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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The attitude of Belgian social insurance physicians towards evidence-based practice and clinical practice guidelines

Annemie Heselmans1*, Peter Donceel1, Bert Aertgeerts12, Stijn Van de Velde12 and Dirk Ramaekers123

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

2 Belgian Branch of the Cochrane Collaboration, Belgian Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, Leuven, Belgium

3 ZNA Hospital Network Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

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BMC Family Practice 2009, 10:64  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-64

Published: 9 September 2009



Evidence-based medicine has broadened its scope and is starting to reach insurance medicine. Although still in its initial stages, physicians in the area of insurance medicine should keep up-to-date with the evidence on various diseases in order to correctly assess disability and to give appropriate advice about health care reimbursement. In order to explore future opportunities of evidence-based medicine to improve daily insurance medicine, there is a need for qualitative studies to better understand insurance physicians' perceptions of EBM. The present study was designed to identify the attitude of insurance physicians towards evidence-based medicine and clinical practice guidelines, and to determine their ability to access, retrieve and appraise the health evidence and the barriers for applying evidence to practice.


A cross-sectional survey study was carried out among all Dutch-speaking insurance physicians employed at one of the six Belgian social insurance sickness funds and at the National Institute of Disability and Health care Insurance (n = 224). Chi-square tests were used to compare nominal and ordinal variables. Student's t-tests, ANOVA, Mann-Whitney and Kruskal-Wallis were used to compare means of continuous variables for different groups.


The response rate was 48.7%. The majority of respondents were positive towards evidence-based medicine and clinical practice guidelines. Their knowledge of EBM was rather poor. Perceived barriers for applying evidence to practice were mainly time and lack of EBM skills.


Although the majority of physicians were positive towards EBM and welcomed more guidelines, the use of evidence and clinical practice guidelines in insurance medicine is low at present. It is in the first place important to eradicate the perceived inertia which limits the use of EBM and to further investigate the EBM principles in the context of insurance medicine. Available high-quality evidence-based resources (at the moment mainly originating from other medical fields) need to be structured in a way that is useful for insurance physicians and global access to this information needs to be ensured.