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Has the COVID-19 pandemic led to changes in the tasks of the primary care workforce? An international survey among general practices in 38 Countries (PRICOV-19).

Groenewegen, P., Poel, E. Van, Spreeuwenberg, P., Batenburg, R., Mallen, C., Murauskiene, L., Peris, A., Petre, B., Schaufeli, W.B., Stark, S., Sigurðsson, E.L., Tatsioni, A., Vafeidou, K., Willems, S. Has the COVID-19 pandemic led to changes in the tasks of the primary care workforce? An international survey among general practices in 38 Countries (PRICOV-19). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: 2022, 19(22), Art. nr. 15329
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Objective
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a large and varying impact on primary care. This paper studies changes in the tasks of general practitioners (GPs) and associated staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods
Data from the PRICOV-19 study of 5093 GPs in 38 countries were used. We constructed a scale for task changes and performed multilevel analyses. The scale was reliable at both GP and country level.

Results
Clustering of task changes at country level was considerable (25%). During the pandemic, staff members were more involved in giving information and recommendations to patients contacting the practice by phone, and they were more involved in triage. GPs took on additional responsibilities and were more involved in reaching out to patients. Problems due to staff absence, when dealt with internally, were related to more task changes. Task changes were larger in practices employing a wider range of professional groups.

Conclusions
Whilst GPs were happy with the task changes in practices with more changes, they also felt the need for further training. A higher-than-average proportion of elderly people and people with a chronic condition in the practice were related to task changes. The number of infections in a country during the first wave of the pandemic was related to task changes. Other characteristics at country level were not associated with task changes. Future research on the sustainability of task changes after the pandemic is needed.