Healthcare services and health research aim to improve the physical and psychosocial well-being of consumers, and to promote the availability of responsive services that are needed and valued by them. During the last few decades, healthcare providers have increasingly recognised the value of “consumer-centred care” (or “patient-centred care”). In 2001, a report by the Institute of Medicine established patient centredness as one of the 6 essential aims for the 21st-century health care system.(1) In contrast to a “clinician-centred,” “disease-centred” or “treatment-centred” approach, consumer-centredness focuses on the consumers’ needs, perspectives and preferences.(2, 3)
A core principle underlying consumer-centredness is to understand and engage with consumers’ experiences, perspectives, values, preferences and expressed needs.(4) In addition to the availability and technical standard of care, the experiences and perspectives of consumers will influence how people use and benefit from healthcare services and research.(5) Consumer experiences and perspectives can complement those of health professionals and offer a sophisticated, sometimes idiosyncratic, framework of knowledge about their health and other aspects of their lives.
Consumer-centred care can enhance quality of life for consumers, improve adherence to treatment regimens, and reduce morbidity.(6) In research, consumer involvement may make practice and policy more relevant to consumers’ needs, leading to outcomes that include greater patient satisfaction, improvement in treatment adherence, better acceptance of research findings and reduced risk of litigation.(7, 8)
Consumer-centredness is particularly important in the management of chronic disease.(9) The continuous and complex management of chronic kidney disease (CKD), for example, requires patients and their informal caregivers to adhere to strict medical regimens, deliver technically demanding home-based interventions, and modify their nutritional intake. If the rhetoric of consumer-centredness is to become a reality, a better understanding of consumers’ perspectives on health care and research is needed.
The overarching purpose of this thesis is to better understand the needs, experiences and perspectives of CKD patients, their family and informal caregivers, thereby supporting a move towards greater patient-centredness in care and research in CKD.
1.2 Definition of terms
Many of the terms I have used in this thesis do not have a single, universally accepted definition. The following illustrates the diversity of definitions for significant terms and indicates the definition used in this thesis.
Consumer The term consumer is widely used in healthcare but alternative terms including service-user, patient, citizen, carer, caregiver, or lay person,(10) may be preferred in other circumstances. Broadly, a consumer includes “patients and potential patients, carers, organisations representing consumers’ interests, and members of the public who are the targets of health promotion programs,”(11) who directly or indirectly use health services. In this thesis, the term consumer includes only individual patients and caregivers.
No universally accepted definition of consumer-centred care exists.(2) Various definitions have been proposed that share the same notion of considering the consumers’ needs, perspectives and preferences.(1, 4, 5) In the literature, the terms “consumer-centred,” “user-centred,” “patient-focused,” “consumer-directed” and “patient-centred” have been used with little clear distinction between them. The term “patient-centred” is most frequently used in the literature. I will use the terms consumer-centred and patient-centred interchangeably.
Consumer-centred health research The term “consumer-centred health research” is uncommon. In this thesis, I extend the concept of consumer-centredness from clinical practice to research. I define consumer-centred health research as any research program that considers and incorporates the needs, preferences and experiences of consumers. This is possible at any stage of the research process: deciding the research topic, developing research methods, conducting the research, disseminating results to the participants and stakeholders, and suggesting areas for future research. The principles underpinning consumer-centred care and consumer-centred health research are discussed more fully in the next section.
