BMJ open 2017 08 117(8) e014157 doi 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-014157
Somatoform or somatic symptom disorders ((S)SD) are common and have a negative impact on the patients’ health-related quality of life, healthcare use and costs. In primary care, which is central to the management of (S)SD, diagnosis and treatment tend to be delayed. There is a significant lack of evidence regarding the barriers in the diagnostic process of (S)SD in primary care and how interventions should be tailored to address them. The aim of this study is to analyse the diagnostic process in primary care that results in the diagnosis or non-diagnosis of a (S)SD.
METHODS AND ANALYSIS
This mixed methods study will investigate the topic with qualitative methods, subsequently proceeding to a quantitative phase where the initial results will be validated and/or generalised. First, focus groups will explore meanings and patterns, inconsistencies and conflicts in general practitioners’ (GPs) thoughts and behaviours when diagnosing (S)SD. Second, the results of these focus groups will be used to develop interview guidelines for subsequent face-to-face interviews. Patients and their treating GPs will be interviewed separately on how they experience the history of illness, the diagnostic process and treatment. Third, based on the results of the first two study parts, a questionnaire will be derived and a nationwide survey among German GPs will be conducted, quantifying the barriers and difficulties identified before.
ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION
Ethics approval was obtained from the Ethics Committee of the Hamburg Medical Association, Germany (approval number PV4763). The results of this study will be disseminated through conference presentation and publications in peer-reviewed journals.
TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER
The study is registered in the German Clinical Trial Register (DRKS), DRKS-ID DRKS00009736.