With increasing life expectancy the number of people affected by multimorbidity rises. Knowledge of factors associated with health-related quality of life in multimorbid people is scarce. We aimed to identify the factors that are associated with self-rated health (SRH) in aged multimorbid primary care patients.
Cross-sectional study with 3,189 multimorbid primary care patients aged from 65 to 85 years recruited in 158 general practices in 8 study centers in Germany. Information about morbidity, risk factors, resources, functional status and socio-economic data were collected in face-to-face interviews. Factors associated with SRH were identified by multivariable regression analyses.
Depression, somatization, pain, limitations of instrumental activities (iADL), age, distress and Body Mass Index (BMI) were inversely related with SRH. Higher levels of physical activity, income and self-efficacy expectation had a positive association with SRH. The only chronic diseases remaining in the final model were Parkinson’s disease and neuropathies. The final model accounted for 35% variance of SRH. Separate analyses for men and women detected some similarities; however, gender specific variation existed for several factors.
In multimorbid patients symptoms and consequences of diseases such as pain and activity limitations, as well as depression, seem to be far stronger associated with SRH than the diseases themselves. High income and self-efficacy expectation are independently associated with better SRH and high BMI and age with low SRH.
MultiCare Cohort study registration:ISRCTN89818205.
Quality of life; Self-assessment; Chronic disease; Depression; Pain; Functionally- impaired elderly; General practice
To analyse predictors of costs in dementia from a societal perspective in a longitudinal setting.
Healthcare resource use and costs were assessed retrospectively using a questionnaire in four waves at 6-month intervals in a sample of dementia patients (N = 175). Sociodemographic data, dementia severity and comorbidity at baseline, cognitive impairment and impairment in basic and instrumental activities of daily living were also recorded. Linear mixed regression models with random intercepts for individuals were used to analyse predictors of total and sector-specific costs.
Impairment in activities of daily living significantly predicted total costs in dementia patients, with associations between basic activities of daily living and formal care costs on the one and instrumental activities of daily living and informal care costs on the other hand. Nursing home residence was associated with lower total costs than residence in the community. There was no effect of cognition on total or sector-specific costs.
Cognitive deficits in dementia are associated with costs only via their effect on the patients' capacity for activities of daily living. Transition into a nursing home may reduce total costs from a societal perspective, owing to the fact that a high amount of informal care required by severely demented patients prior to transition into a nursing home may cause higher costs than inpatient nursing care.
Multimorbidity has a negative impact on health-related quality of life (HRQL). Previous studies included only a limited number of conditions. In this study, we analyse the impact of a large number of conditions on HRQL in multimorbid patients without preselecting particular diseases. We also explore the effects of these conditions on the specific dimensions of HRQL.
Materials and Methods
This analysis is based on a multicenter, prospective cohort study of 3189 multimorbid primary care patients aged 65 to 85. The impact of 45 conditions on HRQL was analysed. The severity of the conditions was rated. The EQ-5D, consisting of 5 dimensions and a visual-analogue-scale (EQ VAS), was employed. Data were analysed using multiple ordinary least squares and multiple logistic regressions. Multimorbidity measured by a weighted count score was significantly associated with lower overall HRQL (EQ VAS), b = −1.02 (SE: 0.06). Parkinson’s disease had the most pronounced negative effect on overall HRQL (EQ VAS), b = −12.29 (SE: 2.18), followed by rheumatism, depression, and obesity. With regard to the individual EQ-5D dimensions, depression (OR = 1.39 to 3.3) and obesity (OR = 1.44 to 1.95) affected all five dimensions of the EQ-5D negatively except for the dimension anxiety/depression. Obesity had a positive effect on this dimension, OR = 0.78 (SE: 0.07). The dimensions “self-care”, OR = 4.52 (SE: 1.37) and “usual activities”, OR = 3.59 (SE: 1.0), were most strongly affected by Parkinson’s disease. As a limitation our sample may only represent patients with at most moderate disease severity.
