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1.  The knowledge and expectations of parents about the role of antibiotic treatment in upper respiratory tract infection – a survey among parents attending the primary physician with their sick child 
BMC Family Practice  2003;4:20.
Background
Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) are common. The etiologic factor is usually viral, but many physicians prescribe antibiotics. We aimed to evaluate parents' expectations of and knowledge about the role of antibiotics in childhood URTI.
Methods
The study was conducted in thirteen primary care pediatric clinics. Parents of children aged 3 months to 6 years who attended with URTI symptoms were included when it was the first attendance in the current illness. Questionnaire about the current illness, reasons for attending and expectations from the visit, knowledge about URTI was filled before the visit.
Results
In 122 visits the average age was 2.8 ± 1.9 years. The main reasons for the visit were to avoid complications (81%) and to be examined (78%). Expected treatment was: cough suppressants (64%), anti-congestants (57%), paracetamol (56%), natural remedies (53%) and antibiotics (25%). In 28% the child had received antibiotics in past URTI. Only 37% thought that antibiotics would not help in URTI and 27% knew that URTI is a self-limited disease. 61% knew that URTI is a viral disease. Younger parental age and higher education were associated with lower expectations to receive antibiotics (p = 0.01, p < 0.005 respectively). While previous antibiotic treatment (p < 0.001), past perceived complications (p = 0.05) and the thought that antibiotics help in URTI (p < 0.001) were associated with a greater expectation for antibiotics.
Conclusions
A quarter of the parents attending the physician with URTI are expecting to get antibiotics. Predictors were lower education, older parental age, receiving antibiotics in the past and the belief that antibiotics help in URTI.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-20
PMCID: PMC321647  PMID: 14700470
Upper respiratory tract infection; antibiotics; children; parents; knowledge; attitude
2.  Back to thiazide-diuretics for hypertension: reflections after a decade of irrational prescribing 
BMC Family Practice  2003;4:19.
Background
Whether newer antihypertensive drugs, such as calcium channel blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and α blockers are more effective than thiazides and β blockers in preventing coronary disease, has been debated for years.
Discussion
Recently several trials addressing this issue have been finalised, and they provide a convincing answer: the newer drugs are no better than the older ones. In the largest trial to date (ALLHAT), thiazide-type diuretic was found to offer advantages over newer drugs. The medical community should now be capable of reaching consensus, and recommend thiazides as the first line therapy for the treatment of hypertension. Prescribing physicians, cardiologists, drug companies and health authorities are all partly responsible for the years of irrational prescribing that we have witnessed.
Summary
All stakeholders should now contribute in order to achieve what is clearly in the public's interest: implementing the use of thiazides in clinical practice.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-19
PMCID: PMC317300  PMID: 14693039
3.  Statins in hypercholesterolaemia: A dose-specific meta-analysis of lipid changes in randomised, double blind trials 
BMC Family Practice  2003;4:18.
Background
Statins alter lipid concentrations. This systematic review determined the efficacy of particular statins, in terms of their ability to alter cholesterol.
Review methods
PubMed, the Cochrane Library, references lists of reports, and reviews were searched (September 2001) for randomised, double blind trials of statins for cholesterol in trials of 12 weeks or longer. Mean change in total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, and triglycerides was calculated using pooled data for particular statins, and for particular doses of a statin. Pre-planned sensitivity analyses were used to determine the effects of initial concentration of total cholesterol, study duration, the effects of major trials, and effects in placebo versus active controlled trials. Information was not collected on adverse events.
Results
Different statins at a range of doses reduced total cholesterol by 17–35% and LDL-cholesterol by 24–49% from baseline. Lower doses of statins generally produced less cholesterol lowering, though for most statins in trials of 12 weeks or longer there was at best only a weak relationship between dose and cholesterol reduction. Duration of treatment and baseline total cholesterol concentration did not alter the amount of the benefit attained.
Conclusions
Statins are effective medicines and confer benefit to patients in terms of primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. Reductions in total cholesterol of 25% or more and LDL cholesterol of more than 30% were recorded for fixed doses of simvastatin 40 mg, atorvastatin 10 mg, and rosuvastatin 5 mg and 10 mg.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-18
PMCID: PMC317299  PMID: 14969594
4.  Attitudes towards treatment among patients suffering from sleep disorders. A Latin American survey 
BMC Family Practice  2003;4:17.
