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1.  Rating general practitioner consultation performance in cancer care: does the specialty of assessors matter? A simulated patient study 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15(1):152.
Patients treated for prostate cancer may present to general practitioners (GPs) for treatment follow up, but may be reticent to have their consultations recorded. Therefore the use of simulated patients allows practitioner consultations to be rated. The aim of this study was to determine whether the speciality of the assessor has an impact on how GP consultation performance is rated.
Six pairs of scenarios were developed for professional actors in two series of consultations by GPs. The scenarios included: chronic radiation proctitis, Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) ‘bounce’, recurrence of cancer, urethral stricture, erectile dysfunction and depression or anxiety. Participating GPs were furnished with the patient’s past medical history, current medication, prostate cancer details and treatment, details of physical examinations. Consultations were video recorded and assessed for quality by two sets of assessors- a team of two GPs and two Radiation Oncologists deploying the Leicester Assessment Package (LAP). LAP scores by the GPs and Radiation Oncologists were compared.
Eight GPs participated. In Series 1 the range of LAP scores by GP assessors was 61%-80%, and 67%-86% for Radiation Oncologist assessors. The range for GP LAP scores in Series 2 was 51%- 82%, and 56%-89% for Radiation Oncologist assessors. Within GP assessor correlations for LAP scores were 0.31 and 0.87 in Series 1 and 2 respectively. Within Radiation Oncologist assessor correlations were 0.50 and 0.72 in Series 1 and 2 respectively. Radiation Oncologist and GP assessor scores were significantly different for 4 doctors and for some scenarios. Anticipatory care was the only domain where GPs scored participants higher than Radiation Oncologist assessors.
The assessment of GP consultation performance is not consistent across assessors from different disciplines even when they deploy the same assessment tool.
PMCID: PMC4176849  PMID: 25218798
Radiation therapy; Prostate cancer; General practitioner; Consultation; Assessment; Side effects
2.  Unmet needs of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): a qualitative study on patients and doctors 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:67.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic disease with repeated exacerbations resulting in gradual debilitation. The quality of life has been shown to be poor in patients with COPD despite efforts to improve self-management. However, the evidence on the benefit of self-management in COPD is conflicting. Whether this could be due to other unmet needs of patients have not been investigated. Therefore, we aimed to explore unmet needs of patients from both patients and doctors managing COPD.
We conducted a qualitative study with doctors and patients in Malaysia. We used convenience sampling to recruit patients until data saturation. Eighteen patients and eighteen doctors consented and were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and checked by the interviewers. Data were analysed using a thematic approach.
The themes were similar for both the patients and doctors. Three main themes emerged: knowledge and awareness of COPD, psychosocial and physical impact of COPD and the utility of self-management. Knowledge about COPD was generally poor. Patients were not familiar with the term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. The word ‘asthma’ was used synonymously with COPD by both patients and doctors. Most patients experienced difficulties in their psychosocial and physical functions such as breathlessness, fear and helplessness. Most patients were not confident in self-managing their illness and prefer a more passive role with doctors directing their care.
In conclusion, our study showed that knowledge of COPD is generally poor. There was mislabelling of COPD as asthma by both patients and physicians. This could have resulted in the lack of understanding of treatment options, outcomes, and prognosis of COPD. The misconception that cough due to COPD was contagious, and breathlessness that resulted from COPD, had important physical and psychosocial impact, and could lead to social isolation. Most patients and physicians did not favour self-management approaches, suggesting innovations based on self-management may be of limited benefit.
PMCID: PMC3996170  PMID: 24739595
COPD; Qualitative; Self-management; Knowledge; Quality of life; Needs
3.  Consultation etiquette in general practice: a qualitative study of what makes it different for lay cancer caregivers 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:110.