The overall HRQL of multimorbid patients decreases with an increasing count and severity of conditions. Parkinson’s disease, depression and obesity have the strongest impact on HRQL. Further studies should address the impact of disease combinations which require very large sample sizes as well as advanced statistical methods.
To analyze the impact of multimorbidity (MM) on health care costs taking into account data heterogeneity.
Data come from a multicenter prospective cohort study of 1,050 randomly selected primary care patients aged 65 to 85 years suffering from MM in Germany. MM was defined as co-occurrence of ≥3 conditions from a list of 29 chronic diseases. A conditional inference tree (CTREE) algorithm was used to detect the underlying structure and most influential variables on costs of inpatient care, outpatient care, medications as well as formal and informal nursing care.
Irrespective of the number and combination of co-morbidities, a limited number of factors influential on costs were detected. Parkinson’s disease (PD) and cardiac insufficiency (CI) were the most influential variables for total costs. Compared to patients not suffering from any of the two conditions, PD increases predicted mean total costs 3.5-fold to approximately € 11,000 per 6 months, and CI two-fold to approximately € 6,100. The high total costs of PD are largely due to costs of nursing care. Costs of inpatient care were significantly influenced by cerebral ischemia/chronic stroke, whereas medication costs were associated with COPD, insomnia, PD and Diabetes. Except for costs of nursing care, socio-demographic variables did not significantly influence costs.
Irrespective of any combination and number of co-occurring diseases, PD and CI appear to be most influential on total health care costs in elderly patients with MM, and only a limited number of factors significantly influenced cost.
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN89818205
Multiple chronic conditions; Multimorbidity; Co-morbidity; Health care costs; Conditional inference trees; Statistical learning
This study investigates the efficacy of a complex multifaceted intervention aiming at increasing the quality of care of GPs for patients with multimorbidity. In its core, the intervention aims at enhancing the doctor-patient-dialogue and identifying the patient’s agenda and needs. Also, a medication check is embedded. Our primary hypothesis is that a more patient-centred communication will reduce the number of active pharmaceuticals taken without impairing the patients’ quality of life. Secondary hypotheses include a better knowledge of GPs about their patients’ medication, a higher patient satisfaction and a more effective and/or efficient health care utilization.
Multi-center, parallel group, cluster randomized controlled clinical trial in GP surgeries. Inclusion criteria: Patients aged 65–84 years with at least 3 chronic conditions. Intervention: GPs allocated to this group will receive a multifaceted educational intervention on performing a narrative doctor-patient dialogue reflecting treatment targets and priorities of the patient and on performing a narrative patient-centred medication review. During the one year intervention GPs will have a total of three conversations à 30 minutes with the enrolled patients. Control: Care as usual. Follow-up per patient: 14 months after baseline interview. Primary efficacy endpoints: Differences in medication intake and health related quality of life between baseline and follow-up in the intervention compared to the control group. Randomization: Computer-generated by an independent institute. It will be performed successively when patient recruitment in the respective surgery is finished. Blinding: Participants (GPs and patients) will not be blinded to their assignment but will be unaware of the study hypotheses or outcome measures.
There is growing evidence that the phenomenon of polypharmacy and low quality of drug use is substantially due to mis-communication (or non-communication) in the doctor patient interaction. We assume that the number of pharmaceutical agents taken can be reduced by a communicational intervention and that this will not impair the patients’ health-related quality of life. Improving communication is a core issue of future interventions, especially for patients with multimorbidity.
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN46272088.
Multimorbidity; Primary care; Randomised controlled trial; Polypharmacy; Narrative based medicine
Objective: Positive attitudes towards General Practice can be understood as a prerequisite for becoming a General Practitioner (GP) and for collaboration with GPs later on. This study aimed to assess attitudes of medical students at the beginning and the end of medical school.
Methods: A total of 160 1st year students at Hannover Medical School were surveyed. Their attitudes were compared to those of 287 5th year students. Descriptive, bi- and multivariate analyses were performed to investigate influences of year of study and gender.
Results: Year of study and gender both were associated with the attitudes towards General Practice. The interest in General Practice and patient-orientation (communication, care of older patients with chronic diseases) was higher in 1st year students compared to more advanced students. Female students valued such requirements more than male students, the differences in attitudes between the years of study being more pronounced in male students.
