Effectiveness and cost of different strategies for information feedback in general practice

Health Services Research Unit, University of Warwick.
British Journal of General Practice (Impact Factor: 2.29). 02/1994; 44(378):19-24.
Source: PubMed


The aim of this study was to determine the effectiveness and relative cost of three forms of information feedback to general practices--graphical, graphical plus a visit by a medical facilitator and tabular.
Routinely collected, centrally-held data were used where possible, analysed at practice level. Some non-routine practice data in the form of risk factor recording in medical notes, for example weight, smoking status, alcohol consumption and blood pressure, were also provided to those who requested it. The 52 participating practices were stratified and randomly allocated to one of the three feedback groups. The cost of providing each type of feedback was determined. The immediate response of practitioners to the form of feedback (acceptability), ease of understanding (intelligibility), and usefulness of regular feedback was recorded. Changes introduced as a result of feedback were assessed by questionnaire shortly after feedback, and 12 months later. Changes at the practice level in selected indicators were also assessed 12 and 24 months after initial feedback.
The resulting cost per effect was calculated to be 46.10 pounds for both graphical and tabular feedback, 132.50 pounds for graphical feedback plus facilitator visit and 773.00 pounds for the manual audit of risk factors recorded in the practice notes. The three forms of feedback did not differ in intelligibility or usefulness, but feedback plus a medical facilitator visit was significantly less acceptable. There was a high level of self-reported organizational change following feedback, with 69% of practices reporting changes as a direct result; this was not significantly different for the three types of feedback. There were no significant changes in the selected indicators at 12 or 24 months following feedback. The practice characteristic most closely related to better indicators of preventive practice was practice size, smaller practices performing significantly better. Separate clinics were not associated with better preventive practice.
It is concluded that feedback strategies using graphical and tabular comparative data are equally cost-effective in general practice with about two thirds of practices reporting organizational change as a consequence; feedback involving unsolicited medical facilitator visits is less cost-effective. The cost-effectiveness of manual risk factor audit is also called into question.

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