BACKGROUND: Management of allergic patients in the population is becoming more difficult because of increases in both complexity and prevalence. Although general practitioners (GPs) are expected to play an important role in the care of allergic patients, they often feel ill-equipped for this task. Therefore, the aim of this study was to develop an allergy management support system (AMSS) for primary care.
METHODS: Through literature review, interviewing and testing in secondary and primary care patients, an allergy history questionnaire was constructed by allergists, dermatologists, GPs and researchers based on primary care and specialists' allergy guidelines and their clinical knowledge. Patterns of AMSS questionnaire responses and specific immunoglobulin E (sIgE)-test outcomes were used to identify diagnostic categories and develop corresponding management recommendations. Validity of the AMSS was investigated by comparing specialist (gold standard) and AMSS diagnostic categories.
RESULTS: The two-page patient-completed AMSS questionnaire consists of 12 (mainly) multiple choice questions on symptoms, triggers, severity and medication. Based on the AMSS questionnaires and sIgE-test outcome of 118 patients, approximately 150 diagnostic categories of allergic rhinitis, asthma, atopic dermatitis, anaphylaxis, food allergy, hymenoptera allergy and other allergies were identified, and the corresponding management recommendations were formulated. The agreement between the allergy specialists' assessments and the AMSS was 69.2% (CI 67.2-71.2).
CONCLUSION: Using a systematic approach, it was possible to develop an AMSS that allows for the formulation of diagnostic and management recommendations for GPs managing allergic patients. The AMSS thus holds promise for the improvement of the quality of primary care for this increasing group of patients.