National sickness certification guidelines were introduced in Sweden in 2007, comprising both overarching and diagnoses-specific recommendations. This study aimed to investigate how general practitioners (GP) used and perceived the usefulness of these guidelines in the sickness certification process close after introduction and 4 years later.
Two nationwide cross-sectional surveys in 2008 and 2012.
Physicians working in primary healthcare and having sickness certification consultations at least a few times per year (n = 4214 in 2008, and n = 4067 in 2012).
Frequency of use and perceived usefulness of the sickness certification guidelines.
Most GPs used the guidelines at least a few times per year (in 2008 74.6%; in 2012 85.2%). In 2008, 44.1% reported a need to develop competence in using the guidelines, compared with 23.3% in 2012. Of those using the guidelines, 36.7% in 2008 and 44.6% in 2012 reported it problematic to write sickness certificates in accordance with the guidelines. Most GPs (89.2% in 2008 and 88.8% in 2012) valued the guidelines beneficial to ensure quality in sickness certification consultations. A larger proportion in 2012 compared with 2008 reported that the guidelines facilitated contacts with patients (61.2%, respectively, 55.6%), as well as with other stakeholders.
The guidelines were perceived as useful and beneficial to ensure high quality in sickness certification consultations, and facilitated contacts with patients as well as other stakeholders. In 2012, still one-fourth reported a need to develop more competence in using the sickness certification guidelines.