Chronic Kidney Disease Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a term used to describe kidney damage or reduced kidney function that persists for more than 3 months. In technical terms, CKD includes patients with a glomerular filtration rate of less than 60 ml/min/1.73m2 for 3 months or more. CKD most commonly results from diabetes, nephritis (inflammation of the kidney) and hypertension, and can present at any stage in a person’s lifespan.(12)
Patients with CKD either die from cardiovascular events (for examples, myocardial infarction or stroke) or progress to End Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD). In ESKD, the patient has little or no kidney function and renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis or transplantation is required to sustain life.(13) In Australia, 1 in 7 Australians over 25 years have at least one clinical sign of existing CKD. (14) In 2006, 2 378 patients commenced renal replacement therapy, a 4% increase from 2005, and 641 transplant operations were performed, a 3% increase from 2005.(12)
In this thesis, the term “CKD” includes those who have not yet received dialysis or a kidney transplant, and patients on renal replacement therapy, which includes dialysis and transplantation.(15)
Informal caregiver Informal caregivers include spouses, siblings, children, relatives and friends, however in this thesis I predominantly focus on parent caregivers. Informal caregivers provide “extraordinary, uncompensated care, predominantly in the home setting, involving significant amounts of time and energy for months or years, requiring the performance of tasks that may be physically, emotionally, socially, or financially demanding.”(16)
Patient A patient can be defined in may ways and the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary defines patient as a “sick individual especially when awaiting or under the care and treatment of a physician or surgeon” or a “client for medical service.”(17) In this thesis, a patient is any person who receives or is waiting for health care.
1.3 Principles underpinning consumer-centred care and health research
As stated, “consumer-centred care” is a widely adopted term but there is no universally accepted definition or theoretical framework. Various definitions have been proposed since it was introduced during the 1950s when Balint proposed that doctors needed to listen to their patients.(3, 18)
For instance, according to The International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (IAPO), an international organisation for advancing patient-centred care(4), “patient-centred healthcare” is “healthcare that is designed and practiced with the patient at the centre.” This definition if also reflected in the Picker Institute values statement, “All patients deserve high-quality healthcare, and patients’ views and experiences are integral to successful improvement efforts.”(5) The Institute of Medicine defines patient-centredness as “providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”(1) Patient-centredness ensures that the healthcare services and health research are “closely congruent with and responsive to the patients’ wants, needs, and preferences.”(2, 18) These and many other definitions share similar underlying principles.
Core principles of consumer-centredness Consumer-centredness is a holistic concept in which the underlying principles are inextricably linked. However, for the purpose of clarifying the underlying principles of consumer-centredness, I will discuss them as discrete, individual components, drawing on the conceptual framework developed by the Picker Institute(5), which is comprehensive and broadly subsumes the principles proposed by others. The principles have applicability to and implications for both healthcare and research.
Respect for patients’ values, preferences and expressed needs: to understand the patient’s quality of life and experience of the disease (for instance, the problems, feelings, and personal meaning and implications of the illness for each individual patient, which may be influenced by their values, culture and traditions). (19, 20) This includes the patient’s cognition, such as what they expect and believe, and their confidence about their disease management.(6, 21)
Coordination and integration of care: to integrate the clinical management, ancillary care, and support services for the benefit of the patient.
Information, communication and education: to facilitate health promotion, self-management and autonomy consumers should have access to current, relevant and comprehensive information(4) on their clinical status, prognosis, progress, the process of care, and the support services and educational programs available to them; to be sensitive to patients’ preferences for information and shared decision making; and to provide an appropriate response.(19)
Emotional support: to alleviate stress, fear and anxiety relating to the illness and treatment, including physical disability or disfigurement, social isolation, its impact on the family, and financial burdens.
Involvement of family and friends: to recognise the needs and contributions of the patient’s family, friends and informal caregivers (6, 21), and to involve them in decision-making relating to care planning and delivery when the patient agrees; to promote an awareness of the disease, symptoms and treatment among family and friends and to accommodate the needs of informal caregivers.
Smooth transition and continuity across service boundaries: to coordinate, plan and support transition of care, offer continuity of care and provide support for self-management and care which is delivered away from the clinical setting.
Access to care: to minimise waiting times for appointments and admission, and to provide convenient service hours; to equip patients with skills and resources (including transportation) to access and navigate the health care system.
Operationalising the principles of patient-centredness
Efforts to operationalise the principles of patient-centredness can occur on 5 levels that link with and support each other. Patient-centredness can occur at the 1) health care system and public policy level (e.g. emphasis on prevention, promoting public policies and government funding that supports patient-centred care), 2) system or organisational level (e.g. funding, policy, regional governance, service provision models), 3) patient level (e.g. provision of information, needs assessment, satisfaction surveys), 4) provider level (e.g. training and education, multi-disciplinary teams) and 5) community level (e.g. partnerships, service access, transport, environment).
Recently, patient-centredness has been advocated in the care of patients with CKD and attempts have been made to operationalise some of the principles, which are demonstrated in the following examples.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommendations for anaemia management in CKD are prefaced by a statement addressing patient-centredness, “Treatment and care should take into account patients’ individual needs and preferences. Good communication between healthcare providers and patients is essential, and should be supported by the provision of evidence-based information offered in a form that is tailored to the needs of the individual patients. Carers and relatives (including parents where appropriate) should have the opportunity to be involved in decisions about the patients’ care and treatment.”(22) Asking open ended, culturally sensitive questions about how the illness impacts on patients, providing patient-friendly information, and considering emotional and social environments, have been recommended(23), as well as a “patient-centred, guideline-supported” approach to communicating prognosis in the dialysis consent process.(24) A new approach to advanced care planning for patients with end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) has been proposed that emphasizes patient-centredness rather than a document-driven, decision-focused protocol. The model states that the outcomes of advanced care planning should include improved satisfaction, and those which are congruent with patient preferences.(25)
In the Kidney Disease Modernisation Initiative in the UK, professionals and service users are collaborating to develop and evaluate a range of innovative programs to improve the quality of life of patients with kidney disease. Activities include the development of a positive lifestyle program for dialysis patients, conducting a psychological needs analysis and testing cognitive behavioural interventions, and offering peer support services.(26)
A renal-dependent quality of life questionnaire (RDQoL) was developed to measure the impact of kidney disease and its treatment on quality of life. In-depth interviews, were conducted with peritoneal dialysis, haemodialysis and transplant patients to identify items that are relevant and important for patients.(27) Similarly, patient perspectives and preferences were used to develop the patient-centred Choices for Health Outcomes in Caring for End-stage renal disease (CHOICE) Health Experience Questionnaire.(28) However, the questionnaires are not widely and systematically used to assess patient perspectives or experiences. As yet, no formal system for assessing patient perspectives and needs exists in nephrology.
1.4 Consumer perspectives
A comprehensive understanding of patients’ experiences, needs and perspectives can guide professionals towards consumer-centredness in care and health research.(29) Patient centred care should underpin both clinic-based and home-based care, particularly as active self-care is required and encouraged for the optimal and cost-effective management of chronic illness. Therefore taking into account the patients views can lead to increased satisfaction, improved compliance and greater continuity of care.(30)
Healthcare and research are usually professionally driven. There is concern that the knowledge and experience held by consumers are untapped as a healthcare resource.(31) Although the insights and knowledge offered by patients and caregivers, and the values they attached to health outcomes, can be different to those of professionals they need to be given equal status and considered in the development of healthcare and research.(32) The hierarchical distinction between the professional and lay perspectives has been criticized.(33) Rather than being conceptualised as two separate or contradictory perspectives, they should be regarded as complimentary and co dependant.(18)
Substantial work has contributed to understanding the nature of people’s experiences in health and illness. Fundamentally, the lay person’s understanding and perception of illness is a complex social phenomenon, experienced in the context of daily life as a member of the community and a family.(33) The patients’ experiential knowledge and ‘expertise’ of illness are grounded in living with the illness, accepting the diagnosis, managing the disease and symptoms, and monitoring their health status. (34) Without direct experience of the illness, health professionals have limited perspectives on the impact of the illness in its social context and the experience of the illness at the personal level.(35)
Previously, medical perspectives and definitions dominated the understanding of the illness experience, but over the past few decades, knowledge about the illness experience has been significantly broadened. In earlier work by Bury(36), chronic illness was conceptualised as a “biographical disruption.” He described three aspects, which each involved two components, the first component related to what was happening objectively regarding the disease and the second described the affects or changes in the individual. Specifically, the three aspects and its two components are 1) insidious onset and the problem of recognition, 2) emerging disability and the uncertainty about the illness and its management and the rethinking of the person’s biography and self-concept, and 3) an altered situation and the mobilization of resources. Chronic illness disrupted the patients’ relationships and the practical tasks of living. Williams(37) extended Bury’s model by developing a framework for understanding the strategies people used to cope with chronic illness and re-establish a sense of stability, coherence and order. He used the term “narrative construction” to describe the routine way in which people made sense of their lives and explained that people endeavored to locate a logical and meaningful place for the illness in their lives, and were not concerned only with disease aetiology. Charmaz(38) brought focus to patients’ perspectives in the day-to-day contexts within which they live, the ‘loss of self,’ and highlighted the complex interactions between different aspects of the illness experience. For example, the stigma attached to an illness can intensify feelings of social isolation and poor self-esteem.