Background
Although sleep disorders are common, they frequently remain unnoticed by the general practitioner. Few data are available about the willingness and reasons of patients with sleep disturbances to seek for medical assistance.
Methods
The results of a cross-sectional community-based multinational survey in three major Latin American urban areas, i.e. Buenos Aires, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, are reported. Two-hundred subjects suffering sleep disturbances and 100 non-sufferers were selected from the general population in each city (total number: 600 sufferers vs. 300 non-sufferers). A structured interview was conducted, sleep characteristics, feelings about sleep disturbances and strategies to cope with those problems being recorded. Data were analyzed by employing either t-test or analysis of variance (ANOVA) to the Z-transformed proportions.
Results
22.7 ± 3.5 % (mean ± SEM) of subjects reported to suffer from sleep disturbances every night. About 3 out of 4 (74.2 ± 2.0 %) considered their disorder as mild and were not very concerned about it. Only 31 ± 2 % of sufferers reported to have sought for medical help. Although 45 ± 2 % of sufferers reported frequent daily sleepiness, trouble to remember things, irritability and headaches, they did not seek for medical assistance. Among those patients who saw a physician with complaints different from sleep difficulties only 1 out of 3 (33 ± 2 % of patients) were asked about quality of their sleep by the incumbent practitioner. Strategies of patients to cope with sleep problems included specific behaviors (taking a warm bath, reading or watching TV) (44 ± 1.6 %), taking herbal beverages (17 ± 1.2 %) or taking sleeping pills (10 ± 1.1 %). Benzodiazepines were consumed by 3 ± 0.6 % of sufferers.
Conclusion
Public educational campaigns on the consequences of sleep disorders and an adequate training of physicians in sleep medicine are needed to educate both the public and the general practitioners about sleep disorders.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-17
PMCID: PMC280681  PMID: 14629777
5.  Variation in diabetes care by age: opportunities for customization of care 
BMC Family Practice  2003;4:16.
Background
The quality of diabetes care provided to older adults has usually been judged to be poor, but few data provide direct comparison to other age groups. In this study, we hypothesized that adults age 65 and over receive lower quality diabetes care than adults age 45–64 years old.
Methods
We conducted a cohort study of members of a health plan cared for by multiple medical groups in Minnesota. Study subjects were a random sample of 1109 adults age 45 and over with an established diagnosis of diabetes using a diabetes identification method with estimated sensitivity 0.91 and positive predictive value 0.94. Survey data (response rate 86.2%) and administrative databases were used to assess diabetes severity, glycemic control, quality of life, microvascular and macrovascular risks and complications, preventive care, utilization, and perceptions of diabetes.
Results
Compared to those aged 45–64 years (N = 627), those 65 and older (N = 482) had better glycemic control, better health-related behaviors, and perceived less adverse impacts of diabetes on their quality of life despite longer duration of diabetes and a prevalence of cardiovascular disease twice that of younger patients. Older patients did not ascribe heart disease to their diabetes. Younger adults often had explanatory models of diabetes that interfere with effective and aggressive care, and accessed care less frequently. Overall, only 37% of patients were simultaneously up-to-date on eye exams, foot exams, and glycated hemoglobin (A1c) tests within one year.
Conclusion
These data demonstrate the need for further improvement in diabetes care for all patients, and suggest that customisation of care based on age and explanatory models of diabetes may be an improvement strategy that merits further evaluation.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-16
PMCID: PMC280680  PMID: 14585101
6.  Favorable patient acceptance of ambulatory blood pressure monitoring in a primary care setting in the United States: a cross-sectional survey 
BMC Family Practice  2003;4:15.
Background
The use of ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) in the diagnosis and management of hypertension in primary care settings in the United States is increasing. Insufficient information is available describing patients' experiences and acceptance of this technology in the United States, where medical insurance coverage of the procedure is often limited. The objective of this study was to describe patient satisfaction with ABPM performed in a primary care office in the United States, using modern ABPM technology.
