Background: This study aimed to develop an innovation to assist general practitioners (GPs) in Australia to proactively address the needs of caregivers of people with cancer.
Method: Six GPs were video recorded each consulting six actor-patients in their respective practices. All cases depicted caregivers of people with cancer. The patients were instructed to complete a Needs Assessment Tool for Caregivers (NAT-C), before the consultation. Actor-patients were instructed to present the NAT-C to three of the six GPs they consulted, selected at random. Two assessors independently reviewed each consultation performance using the Leicester Assessment Package (LAP). The practitioners and actor-patients focused on the value of the NAT-C and how it could be deployed to best effect in a subsequent 'stimulated recall session'.
Results: Thirty-four consultations were successfully recorded. The mean duration of consultations was 13 min. 47 sec. (range 6 min. 3 sec. to 22 min. 51 sec.). GPs differed in core competencies as measured by the LAP (P<0.001), range 37-92%. However, they demonstrated no significant differences in performance (LAP scores) analysed by scenario (P = 0.99). The 'generalised estimating equation' (GEE) model identified an improved LAP score in consultations in which the NAT-C was used (average of 3.3 points; 95% CI: -3.99, 10.6), after controlling for the different GPs and scenarios, but this improvement was not statistically significant (P = 0.37). The participants felt that the NAT-C was beneficial and suggested how it could be further refined.
Conclusions: If this innovation had been formally tested in a randomised trial without assessing its impact on the consultation there might have been significant difficulties with administering the intervention in practice.