Decision-making and referral processes for patients with motor neurone disease: a qualitative study of GP experiences and evaluation of a new decision-support tool

Abstract

BACKGROUND The diagnosis of motor neurone disease (MND) is known to be challenging and there may be delay in patients receiving a correct diagnosis. This study investigated the referral process for patients who had been diagnosed with MND, and whether a newly-developed tool (The Red Flags checklist) might help General Practitioners (GPs) in making referral decisions. METHODS We carried out interviews with GPs who had recently referred a patient diagnosed with MND, and interviews/surveys with GPs who had not recently referred a patient with suspected MND. We collected data before the Red Flags checklist was introduced; and again one year later. We analysed the data to identify key recurring themes. RESULTS Forty two GPs took part in the study. The presence of fasciculation was the clinical feature that most commonly led to consideration of a potential MND diagnosis. GPs perceived that their role was to make onward referrals rather than attempting to make a diagnosis, and delays in correct diagnosis tended to occur at the specialist level. A quarter of participants had some awareness of the newly-developed tool; most considered it useful, if incorporated into existing systems. CONCLUSIONS While fasciculation is the most common symptom associated with MND, other bulbar, limb or respiratory features, together with progression should be considered. There is a need for further research into how decision-support tools should be designed and provided, in order to best assist GPs with referral decisions. There is also a need for further work at the level of secondary care, in order that referrals made are re-directed appropriately.

DOI: 10.1186/s12913-017-2286-0

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Baxter2017DecisionmakingAR, title={Decision-making and referral processes for patients with motor neurone disease: a qualitative study of GP experiences and evaluation of a new decision-support tool}, author={Susan Baxter and Christopher J McDermott}, booktitle={BMC health services research}, year={2017} }