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1.  Prescription of antibiotics and anxiolytics/hypnotics to asthmatic patients in general practice: a cross-sectional study based on French and Italian prescribing data 
BMC Family Practice  2015;16:14.
Asthma is often poorly controlled and guidelines are often inadequately followed in medical practice. In particular, the prescription of non-asthma-specific drugs can affect the quality of care. The goal of this study was to measure the frequency of the prescription of antibiotics and anxiolytics/hypnotics to asthmatic patients and to look for associations between sex or age and the prescription of these drugs.
A cross-sectional study was conducted using computerised medical records from French and Italian general practitioners’ networks. Patients were selected according to criteria adapted from the HEDIS (Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set) criteria. The outcome measure was the number of antibiotics or anxiolytics/hypnotics prescriptions per patient in 1 year. Parallel multivariate models were developed.
The final sample included 3,093 French patients (mean age 27.6 years, 49.7% women) and 3,872 Italian patients (mean age 29.1 years, 48.7% women). In the univariate analysis, the French patients were prescribed fewer antibiotics than the Italian patients (37.1% vs. 42.2%, p < 0.00001) but more anxiolytics/hypnotics (17.8% vs. 6.9%, p < 0.0001). In the multivariate models, the female patients were more likely to receive antibiotics (odds ratio: 1.5 [1.3–1.7]) and anxiolytics/hypnotics (odds ratio: 1.8 [1.5–2.1]).
The prescription of antibiotics and anxiolytics/hypnotics to asthmatic patients is frequent, especially in women. Asthma guidelines should address this issue by referring to other guidelines covering the prescription of non-asthma-specific drugs, and alternative non-pharmacological interventions should be considered.
PMCID: PMC4326444  PMID: 25655671
Asthma; Antibiotics; Anxiolytics; Hypnotics; Drug prescription; Primary care
2.  Generalist solutions to complex problems: generating practice-based evidence - the example of managing multi-morbidity 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:112.
A growing proportion of people are living with long term conditions. The majority have more than one. Dealing with multi-morbidity is a complex problem for health systems: for those designing and implementing healthcare as well as for those providing the evidence informing practice. Yet the concept of multi-morbidity (the presence of >2 diseases) is a product of the design of health care systems which define health care need on the basis of disease status. So does the solution lie in an alternative model of healthcare?
Strengthening generalist practice has been proposed as part of the solution to tackling multi-morbidity. Generalism is a professional philosophy of practice, deeply known to many practitioners, and described as expertise in whole person medicine. But generalism lacks the evidence base needed by policy makers and planners to support service redesign. The challenge is to fill this practice-research gap in order to critically explore if and when generalist care offers a robust alternative to management of this complex problem.
We need practice-based evidence to fill this gap. By recognising generalist practice as a ‘complex intervention’ (intervening in a complex system), we outline an approach to evaluate impact using action-research principles. We highlight the implications for those who both commission and undertake research in order to tackle this problem.
Answers to the complex problem of multi-morbidity won’t come from doing more of the same. We need to change systems of care, and so the systems for generating evidence to support that care. This paper contributes to that work through outlining a process for generating practice-based evidence of generalist solutions to the complex problem of person-centred care for people with multi-morbidity.
PMCID: PMC3750615  PMID: 23919296
Generalism; Primary care; Action research; Multimorbidity
3.  Context factors in general practitioner - patient encounters and their impact on assessing communication skills - an exploratory study 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:65.
Assessment of medical communication performance usually focuses on rating generically applicable, well-defined communication skills. However, in daily practice, communication is determined by (specific) context factors, such as acquaintance with the patient, or the presented problem. Merely valuing the presence of generic skills may not do justice to the doctor’s proficiency.
Our aim was to perform an exploratory study on how assessment of general practitioner (GP) communication performance changes if context factors are explicitly taken into account.
We used a mixed method design to explore how ratings would change. A random sample of 40 everyday GP consultations was used to see if previously identified context factors could be observed again. The sample was rated twice using a widely used assessment instrument (the MAAS-Global), first in the standard way and secondly after context factors were explicitly taken into account, by using a context-specific rating protocol to assess communication performance in the workplace. In between first and second rating, the presence of context factors was established. Item score differences were calculated using paired sample t-tests.
In 38 out of 40 consultations, context factors prompted application of the context-specific rating protocol. Mean overall score on the 7-point MAAS-Global scale increased from 2.98 in standard to 3.66 in the context-specific rating (p < 0.00); the effect size for the total mean score was 0.84. In earlier research the minimum standard score for adequate communication was set at 3.17.
