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1.  Having a family doctor was associated with lower utilization of hospital-based health services 
Primary care in the United States and most countries in Asia are provided by a variety of doctors. However, effectiveness of such diversified primary care in gate-keeping secondary medical services is unknown. This study aimed to evaluate health services utilization rates of hospital emergency and admission services among people who used different primary care doctors in Hong Kong.
This study was a population-based cross-sectional telephone survey using structured questionnaire on health services utilization rates and pattern in Hong Kong in 2007 to 2008. Information on the choice of primary care doctors, utilization rates and patterns of primary care service were collected. Poisson and logistic regression analyses were used to explore any differences in service utilization rates and patterns among people using different types of primary care doctors.
Out of 3148 subjects who completed the survey, 1896 (60.2%) had regular primary care doctors, of whom 1150 (60.7%) regarded their regular doctors as their family doctors (RFD). 1157 (36.8%) of them did not use any regular doctors (NRD). Only 4.3% of the RFD group (vs 7.8% of other regular doctors (ORD) and 9.6% of NRD) visited emergency service and only 1.7% (vs 3.6% of ORD and 4.0% of NRD) were admitted to hospital for their last episode of illness. Regression analyses controlling for sociodemographics and health status confirmed that respondents having RFD were less likely to use emergency service than people who had NRD (OR 0.479) or ORD (OR 0.624) or being admitted to hospital (OR 0.458 vs NRD and 0.514 vs ORD) for their last episode of illness.
Primary care is the most effective in gate-keeping secondary care among people with regular family doctors. People without any regular primary care doctor were more likely to use emergency service as primary care. The findings supported a family doctor-led primary care model.
Trial registration number ID: NCT01422031.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12913-015-0705-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4312460  PMID: 25627936
Family doctor; Health utilization; Hospitalization; Emergency services; Chinese; Count data
2.  A Comparison between the EQ-5D and the SF-6D in Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112389.
The appropriate use of generic preference-based measures determines the accuracy of disease assessment and further decision on healthcare policy using quality adjusted life years. The discriminative capacity of different instruments would differ across disease groups. Our study was to examine the difference in utility scores for COPD patients measured by EQ-5D and SF-6D and to assist the choice of a proper instrument in this disease group.
Differences of mean utility scores of EQ-5D and SF-6D in groups defined by socio-demographic characteristics, comorbidities, health service utilisation and severity of illness were tested using Mann-Whitney test, t-test, Kruskal-Wallis test, Pearson’s correlation coefficient and ANOVA, as appropriate. The discriminative properties of the two instruments were compared against indicators of quality of life using receiver operating characteristic curves. The statistical significance of the area under the curves (AUC) was tested by ANOVA and F-statistics used to compare the efficiency with which each instrument discriminated between disease severity groups.
Mean utility scores of EQ-5D and SF-6D were 0.644 and 0.629 respectively in the 154 subjects included in the analysis. EQ-5D scores were significantly higher than SF-6D in groups less severe and these differences corresponded to a minimally important difference of greater than 0.03 (p<0.001). EQ-5D and SF-6D scores were strongly correlated across the whole sample (r = 0.677, p<0.001) and in pre-defined groups (r>0.5 and p<0.05 for all correlation coefficients). AUCs were above 0.5 against the indicators of health-related quality of life for both instruments. F-ratios suggested SF-6D was more efficient in discriminating cases of different disease severity than EQ-5D.
Both EQ-5D and SF-6D appeared to be valid preference-based measures in Chinese COPD patients. SF-6D was more efficient in detecting differences among subgroups with differing health status. EQ-5D and SF-6D measured different things and might not be used interchangeably in COPD patients.
PMCID: PMC4224433  PMID: 25379673
3.  Prevalence, correlates, attitude and treatment seeking of erectile dysfunction among type 2 diabetic Chinese men attending primary care outpatient clinics 
Asian Journal of Andrology  2014;16(5):755-760.
