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1.  A monitoring and feedback tool embedded in a counselling protocol to increase physical activity of patients with COPD or type 2 diabetes in primary care: study protocol of a three-arm cluster randomised controlled trial 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:93.
Background
Physical activity is important for a healthy lifestyle. Although physical activity can delay complications and decrease the burden of the disease, the level of activity of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (DM2) is often far from optimal. To stimulate physical activity, a monitoring and feedback tool, consisting of an accelerometer linked to a smart phone and webserver (It’s LiFe! tool), and a counselling protocol for practice nurses in primary care was developed (the Self-management Support Program). The main objective of this study is to measure the longitudinal effects of this counselling protocol and the added value of using the tool.
Methods/Design
This three-armed cluster randomised controlled trial with 120 participants with COPD and 120 participants with DM2 (aged 40–70), compares the counselling protocol with and without the use of the tool (group 1 and 2) with usual care (group 3). Recruitment takes place at GP practices in the southern regions of the Netherlands. Randomisation takes place at the practice level. The intended sample (three arms of 8 practices) powers the study to detect a 10-minute difference of moderate and intense physical activity per day between groups 1 and 3. Participants in the intervention groups have to visit the practice nurse 3–4 times for physical activity counselling, in a 4-6-month period. Specific activity goals tailored to the individual patient's preferences and needs will be set. In addition, participants in group 1 will be instructed to use the tool in daily life. The primary outcome, physical activity, will be measured in all groups with a physical activity monitor (PAM). Secondary outcomes are quality of life, general - and exercise - self-efficacy, and health status. Follow-up will take place after 6 and 9 months. Separately, a process evaluation will be conducted to explore reasons for trial non-participation, and the intervention’s acceptability for participating patients and nurses.
Discussion
Results of this study will give insight into the effects of the It’s LiFe! monitoring and feedback tool combined with care from a practice nurse for people with COPD or DM2 on physical activity.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01867970
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-93
PMCID: PMC4030038  PMID: 24885096
Physical activity; Self-management support; Primary care nursing; Remote sensing technology
2.  “Doctor, please tell me it’s nothing serious”: an exploration of patients’ worrying and reassuring cognitions using stimulated recall interviews 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:73.
Background
Many patients who consult their GP are worried about their health, but there is little empirical data on strategies for effective reassurance. To gain a better understanding of mechanisms for effective patient reassurance, we explored cognitions underlying patients’ worries, cognitions underlying reassurance and factors supporting patients’ reassuring cognitions.
Methods
In a qualitative study, we conducted stimulated recall interviews with 21 patients of 12 different GPs shortly after their consultation. We selected consultations in which the GPs aimed to reassure worried patients and used their videotaped consultation as a stimulus for the interview. The interviews were analysed with thematic coding and by writing interpretive summaries.
Results
Patients expressed four different core cognitions underlying their concerns: ‘I have a serious illness’, ‘my health problem will have adverse physical effects’, ‘my treatment will have adverse effects’ and ‘my health problem will negatively impact my life’. Patients mentioned a range of person-specific and context-specific cognitions as reasons for these core cognitions. Patients described five core reassuring cognitions: ‘I trust my doctor’s expertise’, ‘I have a trusting and supporting relationship with my doctor’, ‘I do not have a serious disease’, ‘my health problem is harmless’ and ‘my health problem will disappear.’ Factors expressed as reasons for these reassuring cognitions were GPs’ actions during the consultation as well as patients’ pre-existing cognitions about their GP, the doctor-patient relationship and previous events. Patients’ worrying cognitions were counterbalanced by specific reassuring cognitions, i.e. worrying and reassuring cognitions seemed to be interrelated.
Conclusions
Patients described a wide range of worrying cognitions, some of which were not expressed during the consultation. Gaining a thorough understanding of the specific cognitions and tailoring reassuring strategies to them should be an effective way of achieving reassurance. The identified reassuring cognitions can guide doctors in applying these strategies in their daily practice.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-73
PMCID: PMC4008437  PMID: 24762333
3.  Integrating a tailored e-health self-management application for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients into primary care: a pilot study 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:4.
