Introduction: General practice has a key role in diagnosing patients with valvular heart disease (VHD) and referring them to appropriate services.
Methods: An anonymous survey was conducted to assess the knowledge and clinical practice behaviour of Irish general practitioners (GPs) in relation to VHD. In addition to demographic data, the survey captured information in the following domains: knowledge of VHD prevalence, knowledge of contemporary VHD treatments, barriers to diagnosis, and referral patterns. To augment responses, a monetary prize (donated to charity) was offered and the survey was also disseminated using social media and by the Irish College of General Practitioners.
Results: Valid survey responses were received from 197 GPs. The sample was well-balanced by gender, number of years in practice, and practice setting. A small proportion of GPs (16.8%) used a stethoscope to examine for VHD in all patients over 60 years, a figure that rose to 22.3% in patients over 75. Approximately half of participants (48%) felt confident in their ability to detect and diagnose VHD using a stethoscope, and 74% felt lack of access to echocardiography was a major barrier to making a VHD diagnosis. There was a high level of awareness among GPs of minimally invasive nonsurgical interventions now available for VHD treatment.
Discussion: Irish GPs displayed good understanding of contemporary VHD treatment options but reported low confidence and inconsistent practices in evaluating patients for VHD. Improved access to echocardiography might help address these deficiencies, but reorganisation of services will be required in a resource-limited public health service.
Keywords: General practice; Primary care; Specialist referral; Valvular heart disease.
© 2021. The Author(s).