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Open Access Research article

German ambulatory care physicians' perspectives on clinical guidelines – a national survey

Martin Butzlaff1*, Daniela Kempkens1, Melanie Schnee2, Wilfried E Dieterle3, Jan Böcken2 and Monika A Rieger1

Author Affiliations

1 Competence Center for General Medicine and Outpatients' Health Care, Faculty of Medicine, University Witten/Herdecke, Alfred-Herrhausen-Str. 50, D 58448 Witten, Germany

2 Bertelsmann Stiftung, Gütersloh, Germany, Carl-Bertelsmann-Str. 256, PO Box 103, D 33311 Gütersloh, Germany

3 University Hospital for Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine, Department of Psychosomatic and Psychotherapeutic Medicine, University Hospital of Freiburg, Hauptstr. 8, D 79104 Freiburg, Germany

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BMC Family Practice 2006, 7:47  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-7-47

Published: 20 July 2006

Abstract

Background

There has been little systematic research about the extent to which German physicians accept or reject the concept and practice of

a) clinical practice guidelines (CPG) and

b) evidence based medicine (EBM)

The aim of this study was to investigate German office-based physicians' perspective on CPGs and EBM and their application in medical practice.

Methods

Structured national telephone survey of ambulatory care physicians, four thematic blocks with 21 questions (5 point Likert scale). 511 office-based general practitioners and specialists. Main outcome measures were the application of Clinical Practice Guidelines in daily practice, preference for sources of guidelines and degree of knowledge and acceptance of EBM. In the data analysis Pearson's correlation coefficient was used for explorative analysis of correlations. The comparison of groups was performed by Student's t-test. Chi2 test was used to investigate distribution of two or more categorical variables.

Results

Of the total study population 55.3% of physicians reported already using guidelines in the treatment of patients. Physicians in group practices (GrP) as well as general practitioners (GP) agreed significantly more with the usefulness of guidelines as a basis for patient care than doctors in single practices (SP) or specialists (S) (Student's t-test mean GP 2.57, S 2.84, p < 0.01; mean GrP 2.55, SP 2.80, p < 0.05). 33.1% of the participants demonstrated a strong rejection to the application of guidelines in patient care. Acceptance of guidelines from a governmental institution was substantially lower than from physician networks or medical societies (36.2% vs. 53.4% vs. 62.0%). 73.8% of doctors interpret EBM as a combination of scientific research and individual medical knowledge; 80% regard EBM as the best basis for patient care.

Conclusion

Despite a majority of physicians accepting and applying CPGs a large group remains that is critical and opposed to the utilization of CPGs in daily practice and to the concept of EBM in general. Doctors in single practice and specialists appear to be more critical than physicians in group practices and GPs. Future research is needed to evaluate the willingness to acquire necessary knowledge and skills for the promotion and routine application of CPGs.