Methods
Cross-sectional survey performed on consecutive patients referred to the ABPM service of the Family Care Center, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa from January 2001 to July 2003. Measures of patient satisfaction and acceptance with the device, comfort, and overall session were assessed via a 9-question, Likert-scale response survey.
Results
Since its inception two and a half years ago, 245 total ABPM sessions have been conducted in 235 unique patients. Of the 235 eligible respondents, 177 returned completed surveys, yielding a 75% response rate. Three-fourths (75%) of patients believed that undergoing the test was worthwhile considering the time and monetary cost involved, while most (90%) reported they thought the information provided by the test would be helpful to their physician in making treatment decisions. Patients reporting that their physician had clearly explained the benefit of undergoing the testing were more likely to report that they thought the results of the test would be more helpful in making treatment decisions. Few patients (20%) found that wearing the monitor was uncomfortable.
Conclusions
When clinically indicated, clinicians should not hesitate to order ABPM testing for fear of subjecting patients to an uncomfortable test, or an uncovered insurance benefit. When ordering ABPM, they should be sure to educate the patient about the potential benefits of undergoing the testing. Most patients believe the test will provide useful information in making treatment decisions, despite probable lack of insurance coverage, and appear willing to experience some discomfort for the overall gain of the results obtained from undergoing the session.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-15
PMCID: PMC270030  PMID: 14533981
7.  Implications of the problem orientated medical record (POMR) for research using electronic GP databases: a comparison of the Doctors Independent Network Database (DIN) and the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) 
BMC Family Practice  2003;4:14.
Background
The General Practice Research Database (GPRD) and Doctor's Independent Network Database (DIN), are large electronic primary care databases compiled in the UK during the 1990s. They provide a valuable resource for epidemiological and health services research. GPRD (based on VAMP) presents notes as a series of discrete episodes, whereas DIN is based on a system (MEDITEL) that used a Problem Orientated Medical Record (POMR) which links prescriptions to diagnostic problems. We have examined the implications for research of these different underlying philosophies.
Methods
Records of 40,183 children from 141 practices in DIN and 76,310 from 464 practices in GRPD who were followed to age 5 were used to compare the volume of recording of prescribing and diagnostic codes in the two databases. To assess the importance and additional value of the POMR within DIN, the appropriateness of diagnostic linking to skin emollient prescriptions was investigated.
Results
Variation between practices for both the number of days on which prescriptions were issued and diagnoses were recorded was marked in both databases. Mean number of "prescription days" during the first 5 years of life was similar in DIN (19.5) and in GPRD (19.8), but the average number of "diagnostic days" was lower in DIN (15.8) than in GPRD (22.9). Adjustment for linkage increased the average "diagnostic days" to 23.1 in DIN. 32.7% of emollient prescriptions in GPRD appeared with an eczema diagnosis on the same day compared to only 19.4% in DIN; however, 86.4% of prescriptions in DIN were linked to an earlier eczema diagnosis. More specifically 83% of emollient prescriptions appeared under a problem heading of eczema in the 121 practices that were using problem headings satisfactorily.
Conclusion
Prescribing records in DIN and GPRD are very similar, but the usage of diagnostic codes is more parsimonious in DIN because of its POMR structure. Period prevalence rates will be underestimated in DIN unless this structure is taken into account. The advantage of the POMR is that in 121 of 141 practices using problem headings as intended, most prescriptions can be linked to a problem heading providing a specific reason for their issue.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-14
PMCID: PMC240086  PMID: 14516473
8.  The nexus of evidence, context, and patient preferences in primary care: postal survey of Canadian family physicians 
BMC Family Practice  2003;4:13.
Background
Evidence-based medicine is gaining prominence in primary care. This study sought to examine the relationships among family physicians' attitudes toward EBM, contextual factors, and clinical decision-making and to investigate the factors that contribute to 'contrary to evidence' clinical decisions.
Methods
A postal survey mailed to a random sample of Canadian family physicians, stratified by age, gender, and practice setting. The main outcome measures were respondents' attitudes toward evidence-based medicine and preferred treatment option in four simulated clinical scenarios with wording randomly varied.