Conclusion: Despite some limitations caused by the cross-sectional design, the attitudes towards General Practice competencies changed to their disadvantage during medical school. This suggests a formative influence of the strategies used in medical education. Educational strategies, however, could be used to bring about a change of attitudes in the other direction.
General Practice; Medical Education Research; Survey; Competencies; Attitudes
GPs increasingly deal with multiple health problems of their older patients. They have to apply a hierarchical management approach that considers priorities to balance competing needs for treatment. Yet, the practice of setting individual priorities in older patients is largely unexplored. This paper analyses the GPs’ perceptions on important and unimportant health problems and how these affect their treatment.
GPs appraised the importance of health problems for a purposive sample of their older patients in semi-structured interviews. Prior to the interviews, the GPs had received a list of their patients’ health problems resulting from a geriatric assessment and were asked to rate the importance of each identified problem. In the interviews the GPs subsequently explained why they considered certain health problems important or not and how this affected treatment. Data was analysed using qualitative content analysis and quantitative methods.
The problems GPs perceive as important are those that are medical and require active treatment or monitoring, or that induce empathy or awareness but cannot be assisted further. Unimportant problems are those that are well managed problems and need no further attention as well as age-related conditions or functional disabilities that provoke fatalism, or those considered outside the GPs’ responsibility. Statements of professional actions are closely linked to explanations of important problems and relate to physical problems rather than functional and social patient issues.
GPs tend to prioritise treatable clinical conditions. Treatment approaches are, however, vague or missing for complex chronic illnesses and disabilities. Here, patient empowerment strategies are of value and need to be developed and implemented. The professional concepts of ageing and disability should not impede but rather foster treatment and care. To this end, GPs need to be able to delegate care to a functioning primary care team.
German Trial Register (DRKS): 00000792
Health priorities; Multimorbidity; Old age; Family practice; Patient-centred care
Multimorbidity is a phenomenon with high burden and high prevalence in the elderly. Our previous research has shown that multimorbidity can be divided into the multimorbidity patterns of 1) anxiety, depression, somatoform disorders (ADS) and pain, and 2) cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. However, it is not yet known, how these patterns are influenced by patient characteristics. The objective of this paper is to analyze the association of socio-demographic variables, and especially socio-economic status with multimorbidity in general and with each multimorbidity pattern.
The MultiCare Cohort Study is a multicentre, prospective, observational cohort study of 3.189 multimorbid patients aged 65+ randomly selected from 158 GP practices. Data were collected in GP interviews and comprehensive patient interviews. Missing values have been imputed by hot deck imputation based on Gower distance in morbidity and other variables. The association of patient characteristics with the number of chronic conditions is analysed by multilevel mixed-effects linear regression analyses.
Multimorbidity in general is associated with age (+0.07 chronic conditions per year), gender (-0.27 conditions for female), education (-0.26 conditions for medium and -0.29 conditions for high level vs. low level) and income (-0.27 conditions per logarithmic unit). The pattern of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders shows comparable associations with a higher coefficient for gender (-1.29 conditions for female), while multimorbidity within the pattern of ADS and pain correlates with gender (+0.79 conditions for female), but not with age or socioeconomic status.
Our study confirms that the morbidity load of multimorbid patients is associated with age, gender and the socioeconomic status of the patients, but there were no effects of living arrangements and marital status. We could also show that the influence of patient characteristics is dependent on the multimorbidity pattern concerned, i.e. there seem to be at least two types of elderly multimorbid patients. First, there are patients with mainly cardiovascular and metabolic disorders, who are more often male, have an older age and a lower socio-economic status. Second, there are patients mainly with ADS and pain-related morbidity, who are more often female and equally distributed across age and socio-economic groups.
Social support has been suggested to positively influence cognition and mortality in old age. However, this suggestion has been questioned due to inconsistent operationalisations of social support among studies and the small number of longitudinal studies available. This study aims to investigate the influence of perceived social support, understood as the emotional component of social support, on cognition and mortality in old age as part of a prospective longitudinal multicentre study in Germany.
