Determinants of access to general practice in a shared care model for people living with HIV: a qualitive study of patients’ perspectives in an Australian rural community

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BMC Primary Care


Background: Improved management of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has resulted in improved life expectancy for people living with HIV and an ageing population with a significant comorbidity burden. Shared care models, involving the co-ordinated liaison between general practitioners and specialist physicians, have been advocated for in Australia to provide comprehensive care. People living with HIV in rural areas have reduced access to general practice and therefore shared care. This study explores the perspectives of people living with HIV on the barriers and enablers to accessing shared care in an Australian rural setting. Methods: In this qualitative study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with adults living with HIV who either resided in or accessed care in a rural area of Australia. Interviews were conducted via video conferencing, phone or face-to-face. Transcripts were imported into NVivo, coded and analysed in alignment with a conceptual framework of healthcare access defined by Levesque and colleagues. Results: Thirteen interviews were conducted in total. Participants’ narratives demonstrated the substantial influence of accessibility to general practice on their ability to engage in effective shared care. Challenges included the perception that general practitioners would not provide additive value to participants’ care, which restricted the ability to both seek and engage in the shared care model. Healthcare beliefs, expectations and experiences with stigma led participants to prioritise the perceived interpersonal qualities of specialist care above a shared care system. Access to shared care was facilitated by continuity of care in general practice but logistical factors such as affordability, transport and availability impacted the ability to access regular high-quality healthcare. Conclusions: Navigating patient priorities and anticipated stigma in general practice within the resource limitations of rural healthcare were barriers to effective shared care. General practitioners’ ability to build rapport and long-term relationships with participants was instrumental in the perception of valuable care. Strategies are required to secure continuity of care with interpersonally skilled general practitioners to ensure provision of quality primary care for people living with HIV, which can be supported by specialist physicians in a shared care model.

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