Making sense of and working with COVID-19 related guidelines and information in Danish general practice–A qualitative study

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Attempts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic have involved a massive flow of guidelines and information to health professionals on how to reorganize clinical work and handle patients with COVID-19. The aim of this paper is to investigate how Danish general practitioners (GPs) made sense of and worked with guidelines and associated information on COVID-19 in the first months of the pandemic. 


We conducted qualitative interviews with 13 GPs in the beginning of the pandemic and again approximately three months later. Between the two interviews, they wrote daily notes for 20 days. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed, and the material was analyzed using thematic network analysis. Results 

The interviewed GPs found the situation urgent and serious, and they spent a lot of time reading and working with COVID-19 related guidelines and associated information. Keeping up-to-date with and implementing guidelines was challenging due to the many sources of information and the constant guideline revisions. The GPs were able to assess patients’ risk status but were challenged by the changing guidelines regarding this. The GPs found that deciding whether a COVID-19 patient needed to be admitted to hospital was relatively straightforward. An important final challenge was discrepancies between the government’s public announcements regarding which patients could be tested for COVID-19, the guidelines provided to GPs, and the local testing capacities, which gave GPs extra work. 


 In an urgent situation like the COVID-19 pandemic it is crucial to secure good communication between the government, health authorities, professional medical societies, and health professionals. Improved practices of collaboration between health authorities and professional societies could improve communication in future health crises and relieve GPs of some of the work involved in keeping up-to-date with information flows, constantly reviewing new guidelines, and dealing with communicative inconsistencies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0281579
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Andersen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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