Questionnaire study of primary care physicians’ referral patterns and perceptions of patients with epilepsy in a Brazilian city, 2005

Autores: Vanessa Teixeira Müller e Marleide da Mota Gomes

The Brazilian health care system has undergone important changes, particularly in the development of the Unified Health System (Sistema Único de Saúde, or SUS in Portuguese) (1). Thirteen years since the SUS was implemented in Brazil, the federal Government has increased the use of norms and regulations aimed at rationalizing resources and prioritizing basic care within the System, not only by focusing on management at the state and municipal level, but also by making it a legal requirement that a minimum percentage of the municipal budget should be used for free health care (2). Likewise, new multidisciplinary family health-based systems such as the Family Health Program (Programa de Saúde da Família) and the Family Medical Program have been implemented in several Brazilian cities. The Family Health Program is based on the Cuban health care system (2). The Family Medical Program treats acute and chronic illnesses, including epilepsy, in addition to providing preventive care and health education to people of all ages and sexes. Primary health care services are the backbone of the health care system, and the current shortage of neurologists reinforces the important role of family doctors and internists in the care of patients with epilepsy. Family doctors are the primary care providers for these patients, and the first physician to see a patient with epilepsy is usually a family doctor (3). But are they really prepared to care for these patients? And how much do they know about patients with epilepsy? The aim of this paper was to evaluate, in a sample of family doctors, their referral patterns, perceptions and attitudes toward patients with epilepsy, general knowledge about epilepsy, knowledge of support services in the Brazilian primary care network for patients with epilepsy, and opinions on specific initiatives to improve care.

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