Results
Canadian family physicians report positive attitudes toward EBM, believe that EBM improves patient care, and agree that research findings are useful in the day-to-day management of patients. The scenario study showed that physicians were strongly influenced by a patient demanding/requesting either a screening test (adjusted Odds Ratio [OR] 5.15, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.9 to 9.2 for demand mammogram; adjusted OR 3.11, 95% CI 1.7 to 5.6 for request mammogram) or a diagnostic test (adjusted OR 3.95, 95% CI 2.1 to 7.5 for demand lumbar spine x-ray; adjusted OR 2.08, 95% CI 1.1 to 4.1 for request x-ray). This relationship did not hold for the treatment scenario (prescribing antibiotics for acute bronchitis) where hours of practice (adjusted OR 3.5, 95% CI 1.1 to 11.7 for 50+ hours practice; adjusted OR 1.79, 95% CI 1.0 to 3.2 for 20–49 hours practice) and type of practice (adjusted OR 2.22, 95% CI 1.3 to 3.7 for solo practice) were significant. 80% of respondents reported teaching breast self-examination with female physicians twice as likely as males (adjusted OR 2.11, 95% CI 1.2 to 3.8).
Conclusions
Canadian family physicians are favourably disposed to the precepts of evidence-based medicine; however, patient expectations and practice characteristics can influence physicians such that decisions are taken that are broadly contrary to evidence. Recently revised models of EBM emphasizing the importance of patient preferences and the clinical context appear to reflect more accurately the clinical reality of primary care physicians.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-13
PMCID: PMC212556  PMID: 14505494
9.  SMART: Self-Management of Anticoagulation, a Randomised Trial [ISRCTN19313375] 
BMC Family Practice  2003;4:11.
Background
Oral anticoagulation monitoring has traditionally taken place in secondary care because of the need for a laboratory blood test, the international normalised ratio (INR). The development of reliable near patient testing (NPT) systems for INR estimation has facilitated devolution of testing to primary care. Patient self-management is a logical progression from the primary care model. This study will be the first to randomise non-selected patients in primary care, to either self-management or standard care.
Method
The study was a multi-centred randomised controlled trial with patients from 49 general practices recruited. Those suitable for inclusion were aged 18 or over, with a long term indication for oral anticoagulation, who had taken warfarin for at least six months. Patients randomised to the intervention arm attended at least two training sessions which were practice-based, 1 week apart. Each patient was assessed on their capability to undertake self management. If considered capable, they were given a near patient INR testing monitor, test strips and quality control material for home testing. Patients managed their own anticoagulation for a period of 12 months and performed their INR test every 2 weeks. Control patients continued with their pre-study care either attending hospital or practice based anticoagulant clinics.
Discussion
The methodology used in this trial will overcome concerns from previous trials of selection bias and relevance to the UK health service. The study will give a clearer understanding of the benefits of self-management in terms of clinical and cost effectiveness and patient preference.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-11
PMCID: PMC240084  PMID: 13678426
10.  Heart failure diagnosis in primary health care: clinical characteristics of problematic patients. A clinical judgement analysis study 
BMC Family Practice  2003;4:12.
Background
Early detection of chronic heart failure has become increasingly important since the introduction of effective treatment. However, clinical diagnosis of heart failure is known to be difficult, especially in mild cases or early in the course of the disease. The purpose of this study is to analyse how patient characteristics contribute to difficulties in diagnosing systolic heart failure.
Methods
Design: A Clinical Judgement Analysis study of 40 case vignettes based on authentic patients, including relevant clinical data except echocardiography. Setting: Primary health care and two cardiology outpatient clinics in Stockholm. Subjects: 70 participants with different types of clinical experience; 27 specialists in general practice, 22 cardiologists, and 21 medical students. Main outcome measures: The assessed probability of heart failure for each case vignette, and the disagreement between the participants. The number of clinical variables (cues) indicative of heart failure in the case vignettes.
