There is a lack of information on benefits of well-developed primary care systems in Europe, in terms of coordination and continuity of care and opportunities to control costs.
The QUALICOPC project aims to provide an answer to the question what strong primary care systems entail and which effects strong primary care systems have on the performance of health care systems. Primary care systems in Europe will be evaluated against criteria of quality, equity and costs.
In order to fully understand the underlying mechanisms of primary care leading to health system outcomes, this study distinguishes three levels of care. The first level is the overall structure of primary, encompassing features such as financing, governance and resources.
The second level is the provision level, characterised as the delivery of care process at GP practice level. GPs can be seen as the core providers of PC. The third level, are the users of PC services. In the QUALICOPC project.
The QUALICOPC project aims to evaluate primary care systems in Europe against criteria of quality, equity and costs. It will enable to answer questions like, which features of structure and organisation of primary care are associated with access to high quality services against affordable costs.
During the first two year of the QUALICOPC the main activities were the instrument development and the actual survey of GPs and their patients in 32 European countries and Australia, Canada, New Zealand.
During this period the QUALICOPC Consortium has developed questionnaires for GPs and their patients. These questionnaires measure the professional activities and tasks of General Practitioners (GPs), their practice management and aspects of accessibility.
Two questionnaires for patients aim to measure patients' perception of primary care services, including access and quality of services and possible cost barriers on the one hand and patients’ values, i.e. what they find important, on the other hand. To test the questionnaires a pilot has been held in Slovenia, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, the methodological approach of the surveys was developed. In each country the aim is to realize a response of 220 GPs. In Cyprus, Iceland, Luxembourg and Malta the desired response is lower (around 75). In every country a nationally representative sample was drawn. The questionnaires were distributed among patients (above the age of 18) of the participating GPs. The patients were invited by a fieldworker in the waiting room.
Translation of questionnaires
The English Master versions of the questionnaires were translated in 25 European languages via a forth- and back translation procedure. Three extra languages were made available of large ethnic minority groups in Europe.
National coordinators and preparation of fieldwork
In each country a national coordinator, responsible for the data collection in his or her country, was recruited. In each country several preparation activities were undertaken: obtaining medical ethical approval for the study, recruitment and instruction of fieldworkers, drawing a representative sample of GPs and recruitment of GPs.
The QUALICOPC Consortium has prepared a scientific article on the study design of the project which has been published in BMC Family Practice (2011, 12: 115., Highly Accessed Publication). The study protocol was also presented the 17th Europe WONCA (World Family Doctors Caring for People) conference 2011.
International comparisons and analyses of good practices will enable policy makers and those responsible for managing services to make informed choices on matters regarding primary care.
At the moment of writing the data collection of the QUALICOPC project is still in full swing. The first group of countries have finished the data collection. Preliminary results on these countries will be presented at the 4th bi-annual EFPC (European Forum for Primary Care) Conference in September 2012.
The data collection is expected to be finished in fall of 2012. Based on the outcomes scientific articles, a book and a policy brief will be prepared related to the topics mentioned in the box below. The results of the project will be presented at a final conference in 2013.