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Assessing the quality of care of multiple conditions in general practice: practical and methodological problems
  1. S A Kirk,
  2. S M Campbell,
  3. S Kennell-Webb,
  4. D Reeves,
  5. M O Roland,
  6. M N Marshall
  1. National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr S A Kirk
 School of Nursing Midwifery and Health Visiting, Coupland 3, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK;


Objective: To investigate practical and methodological problems in assessing the quality of care of multiple conditions in general practice.

Setting: Sixteen general practices from two socioeconomically diverse regions in the UK.

Method: Quality of care was assessed in 100 randomly selected patient records in each practice using an established set of quality indicators covering 23 conditions commonly seen in primary care. Inter-rater reliability assessment was carried out for five of the conditions.

Results: Conducting simultaneous quality assessment across multiple conditions is highly resource intensive. Poor data quality and the low prevalence of some items of care defined by the indicators are significant problems. Scores for individual indicators require very large samples for reliable assessment. Quality scores are more reliable when reported at a higher unit of analysis. This is particularly true for indicators and conditions with low prevalence where data may need to be aggregated to the level of groups of conditions or organisational providers. There is no single ideal way of aggregating quality scores.

Conclusion: The study identified some of the practical and methodological difficulties in assessing quality of care across multiple conditions. For improved quality assessment, advances in information technology and improvements in data quality are required for more efficient and reliable data extraction from medical records, together with the development of methods for combining scores across indicators, conditions, and practices. However, electronic data extraction methods will still be based on the assumption that the care recorded reflects the care provided.

  • general practice
  • quality assessment
  • quality indicators

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  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.