Background
Changes in reimbursement have been compelling for Dutch primary care practices to apply a disease management approach for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This approach includes individual patient consultations with a practice nurse, who coaches patients in COPD management. The aim of this study was to gauge the feasibility of adding a web-based patient self-management support application, by assessing patients’ self-management, patients’ health status, the impact on the organization of care, and the level of application use and appreciation.
Methods
The study employed a mixed methods design. Six practice nurses recruited COPD patients during a consultation. The e-Health application included a questionnaire that captured information on demographics, self-management related behaviors (smoking cessation, physical activity and medication adherence) and their determinants, and nurse recommendations. The application provided tailored feedback messages to patients and provided the nurse with reports. Data were collected through questionnaires and medical record abstractions at baseline and one year later. Semi-structured interviews with patients and nurses were conducted. Descriptive statistics were calculated for quantitative data and content analysis was used to analyze the qualitative data.
Results
Eleven patients, recruited by three nurses, used the application 1 to 7 times (median 4). Most patients thought that the application supported self-management, but their interest diminished after multiple uses. Impact on patients’ health could not be determined due to the small sample size. Nurses reported benefits for the organization of care and made suggestions to optimize the use of the reports.
Conclusion
Results suggest that it is possible to integrate a web-based COPD self-management application into the current primary care disease management process. The pilot study also revealed opportunities to improve the application and reports, in order to increase technology use and appreciation.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-4
PMCID: PMC3907149  PMID: 24400676
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; e-Health intervention; Tailoring; Self-management; Smoking cessation; Physical activity; Medication adherence; Primary care
4.  Integrating nurse-led Self-Management Support (SMS) in routine primary care: design of a hybrid effectiveness-implementation study among type 2 diabetes patients with problems of daily functioning and emotional distress: a study protocol 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:77.
Background
Psychosocial problems are more prevalent among patients with chronic diseases than among the general population. They may lead to a downward spiral of poor adherence, deterioration of the condition and decline in daily functioning. In addition to medical management, systematic attention to emotional and role management tasks during routine chronic care seems mandatory. We intend to integrate an existing nurse-led minimal psychological intervention to support patients’ self-management, which appeared to be effective and cost-effective, in routine care by primary care nurses, so we adjusted it to fit the host setting. The resulting Self-Management Support (SMS) programme involves early detection of patients with emotional distress and problems of daily functioning, as well as self-management support through problem solving and reattribution techniques. Strategies to embed SMS in daily practice include training and booster sessions for practice nurses as well as organisational and financial arrangements. This study aims to simultaneously evaluate the implementation process and effects of SMS in routine care, using a hybrid effectiveness–implementation design.
Methods/Design
Registration data, questionnaires and interviews will be used to explore the facilitators, barriers and costs regarding successful implementation of SMS. The effects of SMS will be evaluated in a pragmatic cluster-randomised controlled trial with a baseline measurement and follow-up measurements after 4 and 12 months. The population will consist of 46 practice nurses and their type 2 diabetes patients (N = 460; 10 per practice nurse). The practice nurses will be randomly assigned to the intervention or control group. Practice nurses of the intervention group will receive SMS training. Patients for the intervention and control groups will be recruited by a researcher-led self-administered screening procedure to decide which patients of those scheduled for routine consultation are likely to be detected by the practice nurses as eligible for the self-management support. Primary outcome measure is patients’ daily functioning. Secondary measures include emotional well-being, participation, autonomy and control over the disease.
Discussion
Our hybrid study design is complicated by the detection method used by the practice nurses. This method is an implementation issue in itself that has consequences for the realisation and power of the effect evaluation.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials, NTR2764
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-14-77
PMCID: PMC3699365  PMID: 23758974
Hybrid Effectiveness–Implementation Design; Primary Care; Chronic Disease; Psychosocial Problems; Self-Management; Practice Nurse
5.  The ideal of biopsychosocial chronic care: How to make it real? A qualitative study among Dutch stakeholders 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:14.
Background
Chronically ill patients often experience psychosocial problems in everyday life. A biopsychosocial approach is considered to be essential in chronic care. In Dutch primary health care the current biomedically oriented clinical practice may conflict with the biopsychosocial approach. This study is aimed to explore the views of Dutch stakeholders on achieving a biopsychosocial approach to the care of patients with chronic diseases.
Methods
In a qualitative explorative study design, we held semi-structured interviews with stakeholders, face-to-face or by telephone. Data were analysed using content analysis. Thirty representatives of Dutch patients with chronic illnesses, primary care professionals, policy makers, health inspectorate, health insurers, educational institutes and researchers were interviewed.
Results
Stakeholders were aware that a systematic biopsychosocial care approach is lacking in current practice. Opportunities for effective change are multidimensional. Achieving a biopsychosocial approach to care relates to active patient participation, the training of professionals, high-quality guidelines, protocols and tools, integrated primary care, research and financial issues.
Conclusions
Although the principles and importance of the biopsychosocial model have been recognized, the provision of care that starts from the medical, emotional or social needs of individual patients does not fit in easily with the current Dutch health care system. All parties involved need to make a commitment to realize the ideal of biopsychosocial chronic care. Together they need to equip health professionals with skills to understand patients' multifaceted needs and to reward integrated biopsychosocial care. Patients need to be empowered to be active partners in their own care.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-14
PMCID: PMC3355054  PMID: 22405260
6.  How do people respond to self-test results? A cross-sectional survey 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:77.
Background
Self-tests, tests on medical conditions that can be performed by consumers without consulting a doctor first, are frequently used. Nevertheless, there are concerns about the safety of self-testing, as it may delay diagnosis and appropriate treatment in the case of inappropriate use of the test, or false-negative results. It is unclear whether self-tests stimulate appropriate follow-up behaviour. Our aim was to examine the frequency of self-test use, consumers' response to self-test results in terms of their confidence in the result, reassurance by the test result, and follow-up behaviour.
Methods
A two step cross-sectional survey was designed. A random sample of 6700 Internet users in an existing Internet panel received an online questionnaire on the use of self-tests. Self-tests were defined as tests on body materials, initiated by consumers with the aim to diagnose a disease or risk factor. A second questionnaire on consumers' response to self-test results was sent to the respondents that were identified as a self-tester in the first questionnaire (n = 703).
Results
18.1% (799/4416) of the respondents had ever performed a self-test, the most frequently used tests being those for diabetes (5.3%), kidney disease (4.9%), cholesterol (4.5%), urinary tract infection (1.9%) and HIV/AIDS and Chlamydia (both 1.6%). A total of 78.1% of the testers with a normal test result and 81.4% of those with an abnormal result reported confidence in this result. Almost all (95.6%) of the testers with a normal result felt reassured. After a normal result, 78.1% did not take any further action and 5.8% consulted a doctor. The corresponding figures after an abnormal test result were 9.3% and 72.2%, respectively.
Conclusions
Respondents who had performed a self-test seemed to base their follow-up behaviour on the result of the test. They had confidence in the test result, and were often reassured by a normal result. After an abnormal result, most self-testers sought medical care. Because consumers seem to trust the self-test results, further research should focus on the development of consumer information addressing indications for performing a self-test, the validity of self-tests and appropriate interpretation of and management after a test.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-77
PMCID: PMC2964597  PMID: 20942917
7.  Primary care nurses struggle with lifestyle counseling in diabetes care: a qualitative analysis 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:41.
Background
Patient outcomes are poorly affected by lifestyle advice in general practice. Promoting lifestyle behavior change require that nurses shift from simple advice giving to a more counseling-based approach. The current study examines which barriers nurses encounter in lifestyle counseling to patients with type 2 diabetes. Based on this information we will develop an implementation strategy to improve lifestyle behavior change in general practice.
Method
In a qualitative semi-structured study, twelve in-depth interviews took place with nurses in Dutch general practices involved in diabetes care. Specific barriers in counseling patients with type 2 diabetes about diet, physical activity, and smoking cessation were addressed. The nurses were invited to reflect on barriers at the patient and practice levels, but mainly on their own roles as counselors. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. The data were analyzed with the aid of a predetermined framework.
Results
Nurses felt most barriers on the level of the patient; patients had limited knowledge of a healthy lifestyle and limited insight into their own behavior, and they lacked the motivation to modify their lifestyles or the discipline to maintain an improved lifestyle. Furthermore, nurses reported lack of counseling skills and insufficient time as barriers in effective lifestyle counseling.
