Doctor hopping fragmenting Australian patients' healthcare: AJGP

08 May, 2018

New research published in the Australian Journal of General Practice (AJGP) suggests Australian patients commonly attend multiple general practices, potentially fragmenting their healthcare.

President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr Bastian Seidel said the research was concerning, as international evidence has found patients significantly benefit from having a usual GP.

"Patients who maintain strong relationships with a usual GP or practice team experience better health outcomes," Dr Seidel said.

"These patients are significantly less likely to need expensive emergency department or hospital care.

"Every minute a GP spends with a patient allows them to obtain more information about their life, concerns, fears and expectations."

Dr Michael Wright a GP and researcher from the University of Technology Sydney and co-authors conducted a cross-sectional survey of 2477 respondents for their research investigating how common multiple general practice attendance is in Australia.

"More than 80% of respondents had a usual GP and more than 90% had a usual practice, however our results showed that over a quarter of respondents had attended more than one general practice in the previous year," Dr Wright said.

"Multiple practice attendance was more common in younger patients, and those patients living in major cities."

Dr Wright said general practice healthcare was being fragmented because most Australians could seek general practice care from multiple GPs in multiple locations.

"This provides high levels of choice for patients, but may reduce continuity of care," Dr Wright said.

Dr Wright suggested the fragmentation of care caused by a patient visiting a non-regular practice could be overcome if practices shared information about the non-regular GP consultation with the patient’s usual GP.

"In Australia, a patient’s usual GP does not receive information about any ‘non-usual’ practice attendance, if the information is not volunteered by the patient," Dr Wright said.

"If important information is not shared between practices, patients could potentially experience worse health outcomes."

Dr Seidel said the research should inform health policy on building better pathways for primary care and access for both GPs and patients.

"This is what GPs want and what patients want," Dr Seidel said.

"Continuity of care improve lives and improves health outcomes for patients.

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