Contacts with out-of-hours primary care for nonurgent problems: patients' beliefs or deficiencies in healthcare?
SourceBMC Family Practice, 16, (2015), article 157
Article / Letter to editor
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BMC Family Practice
SubjectRadboudumc 16: Vascular damage RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences; Radboudumc 18: Healthcare improvement science RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences
BACKGROUND: In the Netherlands, about half of the patient contacts with a general practitioner (GP) cooperative are nonurgent from a medical perspective. A part of these problems can wait until office hours or can be managed by the patient himself without further professional care. However, from the patient's perspective, there may be a need to contact a physician immediately. Our objective was to determine whether contacts with out-of-hours primary care made by patients with nonurgent problems are the result of patients' beliefs or of deficiencies in the healthcare system. METHODS: We performed a survey among 2000 patients with nonurgent health problems in four GP cooperatives in the Netherlands. Two GPs independently judged the medical necessity of the contacts of all patients in this study. We examined characteristics, views and motives of patients with medically necessary contacts and those without medically necessary contacts. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the characteristics, views and reasons of the patients with medically unnecessary contacts and medically necessary contacts. Differences between these groups were tested with chi-square tests. RESULTS: The response rate was 32.3 % (N = 646). Of the nonurgent contacts 30.4 % were judged as medically necessary (95 % CI 27.0-34.2). Compared to patients with nonurgent but medically necessary contacts, patients with medically unnecessary contacts were younger and were more often frequent attenders. They had longer-existing problems, lower self-assessed urgency, and more often believed GP cooperatives are intended for all help requests. Worry was the most frequently mentioned motive for contacting a GP cooperative for patients with a medically unnecessary contact (45.3 %) and a perceived need to see a GP for patients with a medically necessary contact (44.2 %). Perceived availability (5.8 %) and accessibility (8.3 %) of a patient's own GP played a role for some patients. CONCLUSION: Motives for contacting a GP cooperative are mostly patient-related, but also deficiencies in access to general practice may partly explain medically unnecessary use. Efforts to change the use of GP cooperatives should focus on education of subgroups with an increased likelihood of contact for medically unnecessary problems. Improvement of access to daytime primary care may also decrease use of the GP cooperative.
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