A national subsample of 2,367 primary care patients was assessed twice over an observation period of 18 months regarding the influence of social support on cognitive function and mortality. Perceived social support was assessed using the 14-item version of the FSozU, which is a standardised and validated questionnaire of social support. Cognition was tested by the neuropsychological test battery of the Structured Interview for the Diagnosis of Dementia (SIDAM). The influence of perceived support on cognitive change was analysed by multivariate ANCOVA; mortality was analysed by multivariate logistic and cox regression.
Sample cognitive change (N = 1,869): Mean age was 82.4 years (SD 3.3) at the beginning of the observation period, 65.9% were female, mean cognition was 49 (SD 4.4) in the SIDAM. Over the observation period cognitive function declined in 47.2% by a mean of 3.4 points. Sample mortality (N = 2,367): Mean age was 82.5 years (SD 3.4), 65.7% were female and 185 patients died during the observation period. Perceived social support showed no longitudinal association with cognitive change (F = 2.235; p = 0.135) and mortality (p = 0.332; CI 0.829-1.743).
Perceived social support did not influence cognition and mortality over an 18 months observation period. However, previous studies using different operationalisations of social support and longer observation periods indicate that such an influence may exist. This influence is rather small and the result of complex interaction mechanisms between different components of social support; the emotional component seems to have no or only a limited effect. Further research is needed to describe the complex interactions between components of social support. Longer observation periods are necessary and standardised operationalisations of social support should be applied.
Although most guidelines recommend the use of cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs) for mild to moderate Alzheimer's Disease, only a small proportion of affected patients receive these drugs. We aimed to study if geriatric comorbidity and polypharmacy influence the prescription of ChEIs in patients with dementia in Germany.
We used claims data of 1,848 incident patients with dementia aged 65 years and older. Inclusion criteria were first outpatient diagnoses for dementia in at least three of four consecutive quarters (incidence year). Our dependent variable was the prescription of at least one ChEI in the incidence year. Main independent variables were polypharmacy (defined as the number of prescribed medications categorized into quartiles) and measures of geriatric comorbidity (levels of care dependency and 14 symptom complexes characterizing geriatric patients). Data were analyzed by multivariate logistic regression.
On average, patients were 78.7 years old (47.6% female) and received 9.7 different medications (interquartile range: 6-13). 44.4% were assigned to one of three care levels and virtually all patients (92.0%) had at least one symptom complex characterizing geriatric patients. 13.0% received at least one ChEI within the incidence year. Patients not assigned to the highest care level were more likely to receive a prescription (e.g., no level of care dependency vs. level 3: adjusted Odds Ratio [OR]: 5.35; 95% CI: 1.61-17.81). The chance decreased with increasing numbers of symptoms characterizing geriatric patients (e.g., 0 vs. 5+ geriatric complexes: OR: 4.23; 95% CI: 2.06-8.69). The overall number of prescribed medications had no influence on ChEI prescription and a significant effect of age could only be found in the univariate analysis. Living in a rural compared to an urban environment and contacts to neurologists or psychiatrists were associated with a significant increase in the likelihood of receiving ChEIs in the multivariate analysis.
It seems that not age as such but the overall clinical condition of a patient including care dependency and geriatric comorbidities influences the process of decision making on prescription of ChEIs.
Patients suffering from dementia are at risk of being treated differently by GPs from patients without it. Explanations for this could be stigmatisation, treatment with a palliative approach, and the result of the disease process.
To ascertain whether patients with dementia are treated differently, the index diseases of hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidaemia were used to measure care.
Design of study
Retrospective matched control study.
German general practice.
Sixteen GP practices recruited all their patients with dementia and at least one of the index diseases. Patients without dementia but only the index diseases were matched for age, sex, index disease, and practice, resulting in 216 pairs of patients with and without dementia. From the files, blood pressure, blood sugar/glycated haemoglobin, cholesterol, the dates of measurement, the number of doctor–patient contacts, and the prescribed medication to treat the three conditions under scrutiny were documented. For analysis, t-tests and χ2-tests were used.
