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1.  Age- and gender-related prevalence of multimorbidity in primary care: the swiss fire project 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:113.
Background
General practitioners often care for patients with several concurrent chronic medical conditions (multimorbidity). Recent data suggest that multimorbidity might be observed more often than isolated diseases in primary care. We explored the age- and gender-related prevalence of multimorbidity and compared these estimates to the prevalence estimates of other common specific diseases found in Swiss primary care.
Methods
We analyzed data from the Swiss FIRE (Family Medicine ICPC Research using Electronic Medical Record) project database, representing a total of 509,656 primary care encounters in 98,152 adult patients between January 1, 2009 and July 31, 2011. For each encounter, medical problems were encoded using the second version of the International Classification of primary Care (ICPC-2). We defined chronic health conditions using 147 pre-specified ICPC-2 codes and defined multimorbidity as 1) two or more chronic health conditions from different ICPC-2 rubrics, 2) two or more chronic health conditions from different ICPC-2 chapters, and 3) two or more medical specialties involved in patient care. We compared the prevalence estimates of multimorbidity defined by the three methodologies with the prevalence estimates of common diseases encountered in primary care.
Results
Overall, the prevalence estimates of multimorbidity were similar for the three different definitions (15% [95%CI 11-18%], 13% [95%CI 10-16%], and 14% [95%CI 11-17%], respectively), and were higher than the prevalence estimates of any specific chronic health condition (hypertension, uncomplicated 9% [95%CI 7-11%], back syndrome with and without radiating pain 6% [95%CI 5-7%], non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus 3% [95%CI 3-4%]), and degenerative joint disease 3% [95%CI 2%-4%]). The prevalence estimates of multimorbidity rose more than 20-fold with age, from 2% (95%CI 1-2%) in those aged 20–29 years, to 38% (95%CI 31-44%) in those aged 80 or more years. The prevalence estimates of multimorbidity were similar for men and women (15% vs. 14%, p=0.288).
Conclusions
In primary care, prevalence estimates of multimorbidity are higher than those of isolated diseases. Among the elderly, more than one out of three patients suffer from multimorbidity. Management of multimorbidity is a principal concern in this vulnerable patient population.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-113
PMCID: PMC3557138  PMID: 23181753
Multimorbidity; Chronic medical conditions; Prevalence; Primary care; Age; Gender; Swiss; FIRE
2.  Obesity management and continuing medical education in primary care: results of a Swiss survey 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:140.
Background
The worldwide increase in obesity is becoming a major health concern. General practitioners (GPs) play a central role in managing obesity. We aimed to examine Swiss GPs self-reported practice in diagnosis and treatment of obesity with a special focus on the performance of waist measurement.
Methods
A structured self-reported questionnaire was mailed to 323 GPs recruited from four urban physician networks in Switzerland. Measures included professional experience, type of practice, obesity-related continuing medical education (CME) and practice in dealing with obesity such as waist measurement. We assessed the association between the performance of waist measurement and obesity-related CME by multivariate ordered logistic regression controlling for GP characteristics as potential confounders.
Results
A total of 187 GPs responded to the questionnaire. More than half of the GPs felt confident in managing obesity. The majority of the GPs (73%) spent less than 4 days in the last 5 years on obesity-related CME. More than half of GPs gave advice to reduce energy intakes (64%), intakes of high caloric and alcoholic drinks (56%) and to increase the physical activity (78%). Half of the GPs seldom performed waist measurement and documentation. The frequency of obesity-related CME was independently associated with the performance of waist measurement when controlled for GPs' characteristics by multivariate ordered logistic regression.
Conclusions
The majority of GPs followed guideline recommendations promoting physical activity and dietary counselling. We observed a gap between the increasing evidence for waist circumference assessment as an important measure in obesity management and actual clinical practice. Our data indicated that specific obesity-related CME might help to reduce this gap.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-140
PMCID: PMC3268101  PMID: 22192159
3.  How do family physicians communicate about cardiovascular risk? Frequencies and determinants of different communication formats 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:15.
Background
Patients understand information about risk better if it is communicated in numerical or visual formats (e.g. graphs) compared to verbal qualifiers only. How frequently different communication formats are used in clinical primary care settings is unknown.
Methods
We collected socioeconomic and patient understanding data using questionnaires and audio-recorded consultations about cardiovascular disease risk. The frequencies of the communication formats were calculated and multivariate regression analysis of associations between communication formats, patient and general practitioner characteristics, and patient subjective understanding was performed.
