Why do dyspeptic patients over the age of 50 consult their general practitioner? A qualitative investigation of health beliefs relating to dyspepsia.
BACKGROUND: The prognosis of late-diagnosed gastric cancer is poor, yet less than half of dyspeptic patients consult their general practitioner (GP). AIM: To construct an explanatory model of the decision to consult with dyspepsia in older patients. METHOD: A total of 75 patients over the age of 50 years who had consulted with dyspepsia at one of two inner city general practices were invited to an in-depth interview. The interviews were taped, transcribed, and analysed using the computer software NUD.IST, according to the principles of grounded theory. RESULTS: Altogether, 31 interviews were conducted. The perceived threat of cancer and the need for reassurance were key influences on the decision to consult. Cues such as a change in symptoms were important in prompting a re-evaluation of the likely cause. Personal vulnerability to serious illness was often mentioned in the context of family or friends' experience, but tempered by an individual's life expectations. CONCLUSION: Most patients who had delayed consultation put their symptoms down to 'old age' or 'spicy food'. However, a significant minority were fatalistic, suspecting the worst but fearing medical interventions. (+info
Good health care: patient and professional perspectives.
Many health needs assessment exercises are professionally led, employing complex epidemiological methods. An alternative method that gives valuable information about patient preferences is a forced-choice questionnaire, which this study used in five practices in the West of Scotland. In each practice, patient-centred care was the most highly valued attribute of service provision. (+info
Excess capacity: markets regulation, and values.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the conceptual bases for the conflicting views of excess capacity in healthcare markets and their application in the context of today's turbulent environment. STUDY SETTING: The policy and research literature of the past three decades. STUDY DESIGN: The theoretical perspectives of alternative economic schools of thought are used to support different policy positions with regard to excess capacity. Changes in these policy positions over time are linked to changes in the economic and political environment of the period. The social values implied by this history are articulated. DATA COLLECTION: Standard library search procedures are used to identify relevant literature. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Alternative policy views of excess capacity in healthcare markets rely on differing theoretical foundations. Changes in the context in which policy decisions are made over time affect the dominant theoretical framework and, therefore, the dominant policy view of excess capacity. CONCLUSIONS: In the 1990s, multiple perspectives of optimal capacity still exist. However, our evolving history suggests a set of persistent values that should guide future policy in this area. (+info
Women's interest in vaginal microbicides.
CONTEXT: Each year, an estimated 15 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, occur in the United States. Women are not only at a disadvantage because of their biological and social susceptibility, but also because of the methods that are available for prevention. METHODS: A nationally representative sample of 1,000 women aged 18-44 in the continental United States who had had sex with a man in the last 12 months were interviewed by telephone. Analyses identified levels and predictors of women's worry about STDs and interest in vaginal microbicides, as well as their preferences regarding method characteristics. Numbers of potential U.S. microbicide users were estimated. RESULTS: An estimated 21.3 million U.S. women have some potential current interest in using a microbicidal product. Depending upon product specifications and cost, as many as 6.0 million women who are worried about getting an STD would be very interested in current use of a microbicide. These women are most likely to be unmarried and not cohabiting, of low income and less education, and black or Hispanic. They also are more likely to have visited a doctor for STD symptoms or to have reduced their sexual activity because of STDs, to have a partner who had had other partners in the past year, to have no steady partner or to have ever used condoms for STD prevention. CONCLUSIONS: A significant minority of women in the United States are worried about STDs and think they would use vaginal microbicides. The development, testing and marketing of such products should be expedited. (+info
Assessment of physician-assisted death by members of the public prosecution in The Netherlands.
OBJECTIVES: To identify the factors that influence the assessment of reported cases of physician-assisted death by members of the public prosecution. DESIGN/SETTING: At the beginning of 1996, during verbal interviews, 12 short case-descriptions were presented to a representative group of 47 members of the public prosecution in the Netherlands. RESULTS: Assessment varied considerably between respondents. Some respondents made more "lenient" assessments than others. Characteristics of the respondents, such as function, personal-life philosophy and age, were not related to the assessment. Case characteristics, i.e. the presence of an explicit request, life expectancy and the type of suffering, strongly influenced the assessment. Of these characteristics, the presence or absence of an explicit request was the most important determinant of the decision whether or not to hold an inquest. CONCLUSIONS: Although the presence of an explicit request, life expectancy and the type of suffering each influenced the assessment, each individual assessment was dependent on the assessor. The resulting danger of legal inequality and legal uncertainty, particularly in complicated cases, should be kept to a minimum by the introduction of some form of protocol and consultation in doubtful or boundary cases. The notification procedure already promotes a certain degree of uniformity in the prosecution policy. (+info
Relationships between various attitudes towards self-determination in health care with special reference to an advance directive.