Results
The ten case vignettes with the least diverging assessments more often had increased relative cardiac volume and atrial fibrillation. No further specific clinical patterns could be found in subgroups of the case vignettes. The ten case vignettes with the most diverging assessments were those with an intermediate number of clinical variables. The case vignettes with the least diverging assessments more often represented patients with cardiac enlargement and atrial fibrillation.
Conclusion
Diagnosing mild heart failure is difficult, as these patients are not easy to characterise. In our study, a larger number of positive cues resulted in more diagnostic conformity among the participants, and the most important information was cardiac enlargement. The importance of more objective diagnostic methods in diagnosing suspected cases of heart failure should be emphasised.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-12
PMCID: PMC222938  PMID: 14498999
11.  Assessing satisfaction with desloratadine and fexofenadine in allergy patients who report dissatisfaction with loratadine 
BMC Family Practice  2003;4:10.
Background
The FDA recently moved loratadine (Claritin) from prescription only status to over-the-counter (OTC). In response to the availability of an OTC non-sedating antihistamine, many managed care organizations are reevaluating which if any prescription antihistamines should remain on formulary. From a managed care perspective, determining which of the remaining prescription antihistamines results in the greatest patient satisfaction with allergy treatment would be informative.
Methods
We report on a weighted cross sectional survey (n = 10,023) delivered online to a sample of allergy sufferers in the U.S. during the month of December 2002. Two segments were identified for analysis: patient who were dissatisfied with loratadine and converted to desloratadine (Clarinex; n = 61), and patients who were dissatisfied with loratadine and converted to fexofenadine (Allegra; n = 211). The two segments were compared along a series of measures that the literature suggests are related to treatment satisfaction.
Results
The survey found that two of the satisfaction measures differentiated desloratadine converters from fexofenadine converters (p < .05): mean sum of self-reported adverse events and nighttime awakening due to allergy symptoms. For the remainder of satisfaction measures though, patients who were dissatisfied with loratadine reported equal duration of coverage and satisfaction with desloratadine as fexofenadine. When severity of disease was controlled for in the analysis, a pattern emerged suggesting greater levels of satisfaction amongst loratadine dissatisfied patients who converted to desloratadine. Point estimates suggest a consistent pattern favoring desloratadine patient satisfaction, with statistically significant results reported for sum of adverse effects, nighttime awakening due to symptoms, symptom severity just prior to the next dose, and overall satisfaction (p < 0.05).
Conclusions
On average, patients who were dissatisfied with loratadine reported equal or better satisfaction with desloratadine as fexofenadine. Patients with severe allergic rhinitis reported greater satisfaction when converted from loratadine to desloratadine than fexofenadine for select satisfaction measures. These results suggest that if managed care intends to position prescription antihistamines as second line for OTC loratadine treatment dissatisfaction, desloratadine is a useful treatment alternative. These findings, while informative to formulary decision-makers, must be interpreted with caution. Only through head-to-head controlled clinical trials can differences in efficacy and safety be established.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-10
PMCID: PMC194638  PMID: 12917016
12.  Why are eligible patients not prescribed aspirin in primary care? A qualitative study indicating measures for improvement 
Background
Despite evidence-based guidelines, aspirin prescribing for the secondary prevention of stroke is sub-optimal. Little is known about why general practitioners do not prescribe aspirin to indicated patients. We sought to identify and describe factors that lead general practitioners (GPs) not to prescribe aspirin to eligible stroke patients. This was the first stage of a study exploring the need for and means of improving levels of appropriate aspirin prescribing.
Method
Qualitative interviews with 15 GPs in the West Midlands.
Results
Initially, many GPs did not regard their prescribing as difficult or sub-optimal. However on reflection, they gave several reasons that lead to them not prescribing aspirin for eligible patients or being uncertain. These include: difficulties in applying generic guidelines to individuals presenting in consultations, patient resistance to taking aspirin, the prioritisation of other issues in a time constrained consultation and problems in reviewing the medication of existing stroke patients.