To investigate the prevalence, correlates, attitude and treatment seeking behavior of erectile dysfunction (ED) in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) patients in the primary care setting, a multi-center cross-sectional survey using a structured anonymous self-administered questionnaire was performed in 10 general outpatient clinics. Of the 603 subjects (91% response rate), the prevalence of ED men, as defined by the International Index of Erectile Function, was 79.1%. Most subjects had mild ED (28.9%), followed by mild-to-moderate ED (27.9%), then moderate ED (13.4%) and severe ED (9%). Nearly 55% of those with ED did not consider themselves as having ED. Less than 10% of them had ever sought medical treatment, although 76.1% of them wished to receive management from doctor(s) should they be diagnosed with ED. They considered the most important management from doctors to be clinical assessment (41.7%), followed by management of potential underlying cause (37.8%), referral to specialist (27.5%), education (23.9%), prescription of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (16.9%) and referral to counseling service (6.7%). The prevalence of ED was strongly associated with subjects who thought they had ED (odds ratio (OR) = 90.49 (20.00–409.48, P< 0.001)) and were from the older age group (OR = 1.043 (1.011–1.076, P = 0.008)). In conclusion, ED is highly prevalent among T2DM men. The majority of them wanted management from doctors should they have ED, but only a minority would actually voice out the request. Screening of ED among T2DM men using structural questionnaire allowed the diagnosis of more than half of the ED cases, which otherwise would have gone undiagnosed.
PMCID: PMC4215661  PMID: 24759587
diabetes mellitus; erectile dysfunction; prevalence; risk factors
4.  Effects of the Multidisciplinary Risk Assessment and Management Program for Patients with Diabetes Mellitus (RAMP-DM) on biomedical outcomes, observed cardiovascular events and cardiovascular risks in primary care: a longitudinal comparative study 
Cardiovascular Diabetology  2014;13(1):127.
To assess whether the Multidisciplinary Risk Assessment and Management Program for Patients with Diabetes Mellitus (RAMP-DM) led to improvements in biomedical outcomes, observed cardiovascular events and predicted cardiovascular risks after 12-month intervention in the primary care setting.
A random sample of 1,248 people with diabetes enrolled to RAMP-DM for at least 12 months was selected and 1,248 people with diabetes under the usual primary care were matched by age, sex, and HbA1c level at baseline as the usual care group. Biomedical and cardiovascular outcomes were measured at baseline and at 12-month after the enrollment. Difference-in-differences approach was employed to measure the effect of RAMP-DM on the changes in biomedical outcomes, proportion of subjects reaching treatment targets, observed and predicted cardiovascular risks.
Compared to the usual care group, RAMP-DM group had lower cardiovascular events incidence (1.21% vs 2.89%, P = 0.003), and net decrease in HbA1c (−0.20%, P < 0.01), SBP (−3.62 mmHg, P < 0.01) and 10-year cardiovascular disease (CVD) risks (total CVD risk, −2.06%, P < 0.01; coronary heart disease (CHD) risk, −1.43%, P < 0.01; stroke risk, −0.71%, P < 0.01). The RAMP-DM subjects witnessed significant rises in the proportion of reaching treatment targets of HbA1c, and SBP/DBP. After adjusting for confounding variables, the significance remained for HbA1c, predicted CHD and stroke risks.
The RAMP-DM resulted in greater improvements in HbA1c and reduction in observed and predicted cardiovascular risks at 12 months follow-up, which indicated a risk-stratification multidisciplinary intervention was an effective strategy for managing Chinese people with diabetes in the primary care setting.
Trial registry, NCT02034695
PMCID: PMC4145236  PMID: 25142791
RAMP-DM; Multidisciplinary intervention; Risk stratification; Effectiveness; Diabetes
5.  Health-related quality of life and risk of colorectal cancer recurrence and All-cause death among advanced stages of colorectal cancer 1-year after diagnosis 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:337.
The study aimed to examine the association between health-related quality of life (HRQOL) assessed with overall survival (OS) and recurrence after diagnosis of colorectal cancer (CRC).
Overall 160 patients with advanced stage CRC were recruited in an observational study and completed the generic and condition-specific HRQOL questionnaires at the colorectal specialist outpatient clinic in Hong Kong, between 10/2009 and 07/2010. Socio-demographic and clinical characteristics including duration since diagnosis, primary tumor location and treatment modality, were collected to serve as predictor variables in regression models. All-cause death or CRC recurrence was the event of interest. Association between HRQOL with OS was assessed using Cox regression. Association between HRQOL and CRC recurrence was further modeled by competing-risks regression adjusted for the competing-risks of death from any cause.
After a median follow-up of 23 months, there were 22 (16.1%) incidents of CRC recurrence and 15 (9.4%) deaths. Decreased physical functioning (hazard ratios, HR = 0.917, 95% CI:0.889-0.981) and general health of domains in SF-12 (HR = 0.846, 95% CI:0.746-0.958) or SF-6D scores (HR = 0.010, 95% CI:0.000-0.573) were associated with an increased risk of death, with adjustment of patients’ characteristics. Increased vitality (HR = 1.151, 95% CI:1.027-1.289) and mental health (HR = 1.128, 95% CI:1.005-1.265) were associated with an increased likelihood of death. In models adjusted for competing-risk of death, those with worse HRQOL was not associated with increased risk of CRC recurrence.
