroke). Deprived of the oxygen normally carried to them by the blood, the brain cells near the blockage die. The symptoms of stroke depend on which part of the brain is damaged but include sudden weakness or paralysis along one side of the body, vision loss in one or both eyes, and confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention because prompt treatment can limit the damage to the brain. In the longer term, post-stroke rehabilitation can help individuals overcome the physical disabilities caused by stroke, and drugs that thin the blood, reduce blood pressure and reduce cholesterol (major risk factors for stroke) alongside behavioral counseling can reduce the risk of a second stroke.
Why Was This Study Done?
Treatment for, and rehabilitation from, stroke is a lengthy process that requires considerable personal investment from the patient. The term “treatment burden” describes the self-care practices that patients with stroke and other chronic diseases must perform to follow the complicated management strategies that have been developed for these conditions. Unfortunately, treatment burden can overwhelm patients. They may be unable to cope with the multiple demands placed on them by health-care providers and systems for their self-care, a situation that leads to poor adherence to therapies and poor outcomes. For example, patients may find it hard to complete all the exercises designed to help them regain full movement of their limbs after a stroke. Treatment burden has been poorly examined in relation to stroke. Here, the researchers identify and describe the treatment burden in stroke by undertaking a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the literature on a given topic) of qualitative studies on the patient experience of stroke management. Qualitative studies collect non-quantitative data so, for example, a qualitative study on stroke treatment might ask people how the treatment made them feel whereas a quantitative study might compare clinical outcomes between those receiving and not receiving the treatment.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 69 qualitative studies dealing with the experiences of stroke management of adult patients and analyzed the data in these papers using framework synthesis—an approach that divides data into thematic categories. Specifically, the researchers used a coding framework informed by normalization process theory, a sociological theory of the implementation, embedding and integration of tasks and practices; embedding is the process of making tasks and practices a routine part of everyday life and integration refers to sustaining these embedded practices. The researchers identified four main areas of treatment burden for stroke: making sense of stroke management and planning care; interacting with others, including health care professionals, family and other patients with stroke; enacting management strategies (including enduring institutional admissions, managing stroke in the community, reintegrating into society and adjusting to life after stroke); and reflecting on management to make decisions about self-care. Moreover, they identified problems in all these areas, including inadequate provision of information, poor communication with health-care providers, and unsatisfactory inpatient care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that stroke management is extremely demanding for patients and is influenced by both the micro and macro organization of health services. At the micro organizational level, fragmented care and poor communication between patients and clinicians and between health-care providers can mean patients are ill equipped to organize their care and develop coping strategies, which makes adherence to management strategies less likely. At the macro organizational level, it can be hard for patients to obtain the practical and financial help they need to manage their stroke in the community. Overall, these findings suggest that care provision for stroke needs to be transformed so that the needs of patients rather than the needs of health-care systems are prioritized. Further work is required, however, to understand how the patient experience of treatment burden is affected by the clinical characteristics of stroke, by disability level, and by other co-existing diseases. By undertaking such work, it should be possible to generate a patient-reported outcome measure of treatment burden that, if used by policy makers and health-care providers, has the potential to improve the quality of stroke care.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides information about all aspects of stroke (in English and Spanish); its Know Stroke site provides educational materials about stroke prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation including personal stories (in English and Spanish); the US National Institutes of Health SeniorHealth website has additional information about stroke
The Internet Stroke Center provides detailed information about stroke for patients, families, and health professionals (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information about stroke for patients and their families, including personal stories
MedlinePlus has links to additional resources about stroke (in English and Spanish)
The UK not-for-profit website Healthtalkonline provides personal stories about stroke
Wikipedia provides information on the burden of treatment and on the normalization process theory (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC3692487  PMID: 23824703
7.  Qualitative systematic reviews of treatment burden in stroke, heart failure and diabetes - Methodological challenges and solutions 
Treatment burden can be defined as the self-care practices that patients with chronic illness must perform to respond to the requirements of their healthcare providers, as well as the impact that these practices have on patient functioning and well being. Increasing levels of treatment burden may lead to suboptimal adherence and negative outcomes. Systematic review of the qualitative literature is a useful method for exploring the patient experience of care, in this case the experience of treatment burden. There is no consensus on methods for qualitative systematic review. This paper describes the methodology used for qualitative systematic reviews of the treatment burdens identified in three different common chronic conditions, using stroke as our exemplar.
Qualitative studies in peer reviewed journals seeking to understand the patient experience of stroke management were sought. Limitations of English language and year of publication 2000 onwards were set. An exhaustive search strategy was employed, consisting of a scoping search, database searches (Scopus, CINAHL, Embase, Medline & PsycINFO) and reference, footnote and citation searching. Papers were screened, data extracted, quality appraised and analysed by two individuals, with a third party for disagreements. Data analysis was carried out using a coding framework underpinned by Normalization Process Theory (NPT).
A total of 4364 papers were identified, 54 were included in the review. Of these, 51 (94%) were retrieved from our database search. Methodological issues included: creating an appropriate search strategy; investigating a topic not previously conceptualised; sorting through irrelevant data within papers; the quality appraisal of qualitative research; and the use of NPT as a novel method of data analysis, shown to be a useful method for the purposes of this review.
