Background: Although primary care is the major target of coronary heart disease (CHD) clinical recommendations, little is known of how community physicians view guidelines and their implementation. The REACT survey was designed to assess the views, and perceived implementation, of CHD and lipid treatment guidelines among primary care physicians.
Methods: Semi-structured validated telephone interviews were conducted, in the relevant native tongue, with 754 randomly selected primary care physicians (GPs and family doctors) in five European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK).
Results: Most physicians (89%) agreed with the content of current guidelines and reported use of them (81%). However, only 18% of physicians believed that guidelines were being implemented to a major extent. Key barriers to greater implementation of guidelines were seen as lack of time (38% of all physicians), prescription costs (30%), and patient compliance (17%). Suggestions for ways to improve implementation centred on more education, both for physicians themselves (29%) and patients (25%); promoting, publicizing or increasing guideline availability (23%); simplifying the guidelines (17%); and making them clearer (12%). Physicians perceived diabetes to be the most important risk factor for CHD, followed by hypertension and raised LDL-C. Most physicians (92%) believe their patients do associate high cholesterol levels with CHD. After establishing that a patient is 'at risk' of CHD, physicians reported spending an average of 16.5 minutes discussing risk factors and lifestyle changes or treatment that is required. Factors preventing this included insufficient time (42%), having too many other patients to see (27%) and feeling that patients did not listen or understand anyway (21%).
Conclusions: Primary care physicians need more information and support on the implementation of CHD and cholesterol guideline recommendations. This need is recognized by clinicians.