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1.  Family physicians’ diagnostic gut feelings are measurable: construct validation of a questionnaire 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:1.
Background
Family physicians perceive that gut feelings, i.e. a ‘sense of reassurance’ or a ‘sense of alarm’, play a substantial role in diagnostic reasoning. A measuring instrument is desirable for further research. Our objective is to validate a questionnaire measuring the presence of gut feelings in diagnostic reasoning.
Methods
We constructed 16 case vignettes from real practice situations and used the accompanying ‘sense of reassurance’ or the ‘sense of alarm’ as reference labels. Based on the results of an initial study (26 family physicians), we divided the case vignettes into a group involving a clear role for the sense of reassurance or the sense of alarm and a group involving an ambiguous role. 49 experienced family physicians evaluated each 10 vignettes using the questionnaire. Construct validity was assessed by testing hypotheses and an internal consistency procedure was performed.
Results
As hypothesized we found that the correlations between the reference labels and corresponding items were high for the clear-case vignettes (0.59 – 0.72) and low for the ambiguous-case vignettes (0.08 – 0.23). The agreement between the classification in clear sense of reassurance, clear sense of alarm and ambiguous case vignettes as derived from the initial study and the study population’s judgments was substantial (Kappa = 0.62). Factor analysis showed one factor with opposites for sense of reassurance and sense of alarm items. The questionnaire’s internal consistency was high (0.91). We provided a linguistic validated English-language text of the questionnaire.
Conclusions
The questionnaire appears to be valid. It enables quantitative research into the role of gut feelings and their diagnostic value in family physicians’ diagnostic reasoning.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-14-1
PMCID: PMC3565882  PMID: 23281961
Gut feelings; Family medicine; General practitioners; Diagnostic reasoning; Questionnaire; Construct validation; Medical decision-making; Medical problem-solving; Intuition; Clinical reasoning
2.  Clinical prediction rules combining signs, symptoms and epidemiological context to distinguish influenza from influenza-like illnesses in primary care: a cross sectional study 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:4.
Background
During an influenza epidemic prompt diagnosis of influenza is important. This diagnosis however is still essentially based on the interpretation of symptoms and signs by general practitioners. No single symptom is specific enough to be useful in differentiating influenza from other respiratory infections. Our objective is to formulate prediction rules for the diagnosis of influenza with the best diagnostic performance, combining symptoms, signs and context among patients with influenza-like illness.
Methods
During five consecutive winter periods (2002-2007) 138 sentinel general practitioners sampled (naso- and oropharyngeal swabs) 4597 patients with an influenza-like illness (ILI) and registered their symptoms and signs, general characteristics and contextual information. The samples were analysed by a DirectigenFlu-A&B and RT-PCR tests. 4584 records were useful for further analysis.
Starting from the most relevant variables in a Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE) model, we calculated the area under the Receiver Operating Characteristic curve (ROC AUC), sensitivity, specificity and likelihood ratios for positive (LR+) and negative test results (LR-) of single and combined signs, symptoms and context taking into account pre-test and post-test odds.
Results
In total 52.6% (2409/4584) of the samples were positive for influenza virus: 64% (2066/3212) during and 25% (343/1372) pre/post an influenza epidemic. During and pre/post an influenza epidemic the LR+ of 'previous flu-like contacts', 'coughing', 'expectoration on the first day of illness' and 'body temperature above 37.8°C' is 3.35 (95%CI 2.67-4.03) and 1.34 (95%CI 0.97-1.72), respectively. During and pre/post an influenza epidemic the LR- of 'coughing' and 'a body temperature above 37.8°C' is 0.34 (95%CI 0.27-0.41) and 0.07 (95%CI 0.05-0.08), respectively.
Conclusions
Ruling out influenza using clinical and contextual information is easier than ruling it in. Outside an influenza epidemic the absence of cough and fever (> 37,8°C) makes influenza 14 times less likely in ILI patients. During an epidemic the presence of 'previous flu-like contacts', cough, 'expectoration on the first day of illness' and fever (>37,8°C) increases the likelihood for influenza threefold. The additional diagnostic value of rapid point of care tests especially for confirming influenza still has to be established.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-4
PMCID: PMC3045895  PMID: 21306610
3.  Out of hours care: a profile analysis of patients attending the emergency department and the general practitioner on call 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:88.
