Information ranks highest: Expectations of female adolescents with a rare genital malformation towards health care services.

Information ranks highest: Expectations of female adolescents with a rare genital malformation towards health care services.

PLoS One. 2017;12(4):e0174031

Authors: Simoes E, Sokolov AN, Kronenthaler A, Hiltner H, Schaeffeler N, Rall K, Ueding E, Rieger MA, Wagner A, Poesch LS, Baur MC, Kittel J, Brucker SY


BACKGROUND: Access to highly specialized health care services and support to meet the patient's specific needs is critical for health outcome, especially during age-related transitions within the health care system such as with adolescents entering adult medicine. Being affected by an orphan disease complicates the situation in several important respects. Long distances to dedicated institutions and scarcity of knowledge, even among medical doctors, may present major obstacles for proper access to health care services and health chances. This study is part of the BMBF funded TransCareO project examining in a mixed-method design health care provisional deficits, preferences, and barriers in health care access as perceived by female adolescents affected by the Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (MRKHS), a rare (orphan) genital malformation.

METHODS: Prior to a communicative validation workshop, critical elements of MRKHS related care and support (items) were identified in interviews with MRKHS patients. During the subsequent workshop, 87 persons involved in health care and support for MRKHS were asked to rate the items using a 7-point Likert scale (7, strongly agree; 1, strongly disagree) as to 1) the elements' potential importance (i.e., health care expected to be "best practice", or priority) and 2) the presently experienced care. A gap score between the two was computed highlighting fields of action. Items were arranged into ten separate questionnaires representing domains of care and support (e.g., online-portal, patient participation). Within each domain, several items addressed various aspects of "information" and "access". Here, we present the outcome of items' evaluation by patients (attended, NPAT = 35; respondents, NRESP = 19).

RESULTS: Highest priority scores occurred for domains "Online-Portal", "Patient participation", and "Tailored informational offers", characterizing them as extremely important for the perception as best practice. Highest gap scores yielded domains "Tailored informational offers", reflecting perceived lack of disease-related information for affected persons, medical experts, and health insurance companies, "Online-Portal" (with limited information available on specialist clinics and specialized doctors), and regarding insufficient support offers (e.g., in school and occupational settings). Conversely, lowest gap scores were found with group offers for MRKHS patients ("Transition programs") and MRKHS self-help days ("Patient participation"), suggesting satisfaction or good solutions in place.

DISCUSSION: The importance assigned to disease-related information indicates that informational deficits are perceived by patients as barriers, hindering proper access to health care, especially in an orphan disease. Access to health-related information plays a role for all persons seeking help and care. However, the overwhelmingly high scores attributed to these elements in the context of an orphan disease reveal that here improved information policies are crucial, demanding for institutionalized solutions supported by the health care system.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: The disparity between experience of care and attribution as best practice detected describes areas of action in all domains involved, highlighting information related fields. New concepts and structures for health care in orphan diseases could draw upon these patient-oriented results a) regarding orphan-disease specific elements demanding institutionalized reimbursement, b) essential elements for center care and corresponding networks, and c) elements reflecting patients´ participation in the conception of centers for rare diseases.