Although self-reported HRQOL was not a significant prognostic factor for CRC recurrence, the HRQOL provided independent prognostic value about mortality in patients with advanced stage of CRC.
PMCID: PMC4030731  PMID: 24886385
Quality of life; Colorectal cancer; Prognosis; Survival; Recurrence; Competing risks
6.  Effects of Patient Empowerment Programme (PEP) on Clinical Outcomes and Health Service Utilization in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Primary Care: An Observational Matched Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e95328.
To evaluate the effects of a large population-based patient empowerment programme (PEP) on clinical outcomes and health service utilization rates in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) patients in the primary care setting.
Research Design and Subjects
A stratified random sample of 1,141 patients with T2DM enrolled to PEP between March and September 2010 were selected from general outpatient clinics (GOPC) across Hong Kong and compared with an equal number of T2DM patients who had not participated in the PEP (non-PEP group) matched by age, sex and HbA1C level group.
Clinical outcomes of HbA1c, SBP, DBP and LDL-C levels, and health service utilization rates including numbers of visits to GOPC, specialist outpatient clinics (SOPC), emergency department (ED) and inpatient admissions, were measured at baseline and at 12-month post-recruitment. The effects of PEP on clinical outcomes and health service utilization rates were assessed by the difference-in-difference estimation, using the generalized estimating equation models.
Compared with non-PEP group, PEP group achieved additional improvements in clinical outcomes over the 12-month period. A significantly greater percentage of patients in the PEP group attained HbA1C≤7% or LDL-C≤2.6 mmol/L at 12-month follow-up compared with the non-PEP group. PEP group had a mean 0.813 fewer GOPC visits in comparison with the non-PEP group.
PEP was effective in improving the clinical outcomes and reduced the general outpatient clinic utilization rate over a 12-month period. Empowering T2DM patients on self-management of their disease can enhance the quality of diabetes care in primary care.
Trial Registration NCT01935349
PMCID: PMC4006782  PMID: 24788804
7.  Development and Validation of the Chinese Attitudes to Starting Insulin Questionnaire (Ch-ASIQ) for Primary Care Patients with Type 2 Diabetes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78933.
To develop and evaluate the psychometric properties of a Chinese questionnaire which assesses the barriers and enablers to commencing insulin in primary care patients with poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes.
Research Design and Method
Questionnaire items were identified using literature review. Content validation was performed and items were further refined using an expert panel. Following translation, back translation and cognitive debriefing, the translated Chinese questionnaire was piloted on target patients. Exploratory factor analysis and item-scale correlations were performed to test the construct validity of the subscales and items. Internal reliability was tested by Cronbach’s alpha.
Twenty-seven identified items underwent content validation, translation and cognitive debriefing. The translated questionnaire was piloted on 303 insulin naïve (never taken insulin) Type 2 diabetes patients recruited from 10 government-funded primary care clinics across Hong Kong. Sufficient variability in the dataset for factor analysis was confirmed by Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity (P<0.001). Using exploratory factor analysis with varimax rotation, 10 factors were generated onto which 26 items loaded with loading scores > 0.4 and Eigenvalues >1. Total variance for the 10 factors was 66.22%. Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure was 0.725. Cronbach’s alpha coefficients for the first four factors were ≥0.6 identifying four sub-scales to which 13 items correlated. Remaining sub-scales and items with poor internal reliability were deleted. The final 13-item instrument had a four scale structure addressing: ‘Self-image and stigmatization’; ‘Factors promoting self-efficacy; ‘Fear of pain or needles’; and ‘Time and family support’.
The Chinese Attitudes to Starting Insulin Questionnaire (Ch-ASIQ) appears to be a reliable and valid measure for assessing barriers to starting insulin. This short instrument is easy to administer and may be used by healthcare providers and researchers as an assessment tool for Chinese diabetic primary care patients, including the elderly, who are unwilling to start insulin.
PMCID: PMC3827341  PMID: 24236071
8.  The associations of body mass index with physical and mental aspects of health-related quality of life in Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: results from a cross-sectional survey 
This study aimed to determine the associations of various clinical factors with generic health-related quality of life (HRQOL) scores among Hong Kong Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in the outpatient primary care setting using the short-form 12 (SF-12).