Conclusions
The traditional health education approach is still predominant in primary care of patients with type 2 diabetes. An implementation strategy based on motivational interviewing can help to overcome 'jumping ahead of the patient' and promotes skills in lifestyle behavioral change. We will train our nurses in agenda setting to structure the consultation based on prioritizing the behavior change and will help them to develop social maps that contain information on local exercise programs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-41
PMCID: PMC2889883  PMID: 20500841
8.  Pretest expectations strongly influence interpretation of abnormal laboratory results and further management 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:13.
Background
Abnormal results of diagnostic laboratory tests can be difficult to interpret when disease probability is very low. Although most physicians generally do not use Bayesian calculations to interpret abnormal results, their estimates of pretest disease probability and reasons for ordering diagnostic tests may - in a more implicit manner - influence test interpretation and further management. A better understanding of this influence may help to improve test interpretation and management. Therefore, the objective of this study was to examine the influence of physicians' pretest disease probability estimates, and their reasons for ordering diagnostic tests, on test result interpretation, posttest probability estimates and further management.
Methods
Prospective study among 87 primary care physicians in the Netherlands who each ordered laboratory tests for 25 patients. They recorded their reasons for ordering the tests (to exclude or confirm disease or to reassure patients) and their pretest disease probability estimates. Upon receiving the results they recorded how they interpreted the tests, their posttest probability estimates and further management. Logistic regression was used to analyse whether the pretest probability and the reasons for ordering tests influenced the interpretation, the posttest probability estimates and the decisions on further management.
Results
The physicians ordered tests for diagnostic purposes for 1253 patients; 742 patients had an abnormal result (64%). Physicians' pretest probability estimates and their reasons for ordering diagnostic tests influenced test interpretation, posttest probability estimates and further management. Abnormal results of tests ordered for reasons of reassurance were significantly more likely to be interpreted as normal (65.8%) compared to tests ordered to confirm a diagnosis or exclude a disease (27.7% and 50.9%, respectively). The odds for abnormal results to be interpreted as normal were much lower when the physician estimated a high pretest disease probability, compared to a low pretest probability estimate (OR = 0.18, 95% CI = 0.07-0.52, p < 0.001).
Conclusions
Interpretation and management of abnormal test results were strongly influenced by physicians' estimation of pretest disease probability and by the reason for ordering the test. By relating abnormal laboratory results to their pretest expectations, physicians may seek a balance between over- and under-reacting to laboratory test results.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-13
PMCID: PMC2829524  PMID: 20158908
9.  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
10.  Characteristics of communication guidelines that facilitate or impede guideline use: a focus group study 
BMC Family Practice  2007;8:31.
Background
The quality of doctor-patient communication has a major impact on the quality of medical care. Communication guidelines define best practices for doctor patient communication and are therefore an important tool for improving communication. However, adherence to communication guidelines remains low, despite doctors participating in intensive communication skill training. Implementation research shows that adherence is higher for guidelines in general that are user centred and feasible, which implies that they are consistent with users' opinions, tap into users' existing skills and fit into existing routines. Developers of communication guidelines seem to have been somewhat negligent with regard to user preferences and guideline feasibility. In order to promote the development of user centred and practicable communication guidelines, we elicited user preferences and identified which guideline characteristics facilitate or impede guideline use.
Methods
Seven focus group interviews were conducted with experienced GPs, communication trainers (GPs and behavioural scientists) and communication learners (GP trainees and medical students) and three focus group interviews with groups of GP trainees only. All interviews were transcribed and analysed qualitatively.
Results
The participants identified more impeding guideline characteristics than facilitating ones. The most important impeding characteristic was that guidelines do not easily fit into GPs' day-to-day practice. This is due to rigidity and inefficiency of communication guidelines and erroneous assumptions underpinning guideline development. The most important facilitating characteristic was guideline structure. Guidelines that were structured in distinct phases helped users to remain in control of consultations, which was especially useful in complicated consultations.
