Reducing the use of out-of-hours primary care services: A survey among Dutch general practitioners

Ellen Keizer, Irene Maassen, Marleen Smits, Michel Wensing, Paul Giesen
European Journal of General Practice 2016, 22 (3): 189-95

BACKGROUND: Out-of-hours primary care services have a high general practitioner (GP) workload with increasing costs, while half of all contacts are non-urgent.

OBJECTIVES: To identify views of GPs to influence the use of the out-of-hours GP cooperatives.

METHODS: Cross-sectional survey study among a random sample of 800 GPs in the Netherlands.

RESULTS: Of the 428 respondents (53.5% response rate), 86.5% confirmed an increase in their workload and 91.8% felt that the number of patient contacts could be reduced. A total of 75.4% GP respondents reported that the 24-h service society was a 'very important' reason why patients with non-urgent problems attended the GP cooperative; the equivalent for worry or anxiety was 65.8%, and for easy accessibility, 60.1%. Many GPs (83.9%) believed that the way telephone triage is currently performed contributes to the high use of GP cooperatives. Measures that GPs believed were both desirable and effective in reducing the use of GP cooperatives included co-payment for patients, stricter triage, and a larger role for the telephone consultation doctor. GPs considered patient education, improved telephone accessibility of daytime general practices, more possibilities for same-day appointments, as well as feedback concerning the use of GP cooperatives to practices and triage nurses also desirable, but less effective.

CONCLUSION: This study provides several clues for influencing the use of GP cooperatives. Further research is needed to examine the impact and safety of these strategies. [Box: see text].

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