Background
Overuse of emergency departments (ED) is of concern in Western society and it is often referred to as 'inappropriate' use. This phenomenon may compromise efficient use of health care personnel, infrastructure and financial resources of the ED. To redirect patients, an extensive knowledge of the experiences and attitudes of patients and their choice behaviour is necessary. The aim of this study is to quantify the patients and socio-economical determinants for choosing the general practitioner (GP) on call or the ED.
Methods
Data collection was conducted simultaneously in 4 large cities in Belgium. All patients who visited EDs or used the services of the GP on call during two weekends in January 2005 were enrolled in the study in a prospective manner. We used semi-structured questionnaires to interview patients from both services.
Results
1611 patient contacts were suitable for further analysis. 640 patients visited the GP and 971 went to the ED. Determinants that associated with the choice of the ED are: being male, having visited the ED during the past 12 months at least once, speaking another language than Dutch or French, being of African (sub-Saharan as well as North African) nationality and no medical insurance. We also found that young men are more likely to seek help at the ED for minor trauma, compared to women.
Conclusions
Patients tend to seek help at the service they are acquainted with. Two populations that distinctively seek help at the ED for minor medical problems are people of foreign origin and men suffering minor trauma. Aiming at a redirection of patients, special attention should go to these patients. Informing them about the health services' specific tasks and the needlessness of technical examinations for minor trauma, might be a useful intervention.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-88
PMCID: PMC2998456  PMID: 21078162
4.  Consensus on gut feelings in general practice 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:66.
Background
General practitioners sometimes base clinical decisions on gut feelings alone, even though there is little evidence of their diagnostic and prognostic value in daily practice. Research to validate the determinants and to assess the test properties of gut feelings requires precise and valid descriptions of gut feelings in general practice which can be used as a reliable measuring instrument. Research question: Can we obtain consensus on descriptions of two types of gut feelings: a sense of alarm and a sense of reassurance?
Methods
Qualitative research including a Delphi consensus procedure with a heterogeneous sample of 27 Dutch and Belgian GPs or ex-GPs involved in academic educational or research programmes.
Results
After four rounds, we found 70% or greater agreement on seven of the eleven proposed statements. A "sense of alarm" is defined as an uneasy feeling perceived by a GP as he/she is concerned about a possible adverse outcome, even though specific indications are lacking: There's something wrong here. This activates the diagnostic process by stimulating the GP to formulate and weigh up working hypotheses that might involve a serious outcome. A "sense of alarm" means that, if possible, the GP needs to initiate specific management to prevent serious health problems. A "sense of reassurance" is defined as a secure feeling perceived by a GP about the further management and course of a patient's problem, even though the doctor may not be certain about the diagnosis: Everything fits in.
Conclusion
The sense of alarm and the sense of reassurance are well-defined concepts. These descriptions enable us to operationalise the concept of gut feelings in further research.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-66
PMCID: PMC2754436  PMID: 19761589
5.  The diagnostic role of gut feelings in general practice A focus group study of the concept and its determinants 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:17.
Background
General practitioners sometimes base clinical decisions on gut feelings alone, even though there is little evidence of their diagnostic and prognostic value in daily practice. Research into these aspects and the use of the concept in medical education require a practical and valid description of gut feelings. The goal of our study was therefore to describe the concept of gut feelings in general practice and to identify their main determinants
Methods
Qualitative research including 4 focus group discussions. A heterogeneous sample of 28 GPs. Text analysis of the focus group discussions, using a grounded theory approach.
Results
Gut feelings are familiar to most GPs in the Netherlands and play a substantial role in their everyday routine. The participants distinguished two types of gut feelings, a sense of reassurance and a sense of alarm. In the former case, a GP is sure about prognosis and therapy, although they may not always have a clear diagnosis in mind. A sense of alarm means that a GP has the feeling that something is wrong even though objective arguments are lacking. GPs in the focus groups experienced gut feelings as a compass in situations of uncertainty and the majority of GPs trusted this guide. We identified the main determinants of gut feelings: fitting, alerting and interfering factors, sensation, contextual knowledge, medical education, experience and personality.
