Patients' preferences for post-treatment breast cancer follow-up in primary care vs. secondary care: a qualitative study

Carriene Roorda, Geertruida H de Bock, Christian Scholing, Klaas van der Meer, Marjolein Y Berger, Marlieke de Fouw, Annette J Berendsen
Health Expectations: An International Journal of Public Participation in Health Care and Health Policy 2015, 18 (6): 2192-201

OBJECTIVE: To explore patients' preferences for follow-up in primary care vs. secondary care.

METHODS: A cross-sectional design was employed, involving semi-structured interviews with 70 female patients with a history of early-stage breast cancer. Using descriptive content analysis, interview transcripts were analysed independently and thematically by two researchers.

FINDINGS: Patients expressed the strongest preference for annual visits (31/68), a schedule with a decreasing frequency over time (27/68), and follow-up > 10 years, including lifelong follow-up (20/64). The majority (56/61) preferred to receive follow-up care from the same care provider over time, for reasons related to a personal doctor-patient relationship and the physician's knowledge of the patient's history. About 75% (43/56) preferred specialist follow-up to other follow-up models. However, primary care-based follow-up would be accepted by 57% (39/68) provided that there is good communication between GPs and specialists, and sufficient knowledge among GPs about follow-up. Perceived benefits of primary care-based follow-up referred to the personal nature of the GP-patient relationship and the easy access to primary care. Perceived barriers included limited oncology knowledge and skills, time available, motivation among GPs to provide follow-up care and patients' confidence with the present specialist follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: More than half of the patients were open to primary care-based follow-up. Patients' confidence with this follow-up model may increase by using survivorship care plans to facilitate communication across the primary/secondary interface and with patients. Training GPs to improve their oncology knowledge and skills might also increase patients' confidence.

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