New Study Findings: Are family physicians comfortable treating people with sickle cell disease?

The journal Anemia has published a study in which researchers analyzed survey responses related to knowledge and attitudes toward care and treatment of patients with sickle cell disease (SCD). Surveys were submitted by 1,042 practicing physician members of the Council of Academic Family Medicine organizations. The survey was conducted between November 2013 and January 2014, and was designed to identify areas in which family physicians may need additional knowledge about care of patients with SCD. It also contained questions related to level of comfort in treating patients with SCD, concerns about SCD-related health problems, willingness to treat patients, and usefulness of clinical decision support tools (tools that provide information to help physicians make decisions about patient care, such as computerized alerts and reminder systems). This study gave researchers a better understanding of the general practice patterns of the surveyed physicians and their overall attitudes toward SCD care and treatment. Key findings from this study are highlighted below and we invite you to read the article’s abstract here.

Main Findings from this Study

1) In general, academic family physicians see few SCD patients and they are concerned with their ability to treat SCD and SCD-related health complications
• Over half of surveyed physicians did not have any patients with SCD in their practices
• Less than one 1 in 4 surveyed physicians had five or more patients with SCD in their practices
• Only 1 in 5 surveyed physicians reported being comfortable treating patients with SCD
o About 1 in 3 were comfortable treating patients who require red blood cell transfusions
o Less than 1 in 4 were comfortable treating patients who require hydroxyurea treatment
(the only currently available FDA- approved medication for preventing SCD-related health problems)
o Less than half were comfortable managing patients’ pain

2) Nearly 3 out of 4 surveyed physicians believed a clinical decision support tool would be helpful for aiding in the treatment of SCD and/or helping to avoid SCD-related health problems

Future Directions
• Further study is needed on whether or not a clinical decision support system could improve the quality of care for, and help control SCD-related health problems of people living with SCD

More Information
• To learn more about sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait, please visit our sickle cell disease homepage.
• To obtain free resources on sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait, please visit the free materials section of our website.

Key Findings Reference
Arch G. Mainous III, Rebecca J. Tanner, Christopher A. Harle, Richard Baker, Navkiran K. Shokar, and Mary M. Hulihan. “Attitudes toward Management of Sickle Cell Disease and Its Complications: A National Survey of Academic Family Physicians.” Anemia. 2015. Article ID 853835. doi:10.1155/2015/853835.

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