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      Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management (submit here)

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      Is There a Doctors’ Effect on Patients’ Physical Health, Beyond the Intervention and All Known Factors? A Systematic Review


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          Despite billions of doctor visits worldwide each year, little is known on whether doctors themselves affect patients’ physical health after accounting for intervention and confounders such as patients’ and doctors’ data, hospital effects, nor how strong that doctors’ effect is. Knowledge of surgeons’ and psychotherapists’ effects exists, but not for 102 other medical specialties notwithstanding the importance of such knowledge.


          Eligibility Criteria: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs), case-control, and cohort studies including medical doctors except surgeons for any intervention, reporting the proportion of variance in patients’ outcomes owing to the doctors (random effects), or the fixed effects of grading doctors by outcomes, after multivariate adjustment. Exclusions: studies of <15 doctors or solely reporting doctors’ effects for known variables.


          Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, inception to June 2020. Manual search for papers referring/referred to by resulting studies.

          Risk of Bias

          Using Newcastle–Ottawa scale.


          Despite all medical interventions bar surgery being eligible, only thirty cohort papers were found, covering 36,239 doctors, with 10 specialties, 21 interventions, 60 outcomes (17 unique). Studies reported doctors’ effects by grading doctors from best to worst, or by diversely calculating the doctor-attributed percentage of patients’ outcome variation, ie the intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC). Sixteen studies presented fixed effects, 18 random effects, and 3 another approach. No RCTs found. Thirteen studies reported exceptionally good and/or poor performers with confidence intervals wholly outside the average performance. ICC range 0 to 33%, mean 3.9%. Highly diverse reporting, meta-analysis therefore not applicable.


          Doctors, on their own, can affect patients’ physical health for many interventions and outcomes. Effects range from negligible to substantial, even after accounting for all known variables. Many published cohorts may reveal valuable information by reanalyzing their data for doctors’ effects. Positive and negative doctor outliers appear regularly. Therefore, it can matter which doctor is chosen.

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          Most cited references87

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          Critical evaluation of the Newcastle-Ottawa scale for the assessment of the quality of nonrandomized studies in meta-analyses.

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            Is Open Access

            Synthesis without meta-analysis (SWiM) in systematic reviews: reporting guideline

            In systematic reviews that lack data amenable to meta-analysis, alternative synthesis methods are commonly used, but these methods are rarely reported. This lack of transparency in the methods can cast doubt on the validity of the review findings. The Synthesis Without Meta-analysis (SWiM) guideline has been developed to guide clear reporting in reviews of interventions in which alternative synthesis methods to meta-analysis of effect estimates are used. This article describes the development of the SWiM guideline for the synthesis of quantitative data of intervention effects and presents the nine SWiM reporting items with accompanying explanations and examples.
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              Final report on the aspirin component of the ongoing Physicians' Health Study. Steering Committee of the Physicians' Health Study Research Group.

              The Physicians' Health Study is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial designed to determine whether low-dose aspirin (325 mg every other day) decreases cardiovascular mortality and whether beta carotene reduces the incidence of cancer. The aspirin component was terminated earlier than scheduled, and the preliminary findings were published. We now present detailed analyses of the cardiovascular component for 22,071 participants, at an average follow-up time of 60.2 months. There was a 44 percent reduction in the risk of myocardial infarction (relative risk, 0.56; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.45 to 0.70; P less than 0.00001) in the aspirin group (254.8 per 100,000 per year as compared with 439.7 in the placebo group). A slightly increased risk of stroke among those taking aspirin was not statistically significant; this trend was observed primarily in the subgroup with hemorrhagic stroke (relative risk, 2.14; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.96 to 4.77; P = 0.06). No reduction in mortality from all cardiovascular causes was associated with aspirin (relative risk, 0.96; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.60 to 1.54). Further analyses showed that the reduction in the risk of myocardial infarction was apparent only among those who were 50 years of age and older. The benefit was present at all levels of cholesterol, but appeared greatest at low levels. The relative risk of ulcer in the aspirin group was 1.22 (169 in the aspirin group as compared with 138 in the placebo group; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.98 to 1.53; P = 0.08), and the relative risk of requiring a blood transfusion was 1.71. This trial of aspirin for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease demonstrates a conclusive reduction in the risk of myocardial infarction, but the evidence concerning stroke and total cardiovascular deaths remains inconclusive because of the inadequate numbers of physicians with these end points.

                Author and article information

                Ther Clin Risk Manag
                Ther Clin Risk Manag
                Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management
                21 July 2022
                : 18
                : 721-737
                [1 ]Institute of Evidence-Based Healthcare, Bond University , Robina, Queensland, Australia
                [2 ]General Dentist, BMA House , Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Christoph Schnelle, Institute of Evidence-Based Healthcare, Bond University , Robina, Queensland, Australia, Email christoph.schnelle@student.bond.edu.au
                Author information
                © 2022 Schnelle et al.

                This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms ( https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php).

                : 12 May 2022
                : 11 July 2022
                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 5, References: 89, Pages: 17

                physicians’ effect,practice effect,physicians’ practice pattern,clinical competence,professional practice gap,delivery of health care,quality of health care,physicians


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