Results
In 73% of 70 consultations, verbal qualifiers were used exclusively to communicate cardiovascular risk, compared to numerical (11%) and visual (16%) formats. Female GPs and female patient's gender were significantly associated with a higher use of verbal formats compared to visual formats (p = 0.001 and p = 0.039, respectively). Patient subjective understanding was significantly higher in visual counseling compared to verbal counseling (p = 0.001).
Conclusions
Verbal qualifiers are the most often used communication format, though recommendations favor numerical and visual formats, with visual formats resulting in better understanding than others. Also, gender is associated with the choice of communication format. Barriers against numerical and visual communication formats among GPs and patients should be studied, including gender aspects. Adequate risk communication should be integrated into physicians' education.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-15
PMCID: PMC3080293  PMID: 21466686
risk communication; risk formats; cardiovascular risk factors; cardiovascular disease; primary care
4.  The use of pure and impure placebo interventions in primary care - a qualitative approach 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:11.
Background
Placebos play an important role in clinical trials and several surveys have shown that they are also common in daily practice. Previous research focused primarily on the frequency of placebo use in outpatient care. Our aim was to explore physicians' views on the use of placebos in daily practice, whereby distinction was made between pure placebos (substances with no pharmacological effect, e.g. sugar pills) and impure placebos (substances with pharmacological effect but not on the condition being treated, e.g. antibiotics in viral infections or vitamins).
Methods
We performed semi-structured interviews with a sample of twelve primary care physicians (PCPs). The interview addressed individual definitions of a placebo, attitudes towards placebos and the participants' reasons for prescribing them. The interviews were transcribed and analysed using qualitative content analysis.
Results
The definition of a placebo given by the majority of the PCPs in our study was one which actually only describes pure placebos. This definition, combined with the fact that most impure placebos were not regarded as placebos at all, means that most of the participating PCPs were not aware of the extent to which placebos are used in daily practice. The PCPs stated that they use placebos (both pure and impure) mainly in the case of non-severe diseases for which there was often no satisfactory somatic explanation. According to the PCPs, cases like this are often treated by complementary and alternative therapies and these, too, are associated with placebo effects. However, all PCPs felt that the ethical aspects of such treatment were unclear and they were unsure as to how to communicate the use of placebos to their patients. Most of them would appreciate ethical guidelines on how to deal with this issue.
Conclusions
Many PCPs seem to be unaware that some of the drugs they prescribe are classified as impure placebos. Perceptions of effectiveness and doubts about the legal and ethical aspects of the use of placebos by PCPs may discourage their application. Dissemination of guidelines and consensus papers may be one approach, but it has to be acknowledged that the topic itself is in conflict with the PCPs' perception of themselves as professional and reliable physicians.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-11
PMCID: PMC3068943  PMID: 21435197
5.  The provision of out-of-hours care and associated costs in an urban area of Switzerland: a cost description study 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:99.
Background
In Switzerland, General Practitioners (GPs) play an important role for out-of-hours emergency care as one service option beside freely accessible and costly emergency departments of hospitals. The aim of this study was to evaluate the services provided and the economic consequences of a Swiss GP out-of-hours service.
Methods
GPs participating in the out-of-hours service in the city of Zurich collected data on medical problems (ICPC coding), mode of contact, mode of resource use and services provided (time units; diagnostics; treatments). From a health care insurance perspective, we assessed the association between total costs and its two components (basic costs: charges for time units and emergency surcharge; individual costs: charges for clinical examination, diagnostics and treatment in the discretion of the GP).
Results
125 GPs collected data on 685 patient contacts. The most prevalent health problems were of respiratory (24%), musculoskeletal (13%) and digestive origin (12%). Home visits (61%) were the most common contact mode, followed by practice (25%) and telephone contacts (14%). 82% of patients could be treated by ambulatory care. In 20% of patients additional technical diagnostics, most often laboratory tests, were used. The mean total costs for one emergency patient contact were €144 (95%-CI: 137-151). The mode of contact was an important determinant of total costs (mean total costs for home visits: €176 [95%-CI: 168-184]; practice contact: €90 [95%-CI: 84-98]; telephone contact: €48 [95%-CI: 40-55]). Basic costs contributed 83% of total costs for home visits and 70% of total costs for practice contacts. Individual mean costs were similarly low for home visits (€30) and practice contacts (€27). Medical problems had no relevant influence on this cost pattern.
Conclusions
GPs managed most emergency demand in their out-of-hours service by ambulatory care. They applied little diagnostic testing and basic care. Our findings are of relevance for policy makers even from other countries with different pricing policies. Policy makers should be interested in a reimbursement system promoting out-of-hours care run by GPs as one valuable service option.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-99
PMCID: PMC3013078  PMID: 21171989
6.  How can the practice nurse be more involved in the care of the chronically ill? The perspectives of GPs, patients and practice nurses 
BMC Family Practice  2006;7:14.