Conclusion
Although communication guidelines are generally considered useful, especially for structuring consultations, their usefulness is impaired by lack of flexibility and applicability to practice routines. User centred and feasible guidelines should combine the advantages of helping doctors to structure consultations with flexibility to tailor communication strategies to specific contexts and situations.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-8-31
PMCID: PMC1885263  PMID: 17506878
11.  Why do patients want to have their blood tested? A qualitative study of patient expectations in general practice 
BMC Family Practice  2006;7:75.
Background
General practitioners often take their impression of patients' expectations into account in their decision to have blood tests done. It is commonly recommended to involve patients in decision-making during consultations. The study aimed to obtain detailed information on patients' expectations about blood tests.
Methods
Qualitative study among patients in waiting rooms of general practices. Each patient was presented with a short questionnaire about their preferences in terms of diagnostics. Patients who would like blood tests to be done were interviewed.
Results
Fifty-seven (26%) of the 224 respondents wanted blood tests. Twenty-two were interviewed. Patients overestimated the qualities of blood tests. Favourable test results were regarded as proof of good health. Patients regarded blood tests as a useful instrument to screen for serious disorders, and were confirmed in this belief by people in their social environment and by the media. Many patients expected their GP to take an active test ordering approach, though some indicated that they might be convinced if their GP proposed a wait-and-see policy.
Conclusions
GPs' perceptions about patient expectations seem justified: patients appear to have high hopes for testing as a diagnostic tool. They expect diagnostic certainty without mistakes and a proof of good health. The question is whether it would be desirable to remove patients' misconceptions, allowing them to participate in policy decisions on the basis of sound information, or whether it would be better to leave the misconceptions uncontested, in order to retain the 'magic' of additional tests and reassure patients. We expect that clarifying the precise nature of patients' expectations by the GP may be helpful in creating a diagnostic strategy that satisfies both patients and GPs. GPs will have to balance the benefits of reassuring their patients by means of blood tests which may be unnecessary against the benefits of avoiding unnecessary tests. Further research is needed into the effects of different types of patient information and the effects of testing on satisfaction and anxiety.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-7-75
PMCID: PMC1769380  PMID: 17166263
12.  Blood test ordering for unexplained complaints in general practice: the VAMPIRE randomised clinical trial protocol. [ISRCTN55755886] 
BMC Family Practice  2006;7:20.
Background
General practitioners (GPs) frequently order blood tests when they see patients presenting with unexplained complaints. Due to the low prevalence of serious pathology in general practice, the risk of false-positive test results is relatively high. This may result in unnecessary further testing, leading to unfavourable effects such as patient anxiety, high costs, somatisation and morbidity. A policy of watchful waiting is expected to lower both the number of patients to be tested and the risk of false-positive test results, without missing serious pathology. However, many general practitioners experience barriers when trying to postpone blood testing by watchful waiting. The objectives of this study are (1) to determine the accuracy of blood tests in patients presenting with unexplained complaints in terms of detecting pathology, (2) to determine the accuracy of a watchful waiting strategy and (3) to determine the effects of a quality improvement strategy to promote the postponement of blood test ordering by GPs for patients with unexplained complaints.
Design
General practices are randomised over three groups. Group 1 is instructed to order blood tests immediately, group 2 to apply a watchful waiting policy and group 3 also to postpone testing, but supported by our quality improvement strategy. The trial consists of two sub-studies: a diagnostic study at patient level (group 1 versus groups 2 and 3) and a quality improvement study at GP level (group 2 versus group 3). The diagnostic strategy to be used involves of both customary and innovative tests. The quality improvement strategy consists of two small-group meetings and a practice outreach visit. Patient follow-up ends at 12 months after the initial consultation. Primary outcome measures are the accuracy and added value of blood tests for detecting pathology, the effect of a 4-week postponement of test ordering on the blood test characteristics and the quantity of tests ordered. Secondary outcome measures are the course of complaints, quality of life, satisfaction with care, anxiety of patients and practitioners, determinants of physicians' behaviour, health care utilisation and costs.
Discussion
The innovative aspect of this trial is that it combines a clinical-epidemiological study and a quality of care study.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-7-20
PMCID: PMC1538993  PMID: 16553955

Results 1-12 (12)