Original Article

Primary Care Providers’ Comfort Levels in Caring for Patients with Sickle Cell Disease

Authors: Lauren N. Whiteman, MPH, Carlton Haywood, MA, PhD, Sophie Lanzkron, MD, MHS, John J. Strouse, MD, PhD, Leonard Feldman, MD, Rosalyn W. Stewart, MD, MS


Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the comfort levels of primary care providers in caring for individuals with sickle cell disease (SCD) and determine factors that improved or lessened provider comfort.

Methods: We surveyed providers at the annual Johns Hopkins Community Physicians retreat. The survey consisted of 19 questions and measured comfort levels in four domains: providing ambulatory care to individuals with SCD, managing SCD comorbidities, managing SCD-specific issues, and managing chronic pain. We conducted bivariate analyses to identify any demographic or practice characteristics associated with comfort levels. Multivariable analyses were conducted to identify independent correlates of physician comfort.

Results: The majority of respondents lacked confidence with each of the four aspects of caring for individuals with SCD. Having treated patients with SCD and using knowledge from residency were both independently associated with increased confidence when providing ambulatory care and managing SCD-specific issues in multivariable analyses.

Conclusions: The delivery of high-quality care to adults with SCD in primary care may be limited because of a lack of provider comfort in providing that care. Because provider reliance on knowledge gained from residency significantly affected the management of patients with SCD, it is essential that continuing medical education on SCD is readily available to ensure that providers are using current information and knowledge. In addition, as comfort increases with the number of patients with SCD in a provider’s panel, it may be beneficial to identify a subset of primary care providers interested in SCD and refer patients to those providers.

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