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Kien C.,Danube University Krems | Reichenpfader U.,Danube University Krems | Reichenpfader U.,Linköping University | Nussbaumer B.,Danube University Krems | And 6 more authors.
Zeitschrift fur Evidenz, Fortbildung und Qualitat im Gesundheitswesen | Year: 2015

Background Current forecasts project a future shortage of physicians which might compromise the quality of health care if not addressed adequately by health policy decisions. One proposed measure is to shift selected tasks and responsibilities from physicians to other medical staff, a strategy that has proven successful in some areas (e. g., chronic disease management). To date, no studies have systematically and objectively assessed whether the application of a similar strategy to screening and counselling in preventive medicine compromises patients' health outcomes and experiences. Methods A systematic search was conducted in MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, CINAHL, and EMBASE (January 2000 - June 2014). We dually reviewed articles and assessed the risk of bias. Results 3,315 citations were identified and five relevant articles located. Overall, the available evidence indicated that there were no substantial differences in benefits and harms of screening (colon cancer screening, sexual transmitted diseases, and mammography) and counselling (genetic breast cancer risk) between non-physicians and physicians. The quality of evidence, however, is very low for most comparisons. Reported statistically significant differences for some outcomes need to be viewed cautiously. Conclusion Shifting tasks from physicians to other medical staff for screening and counselling could be a viable strategy to address the shortage of practicing physicians. Adequate training by a physician, however, is a prerequisite for the safe and beneficial screening and counselling conducted by non-physicians.

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