An inside view of General Practice

Who goes to the doctor most? What for? What's prescribed? How old are the doctors and how do they practice? These are just some of the questions answered in a report to be released on Wednesday by the AIHW's General Practice Statistics and Classification Unit at the University of Sydney.

Bettering the Evaluation And Care of Health: A Study of General Practice Activity is the first report from the new national data collection program - BEACH. As well as summarising data collected during the first six months of the study, the interim report describes the study methods in detail.

Head of the General Practice Statistics and Classification Unit, Dr Helena Britt, said that 'although the role of GPs is widening and public spending on their services is substantial, until now we haven't had any regular data collections on general practitioners' activities.'

'The first 6 months of this study has given us information about 476 general practitioners and 47,600 records of their encounters with patients. We're really looking forward to having on-going data to gain an even clearer picture of general practice and changes over time.'

The interim report's findings include:

  • The most frequent reason for going to the doctor was for a prescription (8.1 per 100 encounters), followed by coughs (7.3 per 100 encounters) and cardiovascular check-up-usually blood pressure checks (5.3 per 100 encounters).
  • Paracetamol was the most commonly prescribed type of drug, followed by amoxycillin.
  • Over 70% of the doctors who participated in the study were male.
  • The majority of patients were female (58%).
  • The ages of patients were evenly spread with a quarter in each of the age groups: under 25 years, 25-44 years, 45-64 years and 65 years and over.
  • Almost half the patients (43%) held a Health Care Card, and 3.5% held a Department of Veterans' Affairs card.
  • 13% of patients were from a non-English speaking background.
  • 12% of doctors conducted more than 50% of their consultations in languages other than English.


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