Later, Frank identified three types of illness narratives: “restitution,” “quest,” and “chaos.”(39) The restitution narrative described how the person finds out about their illness, and then seeks treatment to improve their health. This narrative is usually unsuited to people with chronic illness, in which they can only be treated not cured. The quest narrative is “defined by the ill person’s belief that something is to be gained through the experience.” The patient gains self-awareness and the ability to help others. This has been exemplified in recent research on assessing the Internet use of people with chronic illness. People used the internet to explain their illness, advise on treatment, offer solutions and interact with each other to give and receive support.(40, 41) In contrast, the chaos narrative is “the anti-narrative of time without sequence, telling without mediation and speaking about oneself without being fully able to reflect on oneself.”(39) When people are in a state of despair and overwhelmed by the intensity and severity of their illness, they become unable to speak coherently. For example, patients attending a neurology clinic with unexplained symptoms gave accounts characterized by uncertainty and confusion, as there was no precise solution to the problem.(42) Hearing other people’s stories can help to reduce their sense of isolation.
It has been acknowledged that awareness and exploration of chronic illness experiences should not only encompass meanings but also include other points of focus such as interpersonal relationships and employment.(43)
1.5 Using qualitative methods
Qualitative methods enable in-depth examination of consumer experiences and perspectives, as encountered in their personal, real-life circumstances.(44) While quantitative survey instruments may be easily accessible, assess psychosocial domains, and are time and resource efficient, they cannot illuminate the participants’ underlying reasons, meanings and thought processes about their health state, the illness, care and health research. Findings from qualitative studies can illuminate the reasons underlying survey results, inform the development of quantitative survey instruments, and guide further hypothesizing.(45) Qualitative research can capture the individual, family, environmental, social, cultural and organisational factors that shape participants’ opinions.
In this thesis, I used qualitative research methods including meta-ethnography (Chapter 2), in-depth interviews (Chapter 3), focus groups (Chapters 5 and 6), and document analysis (Chapter 6). I used thematic analysis to analyse the data of the qualitative studies (Chapters 3, 5 to 7).
Meta-ethnography was developed by Noblit and Hare (46) and is used to synthesis findings from multiple qualitative studies to derive new insights.(47) This systematic process translates key ideas, metaphors and concepts across different studies to develop a set of overarching concepts or overlapping areas.(48) This can provide more comprehensive knowledge than that derived from single studies, help to inform the development of further studies, and identify gaps in existing research on the topic. In Chapter 2, I report a study where I adopted this method to systematically summarise and synthesis multiple published qualitative studies that examined parental perspectives on CKD among children.