No differences were found in treatment outcomes between the two patients groups, except one significant difference: one of the two documented systolic blood pressure values is lower in the dementia group. Furthermore, patients with dementia more often do not receive any medication or are treated with low-priced medications for hypertension (nearly significant).
GPs do not seem to treat patients with dementia differently. The use of lower-priced antihypertensive medication could be the only indication for some kind of difference in approach.
attitude of health personnel; comorbidity; dementia; family practice; general practitioners; quality; stigmatisation; treatment
Dizziness is a common complaint of older patients in primary care, yet not much is known about the course of incident dizziness. The aim of the study was to follow-up symptoms, subjective impairments and needs of older patients (≥65) with incident dizziness and to determine predictors of chronic dizziness. Furthermore, we analysed general practitioners' (GPs') initial diagnoses, referrals and revised diagnoses after six months.
An observational study was performed in 21 primary care practices in Germany, including a four-week and six-month follow-up. A questionnaire comprising characteristic matters of dizziness and a series of validated instruments was completed by 66 participants during enrolment and follow-up (after 1 month and 6 months). After six months, chart reviews and face-to-face interviews were also performed with the GPs.
Mean scores of dizziness handicap, depression and quality of life were not or only slightly affected, and did not deteriorate during follow-up; however, 24 patients (34.8%) showed a moderate or severe dizziness handicap, and 43 (62.3%) showed a certain disability in terms of quality of life at the time of enrolment. In multivariate analysis, n = 44 patients suffering from chronic dizziness (dependent variable, i.e. relapsing or persistent at six months) initially had a greater dizziness handicap (OR 1.42, 95%CI 1.05-1.47) than patients with transient dizziness. GPs referred 47.8% of the patients to specialists who detected two additional cases of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
New-onset dizziness relapsed or persisted in a considerable number of patients within six months. This was difficult to predict due to the patients' heterogeneous complaints and characteristics. Symptom persistence does not seem to be associated with deterioration of the psychological status in older primary care patients. Management strategies should routinely consider BPPV as differential diagnosis.
To analyze the referral processes from general practitioners to specialists and among specialists for dementia patients in the time periods before, during and after the diagnosis in Germany.
In this case-control study claims data from 1,848 insurants with incident dementia aged 65 years and more and 7,392 matched controls were compared over a two-year period covering the pre-incidence, incidence and post-incidence time periods.
We found an increase in referrals of 30% in the incidence quarter, mainly from general practice to neuropsychiatry and from there to radiology. Referrals to clinical chemistry and other disciplines for dementia-specific reasons were negligible in amount. 34% of incident cases had at least one contact with a neuropsychiatrist during the year of incidence, and the majority of them visited this specialist repeatedly during that year. Only a minority (13.5%) of patients was referred to radiology for imaging. Referrals to other specialists declined whereas self-referrals did not increase.
The referral rates to relevant specialists (neuropsychiatry, radiology and clinical chemistry) are far less frequent than proposed in German guidelines. More research is needed to explain the gape between guidelines and daily care and to find ways for a better implementation of guidelines in ambulatory care. Guidelines should not only deal with diagnostic procedures and therapeutic options but also consider questions of applicability in daily clinical practice and propose effective organizational models of care provision.
Current approaches for AD prediction are based on biomarkers, which are however of restricted availability in primary care. AD prediction tools for primary care are therefore needed. We present a prediction score based on information that can be obtained in the primary care setting.
We performed a longitudinal cohort study in 3.055 non-demented individuals above 75 years recruited via primary care chart registries (Study on Aging, Cognition and Dementia, AgeCoDe). After the baseline investigation we performed three follow-up investigations at 18 months intervals with incident dementia as the primary outcome.
