Improving the reporting of primary care research: An international survey of researchers

William R. Phillips, Elizabeth Sturgiss, Liesbeth Hunik, Paul Glasziou, Tim olde Hartman, Aaron Orkin, Joanne Reeve, Grant M. Russell, Chris van Weel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: To assess opportunities to improve reporting of primary care (PC) research to better meet the needs of its varied users. Methods: International, interprofessional online survey of PC researchers and users, 2018 to 2019. Respondents used Likert scales to rate frequency of difficulties in interpreting, synthesizing, and applying PC research reports. Free-text short answers were categorized by template analysis to record experiences, concerns, and suggestions. Areas of need were checked across existing reporting guidelines. Results: Survey yielded 255 respondents across 24 nations, including 138 women (54.1%), 169 physicians (60%), 32 scientists (11%), 20 educators (7%), and 18 public health professionals (6%). Overall, 37.4% indicated difficulties using PC research reports “50% or more of the time.” The most common problems were synthesizing findings (58%) and assessing generalizability (42%). Difficulty was reported by 49% for qualitative, 46% for mixed methods, and 38% for observational research. Most users wanted richer reporting of theoretical foundation (53.7%); teams, roles, and organization of care (53.4%); and patient involvement in the research process (52.7%). Few reported difficulties with ethics or disclosure of funding or conflicts. Free-text answers described special challenges in reporting PC research: context of clinical care and setting; practical details of interventions; patient-clinician and team relationships; and generalizability, applicability and impact in the great variety of PC settings. Cross-check showed that few current reporting guidelines focus on these needs. Conclusions: Opportunities exist to improve the reporting of PC research to make it more useful for its many users, suggesting a role for a PC research reporting guideline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-21
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Faculty
  • Family medicine
  • General practice
  • Health communication
  • Primary health care. Research design
  • Research report
  • Scholarly communication
  • Surveys and questionnaires
  • Translational medical research

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