It is commonplace for lay caregivers to overlook their own health concerns when supporting someone with advanced cancer. During this time, caregivers' needs as patients are often marginalised by health professionals, including General Practitioners (GPs), who may miss the breadth of caregivers' needs by focusing on the practicalities of caregiving. GPs traditionally rely on patients to raise their concerns, and then respond to these concerns, but caregivers as patients may be disinclined to cue their GP. The norms of engagement when caregivers consult their GP are less defined, and how they interact with their GP regarding their own health is under-explored. This sub-study investigates the norms, assumptions and subtleties which govern caregiver-GP consultations, and explores factors affecting their interaction regarding caregivers' own health concerns.
We conducted semi-structured interviews with six lay caregivers and 19 health professionals in Brisbane, Australia, and analyzed the interview transcripts thematically.
Traditional norms of engagement are subjected to assumptions and expectations which caregivers and GPs bring to the consultation. Practice pressures also influence both parties' capacity and willingness to discuss caregivers' health. Nonetheless, some GPs monitor caregivers' health opportunistically. Their interaction is enhanced by the quality of the caregiver-GP relationship and by the GP's skills.
Caregivers are caught in a paradox whereby their health needs may become subsumed by the care recipient's needs in a setting where patient needs are normally scrutinised and supported. Caregivers may not raise their health concerns with their GP, who instead may need to cue them that it is timely and safe to do so. The routine use of a prompt may help to address caregivers' needs systematically, but it needs to be complemented by GPs' desire and capacity to engage with patients in a caregiving role. The potential difference GPs can make to the health of these patients is substantial.
PMCID: PMC3198678  PMID: 21970440
4.  Does smoking status affect the likelihood of consulting a doctor about respiratory symptoms? A pilot survey in Western Australia 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:16.
Smokers attribute respiratory symptoms, even when severe, to everyday causes and not as indicative of ill-health warranting medical attention. The aim of this pilot study was to conduct a structured vignette survey of people attending general practice to determine when they would advise a person with respiratory symptoms to consult a medical practitioner. Particular reference was made to smoking status and lung cancer.
Participants were recruited from two general practices in Western Australia. Respondents were invited to complete self-administered questionnaires containing nine vignettes chosen at random from a pool of sixty four vignettes, based on six clinical variables. Twenty eight vignettes described cases with at least 5% risk of cancer. For analysis these were dubbed 'cancer vignettes'. Respondents were asked if they would advise a significant other to consult a doctor with their respiratory symptoms. Logistic regression and non-parametric tests were used to analyse the data.
Three hundred questionnaires were distributed and one hundred and forty completed responses were collected over six weeks. The majority (70.3%) of respondents were female aged forty and older. A history of six weeks' of symptoms, weight loss, cough and breathlessness independently increased the odds of recommending a consultation with a medical practitioner by a factor of 11.8, 2.11, 1.40 and 4.77 respectively. A history of smoking independently increased the odds of the person being thought 'likely' or 'very likely' to have cancer by a factor of 2.46. However only 32% of cancer vignettes with a history of cigarette smoking were recognised as presentations of possible cancer.
Even though a history of cigarette smoking was more likely to lead to the suggestion that a symptomatic person may have cancer we did not confirm that smokers would be more likely to be advised to consult a doctor, even when presenting with common symptoms of lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC2652431  PMID: 19220917
5.  Referring patients to specialists: A structured vignette survey of Australian and British GPs 
In Australia and in the United Kingdom (UK) access to specialists is sanctioned by General Practitioners (GPs). It is important to understand how practitioners determine which patients warrant referral.
A self-administered structured vignette postal survey of General Practitioners in Western Australia and the United Kingdom. Sixty-four vignettes describing patients with colorectal symptoms were constructed encompassing six clinical details. Nine vignettes, chosen at random, were presented to each individual. Respondents were asked if they would refer the patient to a specialist and how urgently. Logistic regression and parametric tests were used to analyse the data
We received 260 completed questionnaires. 58% of 'cancer vignettes' were selected for 'urgent' referral. 1632/2367 or 69% of all vignettes were selected for referral. After adjusting for clustering the model suggests that 38.4% of the variability is explained by all the clinical variables as well as the age and experience of the respondents. 1012 or 42.8 % of vignettes were referred 'urgently'. After adjusting for clustering the data suggests that 31.3 % of the variability is explained by the model. The age of the respondents, the location of the practice and all the clinical variables were significant in the decision to refer urgently.
