Capacity and Adaptations of General Practice during an Influenza Pandemic
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Background: GPs play a major role in influenza epidemics, and most patients with influenza-like-illness (ILI) are treated in general practice or by primary care doctors on duty in out-of-hours services (OOH). Little is known about the surge capacity in primary care services during an influenza pandemic, and how the relationship between them changes.
Aim: To investigate how general practice and OOH services were used by patients during the 2009 pandemic in Norway and the impact of the pandemic on primary care services in comparison to a normal influenza season.
Materials: Data from electronic remuneration claims from all OOH doctors and regular GPs for 2009.
Methods: We conducted a registry-based study of all ILI consultations in the 2009 pandemic with the 2008/09 influenza season (normal season) as baseline for comparison.
Results: The majority (82.2%) of ILI consultations during the 2009 pandemic took place in general practice. The corresponding number in the 2008/09 season was 89.3%. Compared with general practice, the adjusted odds ratio for ILI with all other diagnoses as reference in OOH services was 1.23 (95% CI, 1.18, 1.27) for the 2008/2009 season and 1.87 (95% CI, 1.84, 1.91) for the pandemic influenza season. In total there was a 3.3-fold increase in ILI consultations during the pandemic compared to the 2008/09 season. A 5.5-fold increase of ILI consultations were observed in OOH services in comparison to the 2008/09 season. Children and young adults with ILI were the most frequent users of OOH services during influenza periods.
Conclusions: The autumn pandemic wave resulted in a significantly increased demand on primary care services. However, GPs in primary care services in Norway showed the ability to increase capacity in a situation with increased patient demand.