Global assessment of the knowledge and confidence in managing allergic disorders among primary care pediatricians across Europe: An EAACI task force report

Global assessment of the knowledge and confidence in managing allergic disorders among primary care pediatricians across Europe: An EAACI task force report

Abstract

Background

Pediatricians are often the first point of contact for children in Primary Care (PC), but still perceive gaps in their allergy knowledge. We investigated self-perceived knowledge gaps and educational needs in pediatricians across healthcare systems in Europe so that future educational initiatives may better support the delivery of allergy services in PC.

Method

A multinational survey was circulated to pediatricians who care for children and adolescents with allergy problems in PC by the EAACI Allergy Educational Needs in Primary Care Pediatricians Task Force from February to March 2023. A 5-point Likert scale was used to assess the level of agreement with questionnaire statements. Thirty surveys per country were the cut-off for inclusion and statistical analysis.

Results

In this study, 1991 respondents were obtained from 56 countries across Europe and 210 responses were from countries with a cut-off below 30 participants per country. Primary care pediatricians (PCPs) comprised 74.4% of the respondents. The majority (65.3%) were contracted to state or district health services. 61.7% had awareness of guidelines for onward allergy referral in their countries but only 22.3% were aware of the EAACI competencies document for allied health professionals for allergy. Total sample respondents versus PCPs showed 52% and 47% of them have access to allergy investigations in their PC facility (mainly specific IgE and skin prick tests); 67.6% and 58.9% have access to immunotherapy, respectively. The main barrier to referral to a specialist was a consideration that the patient’s condition could be diagnosed and treated in this PC facility, (57.8% and 63.6% respectively). The main reasons for referral were the need for hospital assessment, and partial response to first-line treatment (55.4% and 59.2%, 47% and 50.7%, respectively). Learning and assessment methods preference was fairly equally divided between Traditional methods (45.7% and 50.1% respectively) and e-learning 45.5% and 44.9%, respectively. Generalist physicians (GPs) have the poorest access to allergy investigations (32.7%, p = .000). The majority of the total sample (91.9%) assess patients with allergic pathology. 868 (43.6%) and 1117 (46.1%), received allergy training as undergraduates and postgraduates respectively [these proportions in PCPs were higher (45% and 59%), respectively]. PCPs with a special interest in allergology experienced greater exposure to allergy teaching as postgraduates. GPs received the largest amount of allergy teaching as undergraduates. Identifying allergic disease based on clinical presentation, respondents felt most confident in the management of eczema/atopic dermatitis (87.4%) and rhinitis/asthma (86.2%), and least confident in allergen immunotherapy (36.9%) and latex allergy (30.8%).

Conclusion

This study exploring the confidence of PCPs to diagnose, manage, and refer patients with allergies, demonstrated knowledge gaps and educational needs for allergy clinical practice. It detects areas in need of urgent improvement especially in latex and allergen immunotherapy. It is important to ensure the dissemination of allergy guidelines and supporting EAACI documents since the majority of PCPs lack awareness of them. This survey has enabled us to identify what the educational priorities of PCPs are and how they would like to have them met.