In-depth interviews attempt “to understand the world from the subject's’ points of views, to unfold the meaning of peoples’ experiences, to uncover their lived world,”(49) through conversation. This technique aims to elicit the participants’ experiences and perspectives on a topic in their own words and is useful in gaining insight into the depth and range of individuals’ experiences and understandings. Questions are open-ended to encourage participants to talk about the topic or issue in their own terms. The types of questions asked can relate to behaviour or experience, opinion or belief, feelings, knowledge, sensory, and background or demographic.(50) During the interview, probes can be used to ask participants for more detail, encourage participants to continue talking, resolve ambiguities, encourage the participant to finish a line of thought, and reassure participants that the interviewer is paying attention to what is being said.(51) Face to face in-depth interviews were used in the study of parents of children with CKD reported in Chapter 3, as I wanted to explore emotional and sensitive matters that the participants may not have wished to discuss in the presence of other people.
Focus groups are a “carefully planned series of discussions designed to obtain perceptions on a defined area of interest in a permissive, nonthreatening environment. Each group is conducted with six to eight people by a skilled interviewer.”(52) This method “capitalises on communication between research participants in order to generate data,”(53) allows them to ask each other questions, exchange anecdotes and comment on each other’s experiences and perspectives. The group process can help people to explore and clarify their views in ways that cannot be achieved in a one-to-one interview. Participants can introduce their own ideas and avoid aspects of the topic they do not consider relevant or do not want to discuss. This provides insights into a wide range and form of understanding, and how opinions are constructed.(54) Focus groups are not only useful for finding out about what people think, but also how and why they think the way they do. Focus groups can help people discuss issues they feel too uncomfortable to talk about in an individual interview (for example, issues relating to accepting a kidney transplant from a donor). Additionally, stimulus materials (for example the ranking exercises described in Chapter 6), can encourage participants to engage with one another, explain differing perspectives, and focus discussion around the research topic.(54) For these reasons, focus groups and ranking exercises were used to elicit the data reported in Chapters 5 and 6.
Qualitative document analysis is the systematic examination of documents. It refers to “an integrated and conceptually informed method, procedure, and technique for locating, identifying, retrieving, and analyzing documents for their relevance, significance and meaning.”(55) Documents are “constructed in particular contexts, by particular people, with particular purposes, and with consequences – intended or unintended,”(56) and are useful for understanding culture. Examples of documents include media reports, website content, meeting minutes, and personal diaries.(57) The researcher can assess the content, style and language of the documents to gain insight into the phenomenon under study.(58) This approach was used to assess how Australian television news programs and newspapers cover prevention and early detection of CKD (Chapter 7).
The process of qualitative analysis is, “fluid and, crucially, non-linear; the researcher develops the analysis by moving backwards and forwards between the original data and the emerging interpretations.”(59) Thematic analysis is commonly used in health care research. The themes and concepts are broadly derived inductively from the data through a process of analysis and constant comparison.(60) The data is not coded into a pre-existing coding framework, or according to the researchers’ preconceptions. I adopted this method to develop descriptive thematic groupings and models that express connections between themes, generate new insights and to elicit a more rich description of the data overall.
While reading the literature during the early part of my doctoral work, I realised that there was a great deal of variation in the standard of reporting qualitative studies in peer reviewed journals. I also discovered that there were several published checklists that provided guidance on judging the quality of qualitative research methods and/or the quality of reporting qualitative studies. However, there was no widely accepted standard for reporting qualitative studies. In Chapter 8, I report the results of a systematic review of existing checklists for reporting interview and focus group studies and the development of a consolidated checklist. There is currently no consensus among qualitative researchers on the role of quality assessment or reporting criteria, and how they should be applied, and remains a somewhat contentious issue among qualitative researchers.
1.6 The need for the study
Research in CKD has predominantly focused on investigating biomedical aspects and evaluating technological or pharmacological treatment interventions to improve medical management. In healthcare management decisions, explicit acknowledgement of patients’ values and preferences is important, yet there is little data on this.(61) While research into assessing CKD patients’ quality of life and symptom burden and caregiver burden is growing, minimal attention has been given to gaining an in-depth understanding about the experiences, psychosocial issues and needs of patients and their caregivers. These need to be considered when planning and delivering patient-centred care and health research across the whole trajectory of CKD.
