Background: Adherence to clinical practice guidelines for management of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is suboptimal. The purposes of this study were to identify practice patterns and barriers among U.S. general internists and family physicians in regard to cardiovascular risk management, and examine the association between physician characteristics and cardiovascular risk management.
Methods: A case vignette survey focused on cardiovascular disease risk management was distributed to a random sample of 12,000 U.S. family physicians and general internists between November and December 2006.
Results: Responses from a total of 888 practicing primary care physicians who see 60 patients per week were used for analysis. In an asymptomatic patient at low risk for cardiovascular event, 28% of family physicians and 37% of general internists made guideline-based preventive choices for no antiplatelet therapy (p < .01). In a patient at high risk for cardiovascular event, 59% of family physicians and 56% of general internists identified the guideline-based goal for serum fasting LDL level (< 100 mg/dl). Guideline adherence was inversely related to years in practice and volume of patients seen. Cost of medications (87.7%), adherence to medications (74.1%), adequate time for counseling (55.7%), patient education tools (47.1%), knowledge and skills to recommend dietary changes (47.8%) and facilitate patient adherence (52.0%) were cited as significant barriers to CVD risk management.
Conclusion: Despite the benefits demonstrated for managing cardiovascular risks, gaps remain in primary care practitioners' management of risks according to guideline recommendations. Innovative educational approaches that address barriers may facilitate the implementation of guideline-based recommendations in CVD risk management.