OBJECTIVES: The subject of patient self-determination in health care has gained broad interest because of the increasing number of incompetent patients. In an attempt to solve the problems related to doctors' decision making in such circumstances, advance directives have been developed. The purpose of this study was to examine relationships between public attitudes towards patient autonomy and advance directives. SUBJECTS AND MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: A stratified random sample of 600 adults in northern Sweden was surveyed by a questionnaire with a response rate of 78.2%. The subjects were asked about their wish for control of their health care, their concerns about health care, their treatment preferences in a life-threatening situation (both reversible and irreversible), and their attitudes towards the application of advance directives. RESULTS: Numerous relationships between various aspects of self-determination in health care (desire for control, fears of over-treatment, and choice of treatment level) in general and advance directives, in particular, were found. Those who wanted to have a say in their health care (about 94%) also mainly supported the use of an advance directive. CONCLUSIONS: The fact that almost 30% of the respondents were undecided concerning their personal use of advance directives points to a lack of knowledge and to the necessity of education of the public on these issues. (+info
The impact of genetic counselling on risk perception and mental health in women with a family history of breast cancer.
The present study investigated: (1) perception of genetic risk and, (2) the psychological effects of genetic counselling in women with a family history of breast cancer. Using a prospective design, with assessment pre- and post-genetic counselling at clinics and by postal follow-up at 1, 6 and 12 months, attenders at four South London genetic clinics were assessed. Participants included 282 women with a family history of breast cancer. Outcome was measured in terms of mental health, cancer-specific distress and risk perception. High levels of cancer-specific distress were found pre-genetic counselling, with 28% of participants reporting that they worried about breast cancer 'frequently or constantly' and 18% that worry about breast cancer was 'a severe or definite problem'. Following genetic counselling, levels of cancer-specific distress were unchanged. General mental health remained unchanged over time (33% psychiatric cases detected pre-genetic counselling, 27% at 12 months after genetic counselling). Prior to their genetics consultation, participants showed poor knowledge of their lifetime risk of breast cancer since there was no association between their perceived lifetime risk (when they were asked to express this as a 1 in x odds ratio) and their actual risk, when the latter was calculated by the geneticist at the clinic using the CASH model. In contrast, women were more accurate about their risk of breast cancer pre-genetic counselling when this was assessed in broad categorical terms (i.e. very much lower/very much higher than the average woman) with a significant association between this rating and the subsequently calculated CASH risk figure (P = 0.001). Genetic counselling produced a modest shift in the accuracy of perceived lifetime risk, expressed as an odds ratio, which was maintained at 12 months' follow-up. A significant minority failed to benefit from genetic counselling; 77 women continued to over-estimate their risk and maintain high levels of cancer-related worry. Most clinic attenders were inaccurate in their estimates of the population risk of breast cancer with only 24% able to give the correct figure prior to genetic counselling and 36% over-estimating this risk. There was some improvement following genetic counselling with 62% able to give the correct figure, but this information was poorly retained and this figure had dropped to 34% by the 1-year follow-up. The study showed that women attending for genetic counselling are worried about breast cancer, with 34% indicating that they had initiated the referral to the genetic clinic themselves. This anxiety is not alleviated by genetic counselling, although women reported that it was less of a problem at follow-up. Women who continue to over-estimate their risk and worry about breast cancer are likely to go on seeking unnecessary screening if they are not reassured. (+info
Teenage mothers and their peers: a research challenge.
Recent reports have highlighted the adverse health experience of teenage mothers. The question of how these mothers' perceptions of their own health status and social networks differ from those of their nulliparous peers is explored in this pilot study, which highlights some practical problems associated with research in this important field. (+info