Background
A well established "midlevel" of patient care, such as nurse practitioners and/or physician assistants, exits in many countries like the US, Canada, and Australia.
In Germany, however there is only one kind of profession assisting the physician in practices, the practice nurse. Little is known about the present involvement of practice nurses in patients' care in Germany and about the attitudes of GPs, assistants and patients concerning an increased involvement. The aim of our study was to get qualitative information on the extent to which practice nurses are currently involved in the treatment of patients and about possibilities of increased involvement as well as on barriers of increased involvement.
Methods
We performed qualitative, semi-structured interviews with 20 GPs, 20 practice nurses and 20 patients in the Heidelberg area. The interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed and content-analysed with ATLAS.ti.
Results
Practice nurses are only marginally involved in the treatment of patients. GPs as well as patients were very sceptical about increased involvement in care. Patients were sceptical about nurses' professional background and feared a worsening of the patient doctor relationship. GPs also complained about the nurses' deficient education concerning medical knowledge. They feared a lack of time as well as a missing reimbursement for the efforts of an increased involvement. Practice nurses were mostly willing to be more involved, regarding it as an appreciation of their role. Important barriers were lack of time, overload with administrative work, and a lack of professional knowledge.
Conclusion
Practice nurses were only little involved in patient care. GPs were more sceptical than patients regarding an increased involvement. One possible area, accepted by all interviewed groups, was patient education as for instance dietary counselling. New treatment approaches as the chronic care model will require a team approach which currently only marginally exists in the German health care system. Better medical education of practice nurses is indispensable, but GPs also have to accept that they cannot fulfil the requirement of future care alone.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-7-14
PMCID: PMC1475585  PMID: 16515692
7.  Physicians perceived usefulness of high-cost diagnostic imaging studies: results of a referral study in a German medical quality network 
BMC Family Practice  2005;6:22.
Background
Medical and technological progress has led to increased numbers of diagnostic tests, some of them inducing high financial costs. In Germany, high-cost diagnostic imaging is performed by a medical specialist after referral by a general practitioner (GP) or specialist in primary care. The aim of this study was to evaluate the physicians' perceived usefulness of high-cost diagnostic imaging in patients with different clinical conditions.
Methods
Thirty-four GPs, one neurologist and one orthopaedic specialist in ambulatory care from a Medical Quality Network documented 234 referrals concerning 97 MRIs, 96 CTs-scan and 41 intracardiac catheters in a three month period. After having received the test results, they indicated if these were useful for diagnosis and treatment of the patient.
Results
The physicians' perceived usefulness of tests was lowest in suspected cerebral disease (40% of test results were seen as useful), cervical spine problems (64%) and unexplained abdominal complaints (67%). The perceived usefulness was highest in musculoskeletal symptoms (94%) and second best in cardiological diseases (82%).
Conclusion
The perceived usefulness of high-cost diagnostic imaging was lower in unexplained complaints than in specific diseases. Interventions to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of test ordering should focus on clinical decision making in conditions where GPs perceived low usefulness.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-6-22
PMCID: PMC1174867  PMID: 15941483
8.  General practitioners' attitudes towards research in primary care: qualitative results of a cross sectional study 
BMC Family Practice  2004;5:31.
Background
Research in General Practice requires the participation of General practitioners (GPs). In Germany there is little tradition of research in this field, and GPs are not used to be participants in research. Little is known about German GPs attitudes towards research. Therefore the aim of our study was to assess the willingness of German General Practitioners to participate in primary care research and their attitude towards research in general practice. The results should enable a more successful approach to GPs in further studies.
Methods
Cross sectional study using semi-structured interviews with a random sample of 76 General Practitioners who participate in the teaching of medical students at the University of Heidelberg.
Results
Despite little experience, over 85 % of GPs appreciated research in their field. Important reasons for scepticism about research were the gap between theoretical research and practical work of GPs and the domination of research by specialists. Main barriers for participation are clinical workload, administrative overload and the newly introduced Disease Management Programs. The highest motivation for GPs to participate in research emanates from the will to substantiate their quality of care with solid research data.
Conclusions
Financial incentives and personal support e.g. with study nurses are certainly necessary to establish a research culture and to overcome main barriers against participation. The most successful approach to motivate GPs to participate is to convince them that research documents their quality of care. This data may reflect the facts on which the financial resources are provided in the future health care system.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-5-31
PMCID: PMC545488  PMID: 15613246

Results 1-8 (8)