Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

U.S. healthcare providers' knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions concerning Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Dana J Brimmer1*, Frederick Fridinger2, Jin-Mann S Lin1 and William C Reeves1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA

2 Division of Health Communication and Marketing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA

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BMC Family Practice 2010, 11:28  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-11-28

Published: 21 April 2010

Abstract

Background

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating illness with particular difficulties for healthcare providers because there are no diagnostic signs or laboratory tests and because management aims to merely improve symptoms. Further complicating management, healthcare providers' awareness concerning CFS has not been rigorously assessed. The present study aimed to ascertain United States (U.S.) healthcare providers' awareness of CFS and to assess their knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs (KAB) related to diagnosis and management of the illness. This information forms the foundation for developing CFS educational strategies.

Methods

We combined convenience and probability samples to measure CFS KAB among healthcare providers. In the convenience sample, 1,255 healthcare providers (81% response rate) from 13 professional conferences completed a 12-item form. Descriptive statistics were reported for 9 KAB item responses and chi-square tests were performed for examining their association with giving a diagnosis of CFS. We used principal component analysis to construct multidimensional subscales and perform a general linear model to examine factors associated with subscales. The probability sample involved data on 15 CFS-specific questions from 2006 and 2007 DocStyles web-based panel surveys collected from 2,750 physicians (average response rate 55%). We calculated descriptive and chi-square statistics. The significance was set at two-tailed with the alpha level of 0.05.

Results

Healthcare providers in both samples were aware of CFS and exhibited a high level of knowledge. Overall, 96% of respondents in the DocStyles (probability) sample had heard about CFS. Healthcare providers in the conference (convenience) sample demonstrated good KAB scores; physicians' scores were highest on KAB scales and lowest in perception. Nurses' scores were lowest in knowledge. More than 40% of physicians reported ever giving a CFS diagnosis and in the DocStyles (probability) sample more than 80% of physicians correctly identified CFS symptoms. Physicians reported professional journals, the Internet, and continuing education programs as the top 3 sources from which they obtain CFS information.

Conclusions

Findings from these combined samples fill a gap in the evidence-base of U.S. healthcare providers' and knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs concerning CFS. Importantly, respondents in both samples expressed similar knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and perceptions. Awareness was high and negative attitudes were low. The primary areas for future education should address diagnosis and management of CFS and should be delivered through those venues providers indicated they primarily use. Data from this study provide a benchmark for evaluation the success of these future efforts.