Conclusion
In order to improve levels of appropriate aspirin prescribing, the nature and presentation risk information available to GPs and patients must be improved. GPs need support in assessing the risks and benefits of prescribing for patients with combinations of complicating risk factors, while means of facilitating improved GP-patient dialogue are required to help address patient uncertainty. A decision analysis based support system is one option. Decision analysis could synthesise current evidence and identify risk data for a range of patient profiles commonly presenting in primary care. These data could then be incorporated into a user-friendly computerised decision support system to help facilitate improved GP-patient communication. Measures of optimum prescribing based upon aggregated prescribing data must be interpreted with caution. It is not possible to assess whether low levels of prescribing reflect appropriate or inappropriate use of aspirin in specific patients where concordance between the GP and the patient is practised.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-9
PMCID: PMC183829  PMID: 12871601
13.  Measuring access to primary care appointments: a review of methods 
Background
Patient access to primary care appointments is not routinely measured despite the increasing interest in this aspect of practice activity. The generation of standardised data (or benchmarks) for access could inform developments within primary care organisations and act as a quality marker for clinical governance. Logically the setting of targets should be based on a sound system of measurement. The practicalities of developing appropriate measures need debate. Therefore we aimed to search for and compare methods that have been published or are being developed to measure patient access to primary care appointments, with particular focus on finding methods using appointment system data.
Method
A search and review was made of the primary care literature from 1990 to 2001, which included an assessment of online resources (websites) and communication with recognised experts. The identified methods were assessed.
Results
The published literature in this specific area was not extensive but revealed emerging interest in the late 1990s. Two broad approaches to the measurement of waiting times to GP appointments were identified. Firstly, appointment systems in primary care organisations were analysed in differing ways to provide numerical data and, secondly, patient perceptions (reports) of access were evaluated using survey techniques. Six different methods were found which were based on appointment systems data.
Conclusion
The two approaches of either using patient questionnaires or appointment system data are methods that represent entirely different aims. The latter method when used to represent patient waiting times for 'routine' elective appointments seems to hold promise as a useful tool and this avoids the definitional problems that surround 'urgent' appointments. The purpose for which the data is being collected needs to be borne in mind and will determine the chosen methods of data retrieval and representation.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-8
PMCID: PMC169167  PMID: 12846934
access; primary care; measurement; appointments; waiting times.
14.  Quality of life and metabolic status in mildly depressed women with type 2 diabetes treated with paroxetine: A single-blind randomised placebo controlled trial 
Background
Depression is prevalent in people with type 2 diabetes and affects both glycemic control and overall quality of life. The aim of this trial was to evaluate the effect of the antidepressant paroxetine on metabolic control, quality of life and mental well-being in mildly depressed women with type 2 diabetes.
Methods
We randomised 15 mildly depressed women with non-optimally controlled type 2 diabetes to a 10-week single-blind treatment with either paroxetine 20 mg per day or placebo. Primary efficacy measurements were glycemic control and quality of life. Glycosylated hemoglobin A1c (GHbA1c) was used as a measure of glycemic control. Quality of life was evaluated using RAND-36. Mental state was assessed using two clinician-rated scoring instruments, Hamilton's Anxiety Scale (HAM-A) and Montgomery-Åsberg's Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), and a patient-rated scoring instrument, Beck's Depression Inventory (BDI).
Results
At the end of the study no significant difference between groups in improvement of quality of life was found. A trend towards a superior improvement in glycemic control was found in the paroxetine group (p = 0.08). A superior increase in sex-hormone-binding-globuline (SHBG) levels was evidenced in the paroxetine group (p = 0.01) as a sign of improved insulin sensitivity. There was also a trend for superior efficacy of paroxetine in investigator-rated anxiety and depression. This notion was supported by a trend for superior decrease of serum cortisol levels in the paroxetine group (p = 0.06).
Conclusion
Paroxetine has a beneficial effect on measures of insulin sensitivity and may improve glycemic control. Larger studies of longer duration are needed to verify the benefits of paroxetine in type 2 diabetes. While waiting for more conclusive evidence it seems sensible to augment standard care of type 2 diabetes with paroxetine even in patients who do not fulfil routine psychiatric criteria for initiation of antidepressant drug treatment.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-7
PMCID: PMC165418  PMID: 12747810
15.  Evidence-based medicine in primary care: qualitative study of family physicians 
Background
The objectives of this study were: a) to examine physician attitudes to and experience of the practice of evidence-based medicine (EBM) in primary care; b) to investigate the influence of patient preferences on clinical decision-making; and c) to explore the role of intuition in family practice.
