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Open Access Research article

Using psychological theory to understand the clinical management of type 2 diabetes in Primary Care: a comparison across two European countries

Susan Hrisos1*, Martin P Eccles1, Jill J Francis2, Marije Bosch3, Rob Dijkstra34, Marie Johnston5, Richard Grol34, Eileen FS Kaner1 and Ian N Steen1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

2 Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

3 Scientific Institute for Quality of Healthcare, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

4 Dutch College of General Practitioners, Utrecht, The Netherlands

5 Department of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

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BMC Health Services Research 2009, 9:140  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-140

Published: 5 August 2009

Abstract

Background

Long term management of patients with Type 2 diabetes is well established within Primary Care. However, despite extensive efforts to implement high quality care both service provision and patient health outcomes remain sub-optimal. Several recent studies suggest that psychological theories about individuals' behaviour can provide a valuable framework for understanding generalisable factors underlying health professionals' clinical behaviour. In the context of the team management of chronic disease such as diabetes, however, the application of such models is less well established. The aim of this study was to identify motivational factors underlying health professional teams' clinical management of diabetes using a psychological model of human behaviour.

Methods

A predictive questionnaire based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) investigated health professionals' (HPs') cognitions (e.g., beliefs, attitudes and intentions) about the provision of two aspects of care for patients with diabetes: prescribing statins and inspecting feet.

General practitioners and practice nurses in England and the Netherlands completed parallel questionnaires, cross-validated for equivalence in English and Dutch. Behavioural data were practice-level patient-reported rates of foot examination and use of statin medication. Relationships between the cognitive antecedents of behaviour proposed by the TPB and healthcare teams' clinical behaviour were explored using multiple regression.

Results

In both countries, attitude and subjective norm were important predictors of health professionals' intention to inspect feet (Attitude: beta = .40; Subjective Norm: beta = .28; Adjusted R2 = .34, p < 0.01), and their intention to prescribe statins (Attitude: beta = .44; Adjusted R2 = .40, p < 0.01). Individuals' self-reported intention did not predict practice-level performance of either clinical behaviour.

Conclusion

Using the TPB, we identified modifiable factors underlying health professionals' intentions to perform two clinical behaviours, providing a rationale for the development of targeted interventions. However, we did not observe a relationship between health professionals' intentions and our proxy measure of team behaviour. Significant methodological issues were highlighted concerning the use of models of individual behaviour to explain behaviours performed by teams. In order to investigate clinical behaviours performed by teams it may be necessary to develop measures that reflect the collective cognitions of the members of the team to facilitate the application of these theoretical models to team behaviours.