A cross-sectional survey of 488 Chinese adults with T2DM recruited from a primary care outpatient clinic was conducted from May to August 2008. Data on the standard Chinese (HK) SF-12 Health Survey and patients’ socio-demographics were collected from face-to-face interviews. Glycaemic control, body mass index (BMI), chronic co-morbidities, diabetic complications and treatment modalities were determined for each patient through medical records. Associations of socio-demographic and clinical factors with physical component summary (PCS-12) and mental component summary scores (MCS-12) were evaluated using multiple linear regression.
The socio-demographic correlates of PCS-12 and MCS-12 were age, gender and BMI. After adjustment for socio-demographic variables, the BMI was negatively associated with PCS-12 but positively associated with MCS-12. The presence of diabetic complications was associated with lower PCS-12 (regression coefficient:-3.0 points, p < 0.05) while being on insulin treatment was associated with lower MCS-12 (regression coefficient:-5.8 points, p < 0.05). In contrast, glycaemic control, duration of T2DM and treatment with oral hypoglycaemic drugs were not significantly associated with PCS-12 or MCS-12.
Among T2DM subjects in the primary care setting, impairments in the physical aspect of HRQOL were evident in subjects who were obese or had diabetic complications whereas defects in the mental aspect of HRQOL were observed in patients with lower BMI or receiving insulin injections.
PMCID: PMC3765933  PMID: 23964785
Quality of life; SF-12; Hong Kong; Chinese; Type 2 diabetes mellitus
9.  Clinical Correlates of Health Preference and Generic Health-Related Quality of Life in Patients with Colorectal Neoplasms 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58341.
The aims of the study were to assess the health preference and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in patients with colorectal neoplasms (CRN), and to determine the clinical correlates that significantly influence the HRQOL of patients.
Five hundred and fifty-four CRN patients, inclusive of colorectal polyp or cancer, who attended the colorectal specialist outpatient clinic at Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong between October 2009 and July 2010, were included. Patients were interviewed with questionnaires on socio-demographic characteristics, and generic and health preference measures of HRQOL using the SF-12 and SF-6D Health Surveys, respectively. Clinical information on stage of disease at diagnosis, time since diagnosis, primary tumour site was extracted from electronic case record. Mean HRQOL and health preference scores of CRN patients were compared with age-sex matched controls from the Chinese general population using independent t-test. Multiple linear regression analyses were conducted to explore the associations of clinical characteristics with HRQOL measures with the adjustment of socio-demographic characteristics.
Cross-sectional data of 515 eligible patients responded to the whole questionnaires were included in outcome analysis. In comparison with age-sex matched normative values, CRN patients reported comparable physical-related HRQOL but better mental-related HRQOL. Amongst CRN patients, time since diagnosis was positively associated with health preference score whilst patients with rectal neoplasms had lower health preference and physical-related HRQOL scores than those with sigmoid neoplasms. Health preference and HRQOL scores were significantly lower in patients with stage IV colorectal cancer than those with other less severe stages, indicating that progressive decline from low-risk polyp to stage IV colorectal cancer was observed in HRQOL scores.
In CRN patients, a more advanced stage of disease was associated with worse HRQOL scores. Despite potentially adverse effect of disease on physical-related HRQOL, the mental-related HRQOL of CRN patients were better than that of Chinese general population.
PMCID: PMC3596378  PMID: 23516465
10.  Evaluation of the quality of care of a multi-disciplinary risk factor assessment and management programme (RAMP) for diabetic patients 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:116.
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is a common chronic disease associated with multiple clinical complications. Management guidelines have been established which recommend a risk-stratified approach to managing these patients in primary care. This study aims to evaluate the quality of care (QOC) and effectiveness of a multi-disciplinary risk assessment and management programme (RAMP) for type 2 diabetic patients attending government-funded primary care clinics in Hong Kong. The evaluation will be conducted using a structured and comprehensive evidence-based evaluation framework.
For evaluation of the quality of care, a longitudinal study will be conducted using the Action Learning and Audit Spiral methodologies to measure whether the pre-set target standards for criteria related to the structure and process of care are achieved. Each participating clinic will be invited to complete a Structure of Care Questionnaire evaluating pre-defined indicators which reflect the setting in which care is delivered, while process of care will be evaluated against the pre-defined indicators in the evaluation framework.