Applying the protocol, the mean overall score rose above the level set in an earlier study for the MAAS-Global scores to represent ‘adequate GP communication behaviour’. Our findings indicate that incorporating context factors in communication assessment thus makes a meaningful difference and shows that context factors should be considered as ‘signal’ instead of ‘noise’ in GP communication assessment. Explicating context factors leads to a more deliberate and transparent rating of GP communication performance.
PMCID: PMC3688246  PMID: 23697479
Communication and Interviewing skills; Continuing Medical Education; Graduate Medical Education; Assessment of Learner Performance
4.  Prescribing ANtiDepressants Appropriately (PANDA): a cluster randomized controlled trial in primary care 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:6.
Inappropriate use of antidepressants (AD), defined as either continuation in the absence of a proper indication or continuation despite the lack of therapeutic efficacy, applies to approximately half of all long term AD users.
We have designed a cluster randomized controlled clinical trial to assess the (cost-) effectiveness of an antidepressant cessation advice in the absence of a proper indication for maintenance treatment with antidepressants in primary care.
We will select all patients using antidepressants for over 9 months from 45 general practices. Patients will be diagnosed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) version 3.0, extended with questions about the psychiatric history and previous treatment strategies. General practices will be randomized to either the intervention or the control group. In case of overtreatment, defined as the absence of a proper indication according to current guidelines, a cessation advice is given to the general practitioner. In the control groups no specific information is given. The primary outcome measure will be the proportion of patients that successfully discontinue their antidepressants at one-year follow-up. Secondary outcomes are dimensional measures of psychopathology and costs.
This study protocol provides a detailed overview of the design of the trial. Study results will be of importance for refining current guidelines. If the intervention is effective it can be used in managed care programs.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3544619  PMID: 23297810
Depression; Anxiety; Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI); Randomized controlled trial; General practice; Depressive disorder; Anxiety disorders
5.  Identifying context factors explaining physician's low performance in communication assessment: an explorative study in general practice 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:138.
Communication is a key competence for health care professionals. Analysis of registrar and GP communication performance in daily practice, however, suggests a suboptimal application of communication skills. The influence of context factors could reveal why communication performance levels, on average, do not appear adequate. The context of daily practice may require different skills or specific ways of handling these skills, whereas communication skills are mostly treated as generic. So far no empirical analysis of the context has been made. Our aim was to identify context factors that could be related to GP communication.
A purposive sample of real-life videotaped GP consultations was analyzed (N = 17). As a frame of reference we chose the MAAS-Global, a widely used assessment instrument for medical communication. By inductive reasoning, we analyzed the GP behaviour in the consultation leading to poor item scores on the MAAS-Global. In these cases we looked for the presence of an intervening context factor, and how this might explain the actual GP communication behaviour.
We reached saturation after having viewed 17 consultations. We identified 19 context factors that could potentially explain the deviation from generic recommendations on communication skills. These context factors can be categorized into doctor-related, patient-related, and consultation-related factors.
Several context factors seem to influence doctor-patient communication, requiring the GP to apply communication skills differently from recommendations on communication. From this study we conclude that there is a need to explicitly account for context factors in the assessment of GP (and GP registrar) communication performance. The next step is to validate our findings.
PMCID: PMC3262758  PMID: 22166064
6.  Early identification of and proactive palliative care for patients in general practice, incentive and methods of a randomized controlled trial 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:123.
According to the Word Health Organization, patients who can benefit from palliative care should be identified earlier to enable proactive palliative care. Up to now, this is not common practice and has hardly been addressed in scientific literature. Still, palliative care is limited to the terminal phase and restricted to patients with cancer. Therefore, we trained general practitioners (GPs) in identifying palliative patients in an earlier phase of their disease trajectory and in delivering structured proactive palliative care. The aim of our study is to determine if this training, in combination with consulting an expert in palliative care regarding each palliative patient's tailored care plan, can improve different aspects of the quality of the remaining life of patients with severe chronic diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure and cancer.
A two-armed randomized controlled trial was performed. As outcome variables we studied: place of death, number of hospital admissions and number of GP out of hours contacts.
We expect that this study will increase the number of identified palliative care patients and improve different aspects of quality of palliative care. This is of importance to improve palliative care for patients with COPD, CHF and cancer and their informal caregivers, and to empower the GP. The study protocol is described and possible strengths and weaknesses and possible consequences have been outlined.
Trial Registration
The Netherlands National Trial Register: NTR2815
PMCID: PMC3228678  PMID: 22050863
7.  Explanation and relations. How do general practitioners deal with patients with persistent medically unexplained symptoms: a focus group study 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:68.
Persistent presentation of medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) is troublesome for general practitioners (GPs) and causes pressure on the doctor-patient relationship. As a consequence, GPs face the problem of establishing an ongoing, preferably effective relationship with these patients. This study aims at exploring GPs' perceptions about explaining MUS to patients and about how relationships with these patients evolve over time in daily practice.
