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Open Access Research article

Changing patterns of home visiting in general practice: an analysis of electronic medical records

Michael J van den Berg*, Mieke Cardol, Frans JM Bongers and Dinny H de Bakker

Author Affiliations

NIVEL, Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, Postal Address: PO-box 1568, 3500 BN Utrecht, The Netherlands

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BMC Family Practice 2006, 7:58  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-7-58

Published: 17 October 2006



In most European countries and North America the number of home visits carried out by GPs has been decreasing sharply. This has been influenced by non-medical factors such as mobility and pressures on time. The objective of this study was to investigate changes in home visiting rates, looking at the level of diagnoses in1987 and in 2001.


We analysed routinely collected data on diagnoses in home visits and surgery consultations from electronic medical records by general practitioners. Data were used from 246,738 contacts among 124,791 patients in 103 practices in 1987, and 77,167 contacts among 58,345 patients in 80 practices in 2001. There were 246 diagnoses used. The main outcome measure was the proportion of home visits per diagnosis in 2001.


Within the period studied, the proportion of home visits decreased strongly. The size of this decrease varied across diagnoses. The relation between the proportion of home visits for a diagnosis in 1987 and the same proportion in 2001 is curvilinear (J-shaped), indicating that the decrease is weaker at the extreme points and stronger in the middle.


By comparison with 1987, the proportion of home visits shows a distinct decline. However, the results show that this decline is not necessarily a problem. The finding that this decline varied mainly between diagnoses for which home visits are not always urgent, shows that medical considerations still play an important role in the decision about whether or not to carry out a home visit.