Pilot study on GPs’ preference about out patient consultation letters on breast cancer patients.


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Charles Zammit1,Charles Zammit2
1Zammit C Consultancy Limited,2Zammit Consultancy

Abstract

Background

GPs are sent letters from out-patient consultations. We wanted to assess the preferance of GPs as to the format and knowledge of contents to improve communication between primary and tertiary care.

Method

Two sample anonymised breast cancer out patient letters were handed to GPs attending a post-graduate educational event. One letter had a systemic summary at the beginning highlighting the diagnosis and management plan, followed by a short descriptive paragraph of the consultation (Format 1). The other letter had the same information but was much longer with a narrative description of events (Format 2). A questionnaire was then handed to the GPs to assess their preference of the style of correspondence and knowledge of terminology used in breast cancer care.

Results

13 GPs answered the questionnaire. 25% said they had enough time to fully read correspondence. 69% prefer the shorter version (Format 1) of correspondence. 66% preferred the letter to be addressed to the patient with a copy to the practice.25% of GPs fail to understand all terminology used. While the majority (90%)understood basic biological information including ER and HER2 receptor results and the sentinel node concept, acronyms like PR, DIEP or TRAM or implant with ADM reconstruction was understood by around 25%. 69% of GPs would not want to have open access to mammography outside a one-stop clinic but 23% expressed an interest only if trained in its interpretation.

Conclusion

A descriptive summary at the beginning of correspondence in out patient letters was found to be most helpful particularly with the limited administration time available. Acronyms need to be explained particularly when they involve specialised treatment options.Interestingly open access to mammography was not considered important posssibly because of difficulty in its interpretation. Further research on communication/education between primary and tertiary care needs to addressed to optimise the sharing of patient care.

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