Determinants of referral for suspected coronary artery disease: a qualitative study based on decision thresholds

Chest pain is a frequent consultation issue in primary care, with coronary artery disease (CAD) being a serious potential cause. Primary care physicians (PCPs) assess the probability for CAD and refer patients to secondary care if necessary. Our aim was to explore PCPs’ referral decisions, and to in...

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Main Authors: Winkler, Katja, Gerlach, Navina, Donner-Banzhoff, Norbert, Berberich, Anika, Jung-Henrich, Jutta, Schlößler, Kathrin
Format: Article
Language:English
Published: Philipps-Universität Marburg 2023
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Summary:Chest pain is a frequent consultation issue in primary care, with coronary artery disease (CAD) being a serious potential cause. Primary care physicians (PCPs) assess the probability for CAD and refer patients to secondary care if necessary. Our aim was to explore PCPs’ referral decisions, and to investigate determinants which influenced those decisions. PCPs working in Hesse, Germany, were interviewed in a qualitative study. We used ‘stimulated recall’ with participants to discuss patients with suspected CAD. With a sample size of 26 cases from nine practices we reached inductive thematic saturation. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed by inductive-deductive thematic content analysis. For the final interpretation of the material, we used the concept of decision thresholds proposed by Pauker and Kassirer. PCPs reflected on their decisions for or against a referral. Aside from patient characteristics determining disease probability, we identified general factors which can be understood as influencing the referral threshold. These factors relate to the practice environment, to PCPs themselves and to non-diagnostic patient characteristics. Proximity of specialist practice, relationship with specialist colleagues, and trust played a role. PCPs sometimes felt that invasive procedures were performed too easily. They tried to steer their patients through the system with the intent to avoid over-treatment. Most PCPs were unaware of guidelines but relied on informal local consensus, largely influenced by specialists. As a result, PCPs gatekeeping role was limited. We could identify a large number of factors that impact referral for suspected CAD. Several of these factors offer possibilities to improve care at the clinical and system level. The threshold model proposed by Pauker and Kassirer was a useful framework for this kind of data analysis.
Item Description:Gefördert durch den Open-Access-Publikationsfonds der UB Marburg.
DOI:10.1186/s12875-023-02064-y