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Frequently Asked Questions

What do you do to protect my privacy?

No one at EQIP will ever see your prescribing data associated with your name or any other identifying information. The team that processes the data and creates the individualized, personal portraits does not have access to physicians’ names. The portraits that they see are identified only by a code number (Portrait ID number). The team that maintains mailing lists and interacts with physicians does not have access to physicians’ data. Your portrait is enclosed in a study code-bearing envelope before it can be matched to your name and address. Files related to continued participation in the study are maintained confidentially in password-protected computers in Dr. Maclure’s Victoria research office. No one is identified by name in any reports of the study.

How can I sign up for EQIP?

You don’t have to sign up for EQIP. If you are a practicing general practitioner in BC, and you fit the criteria for an individualized portrait, you will receive either the Early Group or the Delayed Group distribution of each of the EQIP topics. You will continue to receive EQIP materials by default unless you indicate that you do not want to participate in EQIP.

What if I don’t want to participate in EQIP?

When you receive a package of EQIP materials you will find instructions for contacting the project to decline future EQIP mailings.

What does “Early Group” and “Delayed Group” mean?

For project evaluation purposes, EQIP portraits are distributed using a designed delay process; prescribing portraits are mailed to qualifying general practitioners in the Early Group and after a delay of approximately one year to those who are in the Delayed Group. If the intervention in the Early Group does not show a significant impact, the delayed mailing may not be distributed.

How are GPs divided into the Early or Delayed Group?

BC communities were matched by certain geographic and demographic factors and then divided into two matched groups. The two groups are randomly assigned as either Early or Delayed. For each intervention, physicians in the Early Group (about one half of the general practitioners in the province) receive the initial materials. After approximately one year, the Delayed group physicians receive the materials. This delay in distribution creates an adequate window of time to allow for proper impact assessment of the program, while ensuring that the materials are eventually available to all physicians.

Does every physician get sent a personal prescribing portrait?

EQIP materials are meant for general practitioners only. To be included in a mailing, physicians must also have satisfied some technical criteria such as: prescribing a minimum of the medication in question; be defined as a General Practitioner by the BC Medical Services Plan; and not be retired at a certain cut-off date.

How did you get my address?

EQIP regularly receives an up-to-date list of general practitioners and their practice addresses from Health Insurance BC (HIBC) which administers the Medical Services Plan (MSP) and PharmaCare programs on behalf of the B.C. Government.

How many physicians take part in EQIP?

There are approximately 4,500 general practitioners in BC. Approximately half of that total receives material in each mailing.

All the material I’ve received talks about costs. Is EQIP really just about saving money?

Better care is the main purpose of EQIP. In many cases healthcare dollars are spent needlessly for drugs that cost more but don’t work any better than less costly alternatives. Those extra costs represent money that could be better reinvested in other kinds of healthcare. Though most EQIP topics deal with areas where patient care can be improved and money saved, in some cases EQIP recommendations call for a higher level of prescribing which would actually lead to higher prescription costs.

Does every EQIP topic involve a personal prescribing portrait?

A key component of EQIP is for physicians to receive confidential portraits of their own prescribing. So far each EQIP topic has included the production of an individualized portrait except the glucose test strip portrait which was sent to all BC GPs in the summer of 2010. That portrait provided information about glucose test strip use in the province as a whole.

Don’t I have to give consent to have my prescribing analyzed for research projects?

Yes. For the research aspect of the project, you can opt out or, by not opting out, give your passive consent. However, physicians do not have to give their permission for their prescribing to be analyzed for evaluation by the Ministry of Health Services. All prescribing in the province will be analysed at the aggregate level.

How do you acquire and analyze prescribing data?

The BC Ministry of Health provides the EQIP project with the PharmaNet, Medical Services Plan (MSP) and hospital data that EQIP uses to produce prescribing portraits. EQIP was required to complete a stringent Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA); this extensive document ensures that the EQIP premises, technology and materials production are compliant with the Ministry’s privacy standards.