Do guidelines on first impression make sense? Implementation of a chest pain guideline in primary care: a systematic evaluation of acceptance and feasibility
Department of General Practice, Philipps University of Marburg, Germany
BMC Family Practice 2011, 12:128 doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-128Published: 21 November 2011
Most guidelines concentrate on investigations, treatment, and monitoring instead of patient history and clinical examination. We developed a guideline that dealt with the different aetiologies of chest pain by emphasizing the patient's history and physical signs. The objective of this study was to evaluate the guideline's acceptance and feasibility in the context of a practice test.
The evaluation study was nested in a diagnostic cross-sectional study with 56 General Practitioners (GPs) and 862 consecutively recruited patients with chest pain. The evaluation of the guideline was conducted in a mixed method design on a sub-sample of 17 GPs and 282 patients. Physicians' evaluation of the guideline was assessed via standardized questionnaires and case record forms. Additionally, practice nursing staff and selected patients were asked for their evaluation of specific guideline modules. Quantitative data was analyzed descriptively for frequencies, means, and standard deviations. In addition, two focus groups with a total of 10 GPs were held to gain further insights in the guideline implementation process. The data analysis and interpretation followed the standards of the qualitative content analysis.
The overall evaluation of the GPs participating in the evaluation study regarding the recommendations made in the chest pain guideline was positive. A total of 14 GPs were convinced that there was a need for this kind of guideline and perceived the guideline recommendations as useful. While the long version was partially criticized for a perceived lack of clarity, the short version of the chest pain guideline and the heart score were especially appreciated by the GPs. However, change of clinical behaviour as consequence of the guideline was inconsistent. While on a concrete patient related level, GPs indicated to have behaved as the guideline recommended, the feedback on a more general level was heterogeneous. Several suggestions to improve guideline implementation were made by participating physicians. Due to the small number of practice nursing staff evaluating the flowchart and patients remembering the patient leaflet, no valid results regarding the flowchart and patient leaflet modules could be reported.
Overall, the participating GPs perceived the guideline recommendations as useful to increase awareness and to reflect on diagnostic issues. Although behaviour change in consequence of the guideline was not reported on a general level, guidelines on history taking and the clinical examination may serve an important conservative and practical function in a technology driven environment. Further research to increase the implementation success of the guideline should be undertaken.