A qualitative approach, interviewing a purposive sample of twenty-two Dutch GPs within five focus groups. Data were analyzed according to the principles of constant comparative analysis.
GPs recognise the importance of an adequate explanation of the diagnosis of MUS but often feel incapable of being able to explain it clearly to their patients. GPs therefore indicate that they try to reassure patients in non-specific ways, for example by telling patients that there is no disease, by using metaphors and by normalizing the symptoms. When patients keep returning with MUS, GPs report the importance of maintaining the doctor-patient relationship. GPs describe three different models to do this; mutual alliance characterized by ritual care (e.g. regular physical examination, regular doctor visits) with approval of the patient and the doctor, ambivalent alliance characterized by ritual care without approval of the doctor and non-alliance characterized by cutting off all reasons for encounter in which symptoms are not of somatic origin.
GPs feel difficulties in explaining the symptoms. GPs report that, when patients keep presenting with MUS, they focus on maintaining the doctor-patient relationship by using ritual care. In this care they meticulously balance between maintaining a good doctor-patient relationship and the prevention of unintended consequences of unnecessary interventions.
PMCID: PMC2758831  PMID: 19775481
8.  Barriers in recognising, diagnosing and managing depressive and anxiety disorders as experienced by Family Physicians; a focus group study 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:52.
The recognition and treatment of depressive- and anxiety disorders is not always in line with current standards. The results of programs to improve the quality of care, are not encouraging. Perhaps these programs do not match with the problems experienced in family practice. This study aims to systematically explore how FPs perceive recognition, diagnosis and management of depressive and anxiety disorders.
focus group discussions with FPs, qualitative analysis of transcriptions using thematic coding.
The FPs considered recognising, diagnosing and managing depressive- and anxiety disorders as an important task. They expressed serious doubts about the validity and usefulness of the DSM IV concept of depressive and anxiety disorders in family practice especially because of the high frequency of swift natural recovery. An important barrier was that many patients have difficulties in accepting the diagnosis and treatment with antidepressant drugs. FPs lacked guidance in the assessment of patients' burden. The FPs experienced they had too little time for patient education and counseling. The under capacity of specialised mental health care and its minimal collaboration with FPs were experienced as problematic. Valuable suggestions for solving the problems encountered were made
Next to serious doubts regarding the diagnostic concept of depressive- and anxiety disorders a number of factors were identified which serve as barriers for suitablemental health care by FPs. These doubts and barriers should be taken into account in future research and in the design of interventions to improve mental health care in family practice.
PMCID: PMC2734533  PMID: 19619278
9.  Mix of methods is needed to identify adverse events in general practice: A prospective observational study 
BMC Family Practice  2008;9:35.
The validity and usefulness of incident reporting and other methods for identifying adverse events remains unclear. This study aimed to compare five methods in general practice.
In a prospective observational study, with five general practitioners, five methods were applied and compared. The five methods were physician reported adverse events, pharmacist reported adverse events, patients' experiences of adverse events, assessment of a random sample of medical records, and assessment of all deceased patients.
A total of 68 events were identified using these methods. The patient survey accounted for the highest number of events and the pharmacist reports for the lowest number. No overlap between the methods was detected. The patient survey accounted for the highest number of events and the pharmacist reports for the lowest number.
A mix of methods is needed to identify adverse events in general practice.
PMCID: PMC2440745  PMID: 18554418
10.  Family practice nurses supporting self-management in older patients with mild osteoarthritis: a randomized trial 
Supporting self-management intends to improve life-style, which is beneficial for patients with mild osteoarthritis (OA). We evaluated a nurse-based intervention on older OA patients' self-management with the aim to assess its effects on mobility and functioning.
Randomized controlled trial of patients (≥ 65 years) with mild hip or knee OA from nine family practices in the Netherlands. Intervention consisted of supporting patients' self-management of OA symptoms using a practice-based nurse. Outcome measures were patients' mobility, using the Timed Up and Go test (TUG), and patient reported functioning, using an arthritis specific scale (Dutch AIMS2 SF).
Fifty-one patients were randomized to the intervention group and 53 to the control group. Patient-reported functioning improved on four scales in the intervention group compared to one scale in the control group. However, this result was not significant. Mobility improved in both groups, without a significant difference between the two groups. There were no differences between the groups regarding consultations with family physicians or physiotherapists, or medication use.
A nurse-based intervention on older OA patients' self-management did not improve self-reported functioning, mobility or patients' use of health care resources.
PMCID: PMC2235871  PMID: 18226255

Results 1-10 (10)