Effectiveness of the programme will be evaluated in terms of clinical outcomes, service utilization outcomes, and patient-reported outcomes. A cohort study will be conducted on all eligible diabetic patients who have enrolled into RAMP for more than one year to compare their clinical and public service utilization outcomes of RAMP participants and non-participants. Clinical outcome measures will include HbA1c, blood pressure (both systolic and diastolic), lipids (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) and future cardiovascular diseases risk prediction; and public health service utilization rate will include general and specialist outpatient, emergency department attendances, and hospital admissions annually within 5 years. For patient-reported outcomes, a total of 550 participants and another 550 non-participants will be followed by telephone to monitor quality of life, patient enablement, global rating of change in health and private health service utilization at baseline, 6, 12, 36 and 60 months.
The quality of care and effectiveness of the RAMP in enhancing the health for patients with type 2 diabetes will be determined. Possible areas for quality enhancement will be identified and standards of good practice can be established. The information will be useful in guiding service planning and policy decision making.
PMCID: PMC3573901  PMID: 23216708
Type 2 diabetes mellitus; Quality of life; Primary care; Prevention; Primary health care; Management programme; Risk prediction; Risk stratification
11.  Measurement invariance of the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy—Colorectal quality-of-life instrument among modes of administration 
Quality of Life Research  2012;22(6):1415-1426.
To test for the measurement invariance of the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy—Colorectal (FACT-C) in patients with colorectal neoplasms between two modes of administration (self- and interviewer administrations). It is important to establish the measurement invariance of the FACT-C across different modes of administration to ascertain whether it is valid to pool FACT-C data collected by different modes or to assess each group separately.
A cross-sectional sample of 391 Chinese patients with colorectal neoplasms was recruited from specialist outpatient clinics between September 2009 and July 2010. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was used to test the original five-factor model of the FACT-C on data collected by self- and interviewer administrations in single-group analysis. Multiple-group CFA was then used to compare the factor structure between the two modes of administration using chi-square tests and other goodness-of-fit statistics.
The hypothesized five-factor model of FACT-C demonstrated good fit in each group. Configural invariance and metric invariance were fully supported in multiple-group CFA. Some item intercepts and their corresponding error variances were not identical between administration groups, suggesting evidence of partial strict factorial invariance.
Our results confirmed that the five-factor structure of FACT-C was invariant in Chinese patients using both self- and interviewer administrations. It is appropriate to pool or compare data in the emotional well-being and colorectal cancer subscale scores collected by both administrations. Measurement invariance in three items, one from each of the other subscales, may be contaminated by response bias between modes of administration.
PMCID: PMC3731518  PMID: 23054490
Quality of life; FACT-C; Measurement invariance; Confirmatory factor analysis; Colorectal cancer; Mode of administration
12.  The T1048I mutation in ATP7A gene causes an unusual Menkes disease presentation 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:150.
The ATP7A gene encodes the ATP7A protein, which is a trans-Golgi network copper transporter expressed in the brain and other organs. Mutations in this gene cause disorders of copper metabolism, such as Menkes disease. Here we describe the novel and unusual mutation (p.T1048I) in the ATP7A gene of a child with Menkes disease. The mutation affects a conserved DKTGT1048 phosphorylation motif that is involved in the catalytic activity of ATP7A. We also describe the clinical course and the response to copper treatment in this patient.
Case presentation
An 11-month-old male Caucasian infant was studied because of hypotonia, ataxia and global developmental delay. The patient presented low levels of serum copper and ceruloplasmin, and was shown to be hemizygous for the p.T1048I mutation in ATP7A. The diagnosis was confirmed when the patient was 18 months old, and treatment with copper-histidinate (Cu-His) was started immediately. The patient showed some neurological improvement and he is currently 8 years old. Because the p.T1048I mutation affects its catalytic site, we expected a complete loss of functional ATP7A and a classical Menkes disease presentation. However, the clinical course of the patient was mild, and he responded to Cu-His treatment, which suggests that this mutation leads to partial conservation of the activity of ATP7A.
This case emphasizes the important correlation between genotype and phenotype in patients with Menkes disease. The prognosis in Menkes disease is associated with early detection, early initiation of treatment and with the preservation of some ATP7A activity, which is necessary for Cu-His treatment response. The description of this new mutation and the response of the patient to Cu-His treatment will contribute to the growing body of knowledge about treatment response in Menkes disease.
PMCID: PMC3489546  PMID: 22992316
ATP7A; Menkes disease; Copper transporter; Cu-His treatment

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