COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

National study of physician awareness and adherence to cardiovascular disease prevention guidelines

Lori Mosca, Allison H Linfante, Emelia J Benjamin, Kathy Berra, Sharonne N Hayes, Brian W Walsh, Rosalind P Fabunmi, Johnny Kwan, Thomas Mills, Susan Lee Simpson
Circulation 2005 February 1, 111 (4): 499-510
15687140

BACKGROUND: Few data have evaluated physician adherence to cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention guidelines according to physician specialty or patient characteristics, particularly gender.

METHODS AND RESULTS: An online study of 500 randomly selected physicians (300 primary care physicians, 100 obstetricians/gynecologists, and 100 cardiologists) used a standardized questionnaire to assess awareness of, adoption of, and barriers to national CVD prevention guidelines by specialty. An experimental case study design tested physician accuracy and determinants of CVD risk level assignment and application of guidelines among high-, intermediate-, or low-risk patients. Intermediate-risk women, as assessed by the Framingham risk score, were significantly more likely to be assigned to a lower-risk category by primary care physicians than men with identical risk profiles (P<0.0001), and trends were similar for obstetricians/gynecologists and cardiologists. Assignment of risk level significantly predicted recommendations for lifestyle and preventive pharmacotherapy. After adjustment for risk assignment, the impact of patient gender on preventive care was not significant except for less aspirin (P<0.01) and more weight management recommended (P<0.04) for intermediate-risk women. Physicians did not rate themselves as very effective in their ability to help patients prevent CVD. Fewer than 1 in 5 physicians knew that more women than men die each year from CVD.

CONCLUSIONS: Perception of risk was the primary factor associated with CVD preventive recommendations. Gender disparities in recommendations for preventive therapy were explained largely by the lower perceived risk despite similar calculated risk for women versus men. Educational interventions for physicians are needed to improve the quality of CVD preventive care and lower morbidity and mortality from CVD for men and women.

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