Method
Qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews of 15 family physicians purposively selected from respondents to a national survey on EBM mailed to a random sample of Canadian family physicians.
Results
Participants mainly welcomed the promotion of EBM in the primary care setting. A significant number of barriers and limitations to the implementation of EBM were identified. EBM is perceived by some physicians as a devaluation of the 'art of medicine' and a threat to their professional/clinical autonomy. Issues regarding the trustworthiness and credibility of evidence were of great concern, especially with respect to the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. Attempts to become more evidence-based often result in the experience of conflicts. Patient factors exert a powerful influence on clinical decision-making and can serve as trumps to research evidence. A widespread belief that intuition plays a vital role in primary care reinforced views that research evidence must be considered alongside other factors such as patient preferences and the clinical judgement and experience of the physician.
Discussion
Primary care physicians are increasingly keen to consider research evidence in clinical decision-making, but there are significant concerns about the current model of EBM. Our findings support the proposed revisions to EBM wherein greater emphasis is placed on clinical expertise and patient preferences, both of which remain powerful influences on physician behaviour.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-6
PMCID: PMC165430  PMID: 12740025
16.  Identification of adults with symptoms suggestive of obstructive airways disease: Validation of a postal respiratory questionnaire 
Background
Two simples scoring systems for a self-completed postal respiratory questionnaire were developed to identify adults who may have obstructive airways disease. The objective of this study was to validate these scoring systems.
Method
A two-stage design was used. All adults in two practice populations were sent the questionnaire and a stratified random sample of respondents was selected to undergo full clinical evaluation. Three respiratory physicians reviewed the results of each evaluation. A majority decision was reached as to whether the subject merited a trial of obstructive airways disease medication. This clinical decision was compared with two scoring systems based on the questionnaire in order to determine their positive predictive value, sensitivity and specificity.
Results
The PPV (positive predictive value) of the first scoring system was 75.1% (95% CI 68.6–82.3), whilst that of the second system was 82.3% (95% CI 75.9–89.2). The more stringent second system had the greater specificity, 97.1% (95% CI 96.0–98.2) versus 95.3% (95% CI 94.0–96.7), but poorer sensitivity 46.9% (95% CI 33.0–66.8) versus 50.3% (95% CI 35.3–71.6).
Conclusion
This scoring system based on the number of symptoms/risk factors reported via a postal questionnaire could be used to identify adults who would benefit from a trial of treatment for obstructive airways disease.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-5
PMCID: PMC156601  PMID: 12716458
17.  A 'real puzzle': the views of patients with epilepsy about the organisation of care 
Background
Little is known about how individuals who have a diagnosis of epilepsy have experienced healthcare services or their views about how they should best be organised to meet their ongoing needs.
Methods
Focus group interviews. Individuals with epilepsy were identified in 5 practices in Wales: 90 were invited, 40 confirmed attendance and 19 individuals attended interviews in 5 groups of size 6, 5, 4, 3 and 1 (Table 2). Inclusion criteria: individuals with a confirmed diagnosis of epilepsy, aged between 18–65. The exclusion criteria were learning disability or an inability to travel to interview locations.
Results
The individuals in these group interviews were not 'epilepsy activists' yet they remained critical in extended discussions about the services encountered during their patient careers, wanting more information and advice about how to adapt to problems, particularly after initial diagnosis, more involvement in decision making, rapid access to expertise, preferably local, and improved communication between clinicians. A central concern was the tendency for concerns to be silenced, either overtly, or covertly by perceived haste, so that they felt marginalised, despite their own claims to own expert personal knowledge.
