Communication channels of German GPs in the pandemic: results of the nationwide egePan study

Simon Kugai, Yelda Idik, Manuela Schmidt, Birgitta Weltermann

Keywords: pandemic preparedness, COVID-19, general practitioners, regional healthcare, nationwide survey

Primary care requires good communication between general practitioners (GPs), patients and other healthcare providers. To avoid vis-á-vis contacts in the pandemic, communication shifted to digital communication, yet details are poorly investigated.

Research questions:
Identifying communication channels of GPs with patients and other healthcare providers.

This cross-sectional web-based survey was performed in a nationwide, stratified random sample of GPs during spring 2021. The allocation was proportionate by population density and practice type. Invitations were sent by email. The questionnaire addressed personal and practice characteristics as well as GPs communication channels with patients and regional health care professionals (multiple-select format). A Net-Promotor Score (NPS: range +100 to -100) was used to obtain GPs intention for the future use of new communication channels.

In total, 630 of 9,373 GPs completed the questionnaire (participation rate: 6.7%). On average, GPs were on duty since 18.8 years (SD±9.6), 57.8% were male and 10.2% reported COVID-19 infections of practice personnel including themselves. The majority of GPs used phone communication, especially with COVID-19 patients (95.4%), ambulatory nursing services (90.5%) and hospitals (90.2%). In addition, other communication channels were used with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients: vis-à-vis 66.7%, email 48.9%, video-conferences 26.5% and messengers 14.0%. Communication among GPs was mainly by phone (77.6%), followed by email (52.7%), messengers (25.7%) and video-conferences (23.7%). Interestingly, GPs assessment did not reflect high intentions for future use regarding video consultations for patients with respiratory infections (-63.5) and telephone screening/treatment of patients with respiratory infections (2.9%).

The majority of GPs prefers vis-á-vis contact with COVID-19 patients over video-consultations. Future qualitative studies are needed to better understand this finding.

Points for discussion: