Rules of Thumb and Management of Common Infections in General Practice

Detta är en avhandling från Institutionen för hälsa och samhälle

Sammanfattning: This thesis deals with problem solving of general practitioners (GPs), which is explored with different methods and from different perspectives. The general aim was to explore and describe rules of thumb and to analyse the management of respiratory and urinary tract infections (RTI and UTI) in general practice in Sweden. The results are based upon focus group interviews concerning rules of thumb and a prospective diagnosis-prescription study concerning the management of patients allocated a diagnosis of RTI or UTI. In addition unpublished data are given from structured telephone interviews concerning specific rules of thumb in acute sinusitis and prevailing cough.GPs were able to verbalize their rules of thumb, which could be called tacit knowledge. A specific set of rules of thumb was used for rapid assessment when emergency and psychosocial problems were identified. Somatic problems seemed to be the expected, normal state. In the further consultation the rules of thumb seemed to be used in an act of balance between the individual and the general perspective. There was considerable variation between the rules of thumb of different GPs for patients with acute sinusitis and prevailing cough. In their rules of thumb the GPs seemed to integrate their medical knowledge and practical experience of the consultation. A high number of near-patient antigen tests to probe Streptococcus pyogenes (Strep A tests) and C-reactive protein (CRP) tests were performed in patients, where testing was not recommended. There was only a slight decrease in antibiotic prescribing in patients allocated a diagnosis of RTI examined with CRP in comparison with patients not tested. In general, the GPs in Sweden adhered to current guidelines for antibiotic prescribing. Phenoxymethylpenicillin (PcV) was the preferred antibiotic for most patients allocated a diagnosis of respiratory tract infection.In conclusion, the use of rules of thumb might explain why current practices prevail in spite of educational efforts. One way to change practice could be to identify and evaluate rules of thumb used by GPs and disseminate well adapted rules. The use of diagnostic tests in patients with infectious illnesses in general practice needs critical appraisal before introduction as well as continuing surveillance. The use of rules of thumb by GPs might be one explanation for variation in practice and irrational prescribing of antibiotics in patients with infectious conditions.