Conclusions
Users of existing services for epilepsy are critical of current systems, especially the lack of attention given to providing information, psychosocial support and the wishes of patients to participate in decision making. Any reorganisation of services for individuals with epilepsy should take into account these perceived problems as well as try to reconcile the tension between the distant and difficult to access expertise of specialists and the local but unconfident support of generalists. The potential benefit of harnessing information technology to allow better liaison should be investigated.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-4
PMCID: PMC161791  PMID: 12709265
18.  Anticoagulant treatment in primary health care in Sweden – prevalence, incidence and treatment diagnosis: a retrospective study on electronic patient records in a registered population 
Background
The indications for warfarin treatment in primary health care are increasing. An undertreatment with warfarin is reported in the prevention of embolic stroke in patients with chronic atrial fibrillation, and can be suspected for other indications. Information on the prevalence and incidence of diseases treated with warfarin would reveal useful data for audits concerning management of anticoagulant treatment. We aimed to assess warfarin treatment in primary health care with regard to prevalence, incidence, treatment diagnosis and patient characteristics.
Methods
A one-year retrospective study of electronic patient records up to May 2000 in primary health care in Stockholm, Sweden. Five primary health care centres with a registered population of 75 146. Main outcome measures were prevalence, incidence and treatment diagnosis.
Results
Five hundred and seven patients, mean age 71.9 years, were on warfarin treatment. The prevalence was 0.67% (age-adjusted 0.75%), and it was significantly higher for men (0.78%) than for women (0.58%) (p = 0.01). In the age group 75–84 years the prevalence was 4.54%. The most prevalent treatment diagnosis was chronic atrial fibrillation (0.28%), which was more predominant for males (p = 0.02), followed by cerebrovascular disease (0.13%) and deep venous thrombosis (0.13%). The yearly incidence of warfarin treatment was 0.17%, with chronic atrial fibrillation as the predominant treatment diagnosis.
Conclusion
Warfarin treatment in primary health care is prevalent among the elderly. Chronic atrial fibrillation is the main treatment diagnosis. There is a gender difference favouring men in general and chronic atrial fibrillation as the treatment diagnosis.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-3
PMCID: PMC156632  PMID: 12675952
19.  Sick leave certification: a unique perspective on frequency and duration of episodes - a complete record of sickness certification in a defined population of employees in Malta 
Background
In Malta, sickness certificates are needed from the first day of illness, and are issued by family physicians (FPs) either employed by the government primary health care system, self-employed in private practice, or employed by an employer for this purpose alone. The latter system, when applied by the employer, is compulsory. In order to contribute to the debate on the role of the FP in this context, electronic data collected by a group of company-employed FPs was used to study the phenomenon of sickness certification. This database is a complete record of the selected employees' sick leave certification during the study period.
Methods
Data collected by company-employed FPs from a defined population was used: all employees of selected Maltese companies served by a group of FPs. The database included episode-based data from home visits over three years (01/01/1997 – 31/12/1999), by 9 company-appointed FPs regarding 421 employees of five companies.
Results
3015 episodes of sickness absenteeism, with an average duration of 2.9 days, were documented. Employees who did intensive manual work had relatively higher rates. Furthermore, a relatively higher incidence of work injury, sprains and strains, anxiety and depression and low back pain as found in manual workers, and in male workers. This trend was shown to be statistically significant.
Conclusions
The frequency of sick-leave certification in Malta is comparable to that in other European countries, but the average duration of certificates is much less than reported in other studies that generally did not include data on short-term illness and certification. This has important implications on future research in the field. A number of common disorders were found to be significantly more prevalent causes of sickness certification in manual workers, amongst them anxiety and depression.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-2
PMCID: PMC153541  PMID: 12697050
20.  Somatization in response to undiagnosed obsessive compulsive disorder in a family 
Background
Somatization is a common problem in primary care and often presents puzzling problems for the family physician. A family or contextual approach is often useful in investigating and treating refractory symptoms.
Case presentation
A 63 year-old patient presented to his family physician with recurrent episodes of syncope, weakness and various other somatic symptoms. Lengthy clinical investigations found no organic pathological findings but a brief family assessment by the family physician revealed that the patient's wife was the "hidden" patient. Successful treatment of the patient's wife led to full recovery for both.
Conclusions
Exploration and treatment of the family context may often hold the key to the solution of difficult problems in somatizing patients.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-4-1
PMCID: PMC150573  PMID: 12622876
obsessive-compulsive disorder; family medicine; depression; family therapy; hidden patient; somatization

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