To Ask or Not to Ask ? What factors were associated with a pro-active communication of general practitioners and their patients concerning domestic violence during the COVID-19-pandemic

Elizaveta Fomenko, Ines Keygnaert, Esther Van Poel, Claire Collins, Raquel Gómez Bravo, Päivi Korhonen, Merja Laine, Liubove Murauskiene, Athina Tatsioni, Sara Willems


The COVID-19-pandemic left no one untouched. Worldwide people were asked to stay home, restrict their movements and minimize social contacts. In the first months, health care services cancelled or postponed regular care for non-COVID patients. Meanwhile, patients avoided care services themselves out of fear of being infected or by trying to relieve the burden on caregivers. The experts’ fear for the consequences that the lockdown might entail on help-seeking behaviour came true. The PRICOV-19 study tried to explore how primary care practices were organized during the COVID-19 pandemic to guarantee safe, effective, patient-centered and equitable care for their patients.


The study uses a multi-country cross-sectional study design. Data were collected between November 2020 and October 2021 in 37 European countries through an online questionnaire. The questionnaire consists of 53 items arranged across six topics: infection prevention; patient flow for COVID and non-COVID care; dealing with new knowledge and protocols; communication with patients; collaboration; wellbeing of the general practitioner (GP); and characteristics of the GP and the practice.


4295 GPs were included in the analysis of which 12.1% checked more than before with patients to determine if they (in)directly experienced domestic violence (DM) since the COVID-19 pandemic. This improved pro-active communication was significantly associated to the type of patients coming to the practice and the presence of other initiatives concerning pro-active communication.


DM is known to be a risk factor for all forms of violence, especially when it remains undetected. However, only a handful of victims will reach out for help. A pro-active communication coming from GPs is needed to detect DM and to guarantee patient-centered and effective care. Important factors to achieve this pro-active communication seems to lie in a habit of taking initiatives to reach vulnerable patients and less in the mental health of the GP or in COVID-19-measurments.