An examination of Australian general practitioners' knowledge, attitudes and practices in relation to sleep disorders
Background: Sleep disorders represent an under-recognised public health problem and are reported to be under-diagnosed in general practices.
Aims: To examine general practitioners’ (GPs) attitude, knowledge and practice behaviour and identify barriers to detection, diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders encountered in the Australian primary care setting.
Method: Using mixed methods, quantitative data from the Dartmouth Sleep Knowledge Questionnaire (DSKQ) were analysed using MS Excel 2007. Qualitative data were obtained from one focus group and eight interviews. Data were thematically analysed.
Results: 15 GPs participated; seven in a focus group and eight in interviews. Scores from DSKQ suggest gaps in GPs’ knowledge. Qualitative analysis revealed that patients frequently presented with sleep disorders underpinned by mental health disorders. GPs agreed that prescribing pharmacological interventions was undesirable and behavioural interventions were preferred. Barriers included limited training for GPs, lack of resources, patient expectations and willingness to engage in lifestyle changes, and consultation time constraints.
Discussion: Greater flexibility to investigate sleep related problems within the standard consultation and improved access to educational activities could assist GPs. Patient factors, such as adherence to management strategies, are paramount to successful management of sleep disorders; however, these obstacles to clinical practice may be difficult to overcome.
Conclusion: Providing education for GPs about sleep disorders, greater flexibility within consultations may improve patient care and patient engagement in management strategies may assist, yet a critical success factor in disease management includes patient engagement in management strategies.
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