Domestic violence is common in the community. Many of its victims present to primary care physicians (PCPs) but are not being recognized and managed. The barriers, with specific reference to a Chinese cultural context, were investigated earlier. This paper explored the factors which facilitated the process of recognizing and managing suspected cases of domestic violence by PCPs in Hong Kong.
Four focus group interviews were conducted to explore in-depth the experiences of PCPs in recognition, management and referral of domestic violence cases from which facilitators were identified. The relevant themes were then investigated in a questionnaire survey with 504 PCPs working in public and private sectors.
The focus group participants emphasized mood symptoms as useful indicators for probable abuse and continuity of care was important to unmask issues of domestic violence. The top facilitators perceived by the respondents of the survey included: a trusting doctor-patient relationship (99.8%), good communication skills (99.0%), patients’ unexplained bruises (96.3%), medical history (94.6%), and mood symptoms (94.4%). Further, the survey found that PCPs with longer years of practice, a medical degree obtained from Western countries, and postgraduate training in family counselling or psychological medicine perceived more facilitators in managing domestic violence.
Without a local screening policy and training protocol to manage domestic violence, PCPs regarded their skills in mental healthcare and good relationships with patients as the key facilitators. While training in mental health care helps PCPs manage domestic violence, a specific protocol emphasizing medical-social collaboration is anticipated to facilitate them to take a more proactive and effective stance from screening to management.