The best set of predictors was extracted from the baseline variables in one randomly selected half of the sample. This set included age, subjective memory impairment, performance on delayed verbal recall and verbal fluency, on the Mini-Mental-State-Examination, and on an instrumental activities of daily living scale. These variables were aggregated to a prediction score, which achieved a prediction accuracy of 0.84 for AD. The score was applied to the second half of the sample (test cohort). Here, the prediction accuracy was 0.79. With a cut-off of at least 80% sensitivity in the first cohort, 79.6% sensitivity, 66.4% specificity, 14.7% positive predictive value (PPV) and 97.8% negative predictive value of (NPV) for AD were achieved in the test cohort. At a cut-off for a high risk population (5% of individuals with the highest risk score in the first cohort) the PPV for AD was 39.1% (52% for any dementia) in the test cohort.
The prediction score has useful prediction accuracy. It can define individuals (1) sensitively for low cost-low risk interventions, or (2) more specific and with increased PPV for measures of prevention with greater costs or risks. As it is independent of technical aids, it may be used within large scale prevention programs.
Aims: Planning a career in general practice depends on positive attitudes towards primary care. The aim of this study was to compare attitudes of medical students of a Modern Curriculum at Hannover Medical School with those of the Traditional Curriculum before (pre) and after (post) a three-week clerkship in general practice. In parallel, we aimed to analyse several other variables such as age and gender, which could influence the attitudes.
Methods: Prospective survey of n=287 5th-year students. Attitudes (dependent variable, Likert-scale items) as well as socio-demographic characteristics (age, gender, rural/urban background), school leaving examination grades, former qualifications, experiences in general practice and career plans were requested. Attitudes were analysed separately according to these characteristics (e.g. career plans: general practitioner (GP)/specialist), curriculum type and pre/post the clerkship in general practice. Bi- and multivariate statistical analysis was used including a factor analysis for grouping of the attitude items.
Results: Most and remarkable differences of attitudes were seen after analysis according to gender. Women appreciated general practice more than men including a greater interest in chronic diseases, communication and psychosocial aspects. The clerkship (a total of n=165 students of the “post” survey could be matched) contributed to positive attitudes of students of both gender, whereas the different curricula did not show such effects.
Conclusions: Affective learning goals such as a positive attitude towards general practice have depended more on characteristics of students (gender) and effects of a clerkship in general practice than on the curriculum type (modern, traditional) so far. For the development of outcomes in medical education research as well as for the evolution of the Modern Curriculum such attitudes and other affective learning goals should be considered more frequently.
medical education research; general practice; curriculum; attitudes; questionnaire
General practitioners (GP) play an important role in detecting cognitive impairment among their patients.
To explore factors associated with GPs’ judgment of their elderly patients’ cognitive status.
Cross-sectional data from an observational cohort study (AgeCoDe study); General practice surgeries in six German metropolitan study centers; home visits by interviewers.
138 GPs, 3,181 patients (80.13 ± 3.61 years, 65.23% female).
General practitioner questionnaire for each patient: familiarity with the patient, patient morbidity, judgment of cognitive status. Home visits by trained interviewers: sociodemographic and clinical data, psychometric test performance. Multivariate regression analysis was used to identify independent associations with the GPs’ judgment of “cognitively impaired” vs. “cognitively unimpaired.”
Less familiar patients (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 2.42, 95% CI 1.35–4.32, for poor vs. very high familiarity), less mobile patients (aOR 1.29, 95% CI 1.13–1.46), patients with impaired hearing (aOR 5.46, 95% CI 2.35–12.67 for serious vs. no problems), and patients with greater comorbidity (aOR 1.15, 95% CI 1.08–1.22) were more likely to be rated as “cognitively impaired” by their GPs.
The associations between GPs’ assessments of cognitive impairment and their familiarity with their patients and patients’ mobility, hearing, and morbidity provide important insights into how GPs make their judgments.
general practice; cognition; dementia; clinical judgment
Due to demographic changes and an un-equal distribution of physicians, regional analyses of service utilization of elderly patients are crucial, especially for diseases with an impact like dementia. This paper focuses on dementia patients. The aim of the study is to identify differences in service utilization of incident dementia patients in urban and rural areas.
