Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases: a cost study in family practices

Esther W de Bekker-Grob1*, Sandra van Dulmen2, Matthijs van den Berg3, Robert A Verheij2 and Laurentius CJ Slobbe3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC - University Medical Centre Rotterdam, (Dr. Molewaterplein 50), Rotterdam, (3000 CA), The Netherlands

2 Netherlands Institute of Health Services Research, (Otterstraat 118-124), Utrecht, (3513 CR), The, Netherlands

3 National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Centre for Public Health Forecasting, (Antonie van Leeuwenhoeklaan 9), Bilthoven, (3721 MA), The Netherlands

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BMC Family Practice 2011, 12:69  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-69

Published: 6 July 2011

Abstract

Background

Considering the scarcity of health care resources and the high costs associated with cardiovascular diseases, we investigated the spending on cardiovascular primary preventive activities and the prescribing behaviour of primary preventive cardiovascular medication (PPCM) in Dutch family practices (FPs).

Methods

A mixed methods design was used, which consisted of a questionnaire (n = 80 FPs), video recordings of hypertension- or cholesterol-related general practitioner visits (n = 56), and the database of Netherlands Information Network of General Practice (n = 45 FPs; n = 157,137 patients). The questionnaire and video recordings were used to determine the average frequency and time spent on cardiovascular primary preventive activities per FP respectively. Taking into account the annual income and full time equivalents of general practitioners, health care assistants, and practice nurses as well as the practice costs, the total spending on cardiovascular primary preventive activities in Dutch FPs was calculated. The database of Netherlands Information Network of General Practice was used to determine the prescribing behaviour in Dutch FPs by conducting multilevel regression models and adjusting for patient and practice characteristics.

Results

Total expenditure on cardiovascular primary preventive activities in FPs in 2009 was €38.8 million (€2.35 per capita), of which 47% was spent on blood pressure measurements, 26% on cardiovascular risk profiling, and 11% on lifestyle counselling. Fifteen percent (€11 per capita) of all cardiovascular medication prescribed in FPs was a PPCM. FPs differed greatly on prescription of PPCM (odds ratio of 3.1).

Conclusions

Total costs of cardiovascular primary preventive activities in FPs such as blood pressure measurements and lifestyle counselling are relatively low compared to the costs of PPCM. There is considerable heterogeneity in prescribing behaviour of PPCM between FPs. Further research is needed to determine whether such large differences in prescription rates are justified. Striving for an optimal use of cardiovascular primary preventive activities might lead to similar health outcomes, but may achieve important cost savings.