Factors associated with patients' and GPs' assessment of the burden of treatment in multimorbid patients: a cross-sectional study in primary care

BMC Fam Pract. 2019 Jun 28;20(1):88. doi: 10.1186/s12875-019-0974-z.


Background: Multimorbid patients may experience a high burden of treatment. This has a negative impact on treatment adherence, health outcomes and health care costs. The objective of our study was to identify factors associated with the self-perceived burden of treatment of multimorbid patients in primary care and to compare them with factors associated with GPs assessment of this burden.

Method: A cross sectional study in general practices, 100 GPs in Switzerland and up to 10 multimorbid patients per GP. Patients reported their self-perceived burden of treatment using the Treatment Burden Questionnaire (TBQ, possible score 0-150), whereas GPs evaluated the burden of treatment on a Visual Analog Scale (VAS) from 1 to 9. The study explored medical, social and psychological factors associated with burden of treatment, such as number and type of chronic conditions and drugs, severity of chronic conditions (CIRS score), age, quality of life, deprivation, health literacy.

Results: The GPs included 888 multimorbid patients. The overall median TBQ was 20 and the median VAS was 4. Both patients' and GPs' assessment of the burden of treatment were inversely associated with patients' age and quality of life. In addition, patients' assessment of their burden of treatment was associated with a higher deprivation score and lower health literacy, and with having diabetes or atrial fibrillation, whereas GPs' assessment of this burden was associated with the patient having a greater number of chronic conditions and drugs, and a higher CIRS score.

Conclusion: Both from patients' and GPs' perspectives TB appears to be higher in younger patients. Whereas for patients the burden of treatment is associated with socio-economic and psychological factors, GPs' assessments of this burden are associated with medical factors. Including socio-economic and psychological factors on patients' self-perception is likely to improve GPs' assessments of their patients' burden of treatment thus favoring patient-centered care.

Keywords: Burden of treatment; Chronic diseases; Multimorbidity; Primary care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • General Practitioners*
  • Health Literacy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multimorbidity
  • Multiple Chronic Conditions / therapy*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Quality of Life
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Class
  • Treatment Adherence and Compliance