Basis for the analysis were all insured persons of a German Health Insurance fund (the GEK) aged 65 years and older living in rural and urban areas. We focussed on physician contacts in the outpatient sector during the first year after an incidence diagnosis of dementia. Special attention was given to contacts with primary care physicians and neurologists/psychiatrists. The dementia cohort was analyzed together with a non-dementia control group drawn according to age, gender and amount of physician contacts. Uni- and bivariate as well as multivariate analysis were performed to estimate the influences on service utilization.
Results show that the provision of primary care seems to be equally given in urban and rural areas. For specialists contacts however, rural patients are less likely to consult neurologists or psychiatrists. This trend can already be seen before the incident diagnosis of dementia. All consultations rise in the quarter of the incident dementia diagnosis compared to the control group. The results were also tested in a linear and a logistic regression, showing a higher chance for persons living in urban areas to visit a specialist and an overall higher rate in service utilization for dementia patients.
Because of a probable increase in the number of dementia patients, service provision has to be accessible even in rural areas. Due to this and the fact that demographic change is happening at different paces in different regions, regional variations have to be considered to ensure the future service provision.
Multimorbidity is a highly frequent condition in older people, but well designed longitudinal studies on the impact of multimorbidity on patients and the health care system have been remarkably scarce in numbers until today. Little is known about the long term impact of multimorbidity on the patients' life expectancy, functional status and quality of life as well as health care utilization over time. As a consequence, there is little help for GPs in adjusting care for these patients, even though studies suggest that adhering to present clinical practice guidelines in the care of patients with multimorbidity may have adverse effects.
The study is designed as a multicentre prospective, observational cohort study of 3.050 patients aged 65 to 85 at baseline with at least three different diagnoses out of a list of 29 illnesses and syndromes. The patients will be recruited in approx. 120 to 150 GP surgeries in 8 study centres distributed across Germany. Information about the patients' morbidity will be collected mainly in GP interviews and from chart reviews. Functional status, resources/risk factors, health care utilization and additional morbidity data will be assessed in patient interviews, in which a multitude of well established standardized questionnaires and tests will be performed.
The main aim of the cohort study is to monitor the course of the illness process and to analyse for which reasons medical conditions are stable, deteriorating or only temporarily present. First, clusters of combinations of diseases/disorders (multimorbidity patterns) with a comparable impact (e.g. on quality of life and/or functional status) will be identified. Then the development of these clusters over time will be analysed, especially with regard to prognostic variables and the somatic, psychological and social consequences as well as the utilization of health care resources. The results will allow the development of an instrument for prediction of the deterioration of the illness process and point at possibilities of prevention. The practical consequences of the study results for primary care will be analysed in expert focus groups in order to develop strategies for the inclusion of the aspects of multimorbidity in primary care guidelines.
Caring for patients with dementia is a demanding task. Little is known as to whether physicians feel competent enough to perform this task or whether a lack of self-perceived competence influences attitudes and professional approach. Even less is known with respect to potential differences between general practitioners (GPs) and specialists. The purpose of this study was to investigate the interrelationship between the self-perceived competence, attitude and professional approach of physicians in ambulatory care in Germany. A further aim was to compare GPs and specialists with regard to differences in these areas.
A standardised postal survey was sent to 389 GPs and 239 neurologists and psychiatrists in six metropolitan areas in Germany. The 49-item questionnaire consisted of attitudinal statements to be rated on a Likert-type scale. Return rates were 54 percent for GPs and 40 percent for specialists. Statistical methods used to analyze data included correlation analysis, cluster analysis and ordinal regression analysis.
No differences were found between GPs and specialists with regard to their general attitude towards caring for patients with dementia. Approximately 15 percent of both disciplines showed a clearly negative attitude. Self-reported competence was strongly associated with general attitude. In particular among GPs, and less so among specialists, a strong positive association was found between self-reported competence, general attitude and professional approach (e.g. early detection, active case finding and cooperation with caregivers). Differences between GPs and specialists were smaller than expected and appear to predominantly reflect task differences within the German health care system.
Training opportunities which enable in particular GPs to enhance not only their competence but also their general attitude towards dementia care would appear to be beneficial and might carry positive consequences for patients and their caregivers.