Optimising personal continuity for older patients in general practice: a study protocol for a cluster randomised stepped wedge pragmatic trial

L.J.J. Groot*, H.J. Schers, J.S. Burgers, F.G. Schellevis, M. Smalbrugge, A.A. Uijen, P.M. van de Ven, H.E. van der Horst, O.R. Maarsingh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Continuity of care, in particular personal continuity, is a core principle of general practice and is associated with many benefits such as a better patient-provider relationship and lower mortality. However, personal continuity is under pressure due to changes in society and healthcare. This affects older patients more than younger patients. As the number of older patients will double the coming decades, an intervention to optimise personal continuity for this group is highly warranted.Methods: Following the UK Medical Research Council framework for complex Interventions, we will develop and evaluate an intervention to optimise personal continuity for older patients in general practice. In phase 0, we will perform a literature study to provide the theoretical basis for the intervention. In phase I we will define the components of the intervention by performing surveys and focus groups among patients, general practitioners, practice assistants and practice nurses, concluded by a Delphi study among members of our group. In phase II, we will test and finalise the intervention with input from a pilot study in two general practices. In phase III, we will perform a stepped wedge cluster randomised pragmatic trial. The primary outcome measure is continuity of care from the patients' perspective, measured by the Nijmegen Continuity Questionnaire. Secondary outcome measures are level of implementation, barriers and facilitators for implementation, acceptability and feasibility of the intervention. In phase IV, we will establish the conditions for large-scale implementation.Discussion: This is the first study to investigate an intervention for improving personal continuity for older patients in general practice. If proven effective, our intervention will enable General practitioners to improve the quality of care for their increasing population of older patients. The pragmatic design of the study will enable evaluation in real-life conditions, facilitating future implementation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number207
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Family Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2021


  • Continuity of patient care
  • Aged
  • Intervention
  • Quality improvement

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