GPs managing more problems at patient visits

General practitioners are managing increasing numbers of newly diagnosed problems and chronic conditions, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the University of Sydney.

The report, General practice activity in Australia 2008-09, describes general practitioner's activities based on over 100,000 patient encounters with 1,000 randomly selected GPs.

The full report is accompanied by a summary report, General practice activity in Australia 1999-00 to 2008-09: 10 year data tables, which highlights major changes over time, the characteristics of GPs, the patients they see, the problems they manage and the treatments they provide.

'It shows that GPs managed an average of 1.54 problems per encounter in 2008-09, and estimates that there were 25 million more problems managed at GP visits in Australia in 2008-09 than in 1999-00,' said Professor Helena Britt of the AIHW's Australian General Practice Statistics and Classification Centre at the University of Sydney.

'There were about 5 million more occasions where two problems were managed, 3 million more occasions where three problems were managed, and 910,000 more occasions where four problems were managed by GPs.

'This seemed to be partly driven by an increase in the number of reasons patients gave for seeing the GP,' she said.

General Practitioners are generally the first port of call in the Australian health care system, with an average five visits per person in 2008-09.

The most common reasons for visiting the GP were requests for check-ups, prescriptions, test results, and immunisations. Other common reasons included coughs, throat and back complaints, or a rash

In 2008-09 patients saw a GP more often about their diabetes, hypertension and depression.

Medications were the most common treatment choice (69 per 100 problems managed). Most of these medications were prescribed (rather than supplied or advised), at a rate of 56 per 100 problems managed.

Over the 10 years from 1999-00, GPs referred their patients more often, particularly to specialists, with a smaller increase in referrals to allied health services.

For every 100 patient encounters, GPs ordered 46 pathology tests and 10 imaging tests.


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