The creation of our search strategy may be of particular interest to other researchers carrying out synthesis of qualitative studies. Importantly, the successful use of NPT to inform a coding frame for data analysis involving qualitative data that describes processes relating to self management highlights the potential of a new method for analyses of qualitative data within systematic reviews.
PMCID: PMC3568050  PMID: 23356353
Qualitative systematic review; Normalization process theory; Stroke; Treatment burden
8.  "A powerful intervention: general practitioners'; use of sickness certification in depression" 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:82.
Depression is frequently cited as the reason for sickness absence, and it is estimated that sickness certificates are issued in one third of consultations for depression. Previous research has considered GP views of sickness certification but not specifically in relation to depression.
This study aimed to explore GPs views of sickness certification in relation to depression.
A purposive sample of GP practices across Scotland was selected to reflect variations in levels of incapacity claimants and antidepressant prescribing. Qualitative interviews were carried out between 2008 and 2009.
A total of 30 GPs were interviewed. A number of common themes emerged including the perceived importance of GP advocacy on behalf of their patients, the tensions between stakeholders involved in the sickness certification system, the need to respond flexibly to patients who present with depression and the therapeutic nature of time away from work as well as the benefits of work. GPs reported that most patients with depression returned to work after a short period of absence and that it was often difficult to predict which patients would struggle to return to work.
GPs reported that dealing with sickness certification and depression presents distinct challenges. Sickness certificates are often viewed as powerful interventions, the effectiveness of time away from work for those with depression should be subject to robust enquiry.
PMCID: PMC3441202  PMID: 22877237
Depression; Mood disorder; Primary care; Occupational; Environmental medicine; Doctor-patient relationship; Mental health
9.  ‘A coal face option’: GPs' perspectives on the rise in antidepressant prescribing 
The British Journal of General Practice  2009;59(566):e299-e307.
Levels of antidepressant prescribing have dramatically increased in Western countries in the last two decades.
To explore GPs' views about, and explanations for, the increase in antidepressant prescribing in Scotland between 1995 and 2004.
Qualitative, interview study.
General practices, Scotland.
GPs in 30 practices (n = 63) purposively selected to reflect a range of practice characteristics and levels of antidepressant prescribing.
Interviews with GPs were taped and transcribed. Analysis followed a Framework Approach.
GPs offered a range of explanations for the rise in antidepressant prescribing in Scotland. Few doctors thought that the incidence of depression had increased, and many questioned the appropriateness of current levels of prescribing. A number of related factors were considered to have contributed to the increase. These included: the success of campaigns to raise awareness of depression; a willingness among patients to seek help; and the perceived safety of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, making it easier for GPs to manage depression in primary care. Many GPs believed that unhappiness, exacerbated by social deprivation and the breakdown of traditional social structures, was being ‘medicalised’ inappropriately.
Most antidepressant prescriptions in Scotland are issued by GPs, and current policy aims to reduce levels of prescribing. To meet this aim, GPs' prescribing behaviour needs to change. The findings suggest that GPs see themselves as responders to, rather than facilitators of, change and this has obvious implications for initiatives to reduce prescribing.
PMCID: PMC2734377  PMID: 19761658
depression; drugs; mental health; qualitative research; primary care
10.  Predicting which people with psychosocial distress are at risk of becoming dependent on state benefits: analysis of routinely available data 
Objectives To examine whether there was significant variation in levels of claiming incapacity benefit across general practices. To establish whether it is possible to identify people with mental health problems who are more at risk of becoming dependent on state benefits for long term health problems based on their general practice consulting behaviour.
Design Interrogation of routinely available data in the Scottish Health Surveys and the British Household Panel Survey.
Setting Scotland and the United Kingdom.
Participants Respondents to the Scottish Health Surveys in 1995, 1998, and 2003 (7932, 12 939 and 11 472 respondents, respectively). Respondents to the British Household Panel Survey, 1991-2007 (more than 5000 households).
Main outcome measures Intracluster correlation coefficient for probability of work incapacity by general practice. Caseness according to the general health questionnaire (GHQ-12) and frequency of consultation with general practitioner in years before and after starting to claim incapacity benefit.
Results There was a small and non-significant amount of variation across general practices in Scotland in rate of claims for incapacity benefit after adjustment for other explanatory variables (intracluster correlation coefficient 0.01, P=0.135). There was a significant increase in rates of GHQ-12 caseness from two years before the start of claiming incapacity benefit (odds ratio 1.6, 95% confidence interval 1.3 to 1.9) and an increase in frequent consultation with a general practitioner from three years before the start of claiming incapacity benefit (1.8, 1.3 to 2.4). People with GHQ-12 caseness showed a significant increase in frequent consultations with a general practitioner from two years before the start of claiming incapacity benefit (2.1, 1.4 to 3.2).
Conclusions There was no variation in levels of claiming incapacity benefit across general practices in Scotland after adjustment for differences in population characteristics and so initiatives targeted at practices with high levels are unlikely to be effective. People with mental health problems who are likely to have problems remaining in work can be identified up to three years before they transit on to long term benefits related to ill health.
PMCID: PMC2923293  PMID: 20716597

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