CKD is an incurable condition and presents a variety of challenges for those living with it. Patients with CKD face a lifetime of physical, practical, psychological and emotional issues as a result of their diagnosis, co morbidities and treatment-related side effects. Some of these will be experienced during all stages of CKD, while other challenges and issues will be relevant during a specific stage of CKD.
The International Alliance of Patient Organisations proposes that “it would be useful to promote the essence of patient-centred healthcare – that the healthcare system should be designed around the patient with respect for a person’s preferences, values and/or needs.” More rapid and widespread implementation of patient-centredness in care and health research in CKD can be achieved through a better understanding of the needs, experiences and preferences of patients and their families.
This thesis tackles the problem of helping CKD service providers and researchers become more consumer-centred by exploring the perspectives of patients and caregivers across the whole trajectory of CKD including predialysis, dialysis, and kidney transplantation.
The overall purpose of this thesis is to explore a wide range of perspectives, needs and experiences of patients with CKD and their caregivers, in order to assist the development of more consumer-centred care. By examining patients’ and caregivers’ experiences of CKD, CKD patients’ research priorities, support interventions for informal caregivers of people with CKD, and the presentation of CKD prevention and early intervention in the media, my intention is to present wide ranging, though obviously not all-encompassing, consumer perspectives on CKD.
The following research objectives address the overall purpose:
A. Caregiver perspectives on caring for a CKD patient
To systematically summarise and synthesise findings from published qualitative studies examining parent experiences about caring for a child with CKD.
To gain a more detailed understanding of the experiences of parents of children with CKD by conducting in-depth interviews to explore how CKD affects parental caregivers psychologically, socially and physically.
To systematically review and summarise findings from studies on support interventions for informal caregivers of people with CKD.
B. Patient perspectives on CKD, health care and research
To describe and compare the range and depth of experiences and perspectives of predialysis, dialysis and transplantation patients about the meaning of CKD and its treatment, impact on lifestyle and relationships, and coping strategies.
To elicit priorities for research topics from patients who have CKD and to explore the reasons underlying their selection of research topics.
To assess how Australian television news programs and newspapers cover CKD, focusing particularly on the extent and manner in which news covers prevention and early detection of CKD. This aim was developed during the study because participants frequently expressed concerned about the poor public profile of CKD, and lack of information on prevention and early detection.
C. Criteria for reporting qualitative research
To develop a checklist for explicit and comprehensive reporting of qualitative studies (in-depth interviews and focus groups). This aim was developed as during the course of reading many papers and texts on qualitative methodology, it became clear there were no generally accepted standards about reporting qualitative research.
The study objectives in this thesis converge to the overall aim, to advance patient-centred healthcare and research in CKD, and hence improve the health and quality of life of patients with CKD and their caregivers.
1.8 Structure of the thesis
In this chapter, I have examined the theoretical and disciplinary frameworks relating to consumer-centredness in care and health research, and health and illness experiences. The contents of chapters 2 to 8 are exact duplicates of the published (Chapter 2, 6, 7, 8), accepted (Chapter 4) or submitted (Chapter 3, 5) manuscripts for journal publication
In Chapters 2 and 3, the experiences of parents who have children with CKD are described through a systematic review of the literature and in-depth interviews with parents. Chapter 4 systematically reviews studies on support interventions for caregivers of CKD patients.
Chapters 5 describes patients’ experiences and perspective of living with CKD using focus groups, and Chapter 6 elicits patients’ priorities for health research and identifies the reasons underlying their decisions on research topics using focus groups. In Chapter 7, an analysis of news media coverage on the prevention and early detection of CKD in Australia is presented.
In Chapter 8, a framework for reporting qualitative research, developed from existing checklists, is proposed.
The final chapter concludes the thesis with an outline of the main findings of the studies, a discussion of the feasibility, weaknesses and challenges of using qualitative methods to achieve the study objectives, a comparison with existing literature, and consideration of the implications of the results for advancing patient-centred healthcare and research in CKD.
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