Conclusion
The role of gut feelings in general practice has become much clearer, but we need more research into the contributions of individual determinants and into the test properties of gut feelings to make the concept suitable for medical education.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-17
PMCID: PMC2649045  PMID: 19226455
6.  GPs' perspectives of type 2 diabetes patients' adherence to treatment: A qualitative analysis of barriers and solutions 
BMC Family Practice  2005;6:20.
Background
The problem of poor compliance/adherence to prescribed treatments is very complex. Health professionals are rarely being asked how they handle the patient's (poor) therapy compliance/adherence. In this study, we examine explicitly the physicians' expectations of their diabetes patients' compliance/adherence. The objectives of our study were: (1) to elicit problems physicians encounter with type 2 diabetes patients' adherence to treatment recommendations; (2) to search for solutions and (3) to discover escape mechanisms in case of frustration.
Methods
In a descriptive qualitative study, we explored the thoughts and feelings of general practitioners (GPs) on patients' compliance/adherence. Forty interested GPs could be recruited for focus group participation. Five open ended questions were derived on the one hand from a similar qualitative study on compliance/adherence in patients living with type 2 diabetes and on the other hand from the results of a comprehensive review of recent literature on compliance/adherence. A well-trained diabetes nurse guided the GPs through the focus group sessions while an observer was attentive for non-verbal communication and interactions between participants. All focus groups were audio taped and transcribed for content analysis. Two researchers independently performed the initial coding. A first draft with results was sent to all participants for agreement on content and comprehensiveness.
Results
General practitioners experience problems with the patient's deficient knowledge and the fact they minimize the consequences of having and living with diabetes. It appears that great confidence in modern medical science does not stimulate many changes in life style. Doctors tend to be frustrated because their patients do not achieve the common Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) objectives, i.e. on health behavior and metabolic control. Relevant solutions, derived from qualitative studies, for better compliance/adherence seem to be communication, tailored and shared care. GPs felt that a structured consultation and follow-up in a multidisciplinary team might help to increase compliance/adherence. It was recognized that the GP's efforts do not always meet the patients' health expectations. This initiates GPs' frustration and leads to a paternalistic attitude, which may induce anxiety in the patient. GPs often assume that the best methods to increase compliance/adherence are shocking the patients, putting pressure on them and threatening to refer them to hospital.
Conclusion
GPs identified a number of problems with compliance/adherence and suggested solutions to improve it. GPs need communication skills to cope with patients' expectations and evidence based goals in a tailored approach to diabetes care.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-6-20
PMCID: PMC1156882  PMID: 15890071
7.  Antibiotics for coughing in general practice: a questionnaire study to quantify and condense the reasons for prescribing 
BMC Family Practice  2002;3:16.
Background
Antibiotics are being overprescribed in ambulant care, especially for respiratory tract infections (RTIs). Gaining insight into the actual reasons for prescribing remains important for the design of effective strategies to optimise antibiotic prescribing. We aimed to determine items of importance for the antibiotic prescribing decision and to make them operational for an intervention trial.
Methods
A postal questionnaire based upon focus group findings was sent to 316 Flemish general practitioners (GPs). On a verbal rating scale the GPs scored to what extent they consider the questionnaire items in decision making in case of suspected RTI in a coughing patient and how strongly the items support or counter antibiotic treatment. Factor analysis was used to condense the data. The relative importance of the yielded operational factors was assessed using Wilcoxon Matched Pairs test.
Results
59.5% completed the study. Response group characteristics (mean age: 42.8 years; 65.9% men) approximated that of all Flemish GPs. Participants considered all the items included in the questionnaire: always the operational factor 'lung auscultation', often 'whether or not there is something unusual happening' – both medical reasons – and to a lesser extent 'non-medical reasons' (P < 0.001). Non-medical as well as medical reasons support antibiotic treatment, but non-medical reasons to a lesser extent (P < 0.001).
Conclusion
This study quantified, condensed and confirmed the findings of previous focus group research. Practice guidelines and interventions to optimise antibiotic prescribing have to take non-medical reasons into account.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-3-16
PMCID: PMC126270  PMID: 12217080

Results 1-7 (7)