Background: Predictive clinical scores, diagnostic as well as prognostic, are considered to be useful tools for making decisions under conditions of uncertainty. They are not intended to replace clinical judgment or medical experience, but to help physicians in the interpretation of clinical information. The general practitioner (GP), the gateway to care in the French health system, should be the main beneficiary of their utilization. However, there is no information on the prevalence of their use in general practice in France.
Methods: A national, transversal epidemiological survey was conducted by electronic mail among GPs belonging to the French Sentinelles network. GPs were asked about their use of scores, the context of their utilization and the expected benefit. A qualitative study (focus groups) was also carried out with three groups of GPs within the context of continuous medical education.
Results: The study consisted of 358 GPs. They were questioned on their use of seven predictive clinical scores (six diagnostic and one prognostic). Clinical scores were used by 75% of GPs, with no statistical difference with regard to their age or sex. The most often used were: the Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE) (95%), Fagerström test (90%), Hamilton scale (65%), McIsaac scores (61%), DETA/CAGE (45%), Simple Calculated Osteoporosis Risk Estimation (SCORE) for osteoporosis (33%), and the only prognostic score CHADS2 (28%). Clinical scores were especially used when elderly people were involved (77%) and when the diagnosis was uncertain (63%). The qualitative study gave additional information on the barriers and obstacles to the use of predictive clinical scores.
Conclusion: This study, the first one in France, gives information on the perception of clinical scores and on the rationale for their use by GPs. Suggestions to improve the situation (availability and rate of utilization of clinical scores) are provided.
Keywords: epidemiological survey; general practice; predictive scores.