GPs' referral decisions for patients with lower bowel symptoms are similar in the two countries. We question the wisdom of streaming referrals from primary care without a strong evidence base and an effective intervention for implementing guidelines. We conclude that implementation must take into account the profile of patients but also the characteristics of GPs and referral policies.
PMCID: PMC2262087  PMID: 18194578
6.  Factors influencing the speed of cancer diagnosis in rural Western Australia: a General Practice perspective 
BMC Family Practice  2007;8:27.
The speed of diagnosis impacts on prognosis and survival in all types of cancer. In most cases survival and prognosis are significantly worse in rural and remote Australian populations who have less access to diagnostic and therapeutic services than metropolitan communities in this country. Research suggests that in general delays in diagnosis were a factor of misdiagnosis, the confounding effect of existing conditions and delayed or misleading investigation of symptoms. The aim of this study is to further explore the factors that impact on the speed of diagnosis in rural Western Australia with direct reference to General Practitioners (GPs) working in this setting.
The methodology consisted of a structured discussion of specific cases. GPs based in two rural locations in Western Australia were asked to identify up to eight clinical cases for discussion. A diversity of cases was requested encompassing those with timely and delayed diagnosis of cancer. Focus groups were held with the practitioners to identify which factors under six headings delayed or facilitated the diagnosis in each case. A structured summary of the discussion was relayed to a wider group of GPs to seek additional views or comments on specific factors that impact on the speed of cancer diagnosis in rural and remote locations in Australia.
A number of factors affecting the speed of diagnosis were identified: the demographic shift towards a frailer and older population, presenting with multiple and complex diseases, increases the challenge to identify early cancer symptoms; seasonal and demanding work patterns leading to procrastination in presenting for medical care; unhelpful scheduling of specialist appointments; and the varying impact of informal networks and social relationships.
Within the limitations of this study we have generated a number of hypotheses that require formal evaluation: (1) GPs working within informal professional and social networks are better informed about their patients' health needs and have an advantage in making early diagnosis; (2) Despite the other differences in the population characteristics decentralising services would improve the prospect for timely diagnosis; and (3) Careful coordination of specialist appointments would improve the speed of diagnosis for rural patients.
PMCID: PMC1868737  PMID: 17480219
7.  Implementing referral guidelines: lessons from a negative outcome cluster randomised factorial trial in general practice 
BMC Family Practice  2006;7:65.
Few patients with lower bowel symptoms who consult their general practitioner need a specialist opinion. However data from referred patients suggest that those who are referred would benefit from detailed assessment before referral.
A cluster randomised factorial trial. 44 general practices in North Trent, UK. Practices were offered either an electronic interactive referral pro forma, an educational outreach visit by a local colorectal surgeon, both or neither. The main outcome measure was the proportion of cases with severe diverticular disease, cancer or precancerous lesions and inflammatory bowel disease in those referred by each group. A secondary outcome was a referral letter quality score. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to identify key themes relating to the use of the software
From 150 invitations, 44 practices were recruited with a total list size of 265,707. There were 716 consecutive referrals recorded over a six-month period, for which a diagnosis was available for 514. In the combined software arms 14% (37/261) had significant pathology, compared with 19% (49/253) in the non-software arms, relative risk 0.73 (95% CI: 0.46 to 1.15). In the combined educational outreach arms 15% (38/258) had significant pathology compared with 19% (48/256) in the non-educational arms, relative risk 0.79 (95% CI: 0.50 to 1.24). Pro forma practices documented better assessment of patients at referral.
There was a lack of evidence that either intervention increased the proportion of patients with organic pathology among those referred. The interactive software did improve the amount of information relayed in referral letters although we were unable to confirm if this made a significant difference to patients or their health care providers. The potential value of either intervention may have been diminished by their limited uptake within the context of a cluster randomised clinical trial. A number of lessons were learned in this trial of novel innovations.
PMCID: PMC1635053  PMID: 17078894

Results 1-7 (7)