Date published: 
17 December 2018
Media type: 
Media release
Audience: 
General public

17 December 2018

A new report on general practice in Australia, released today by the Department of Health and
NPS MedicineWise, shows that the three most frequent reasons recorded as to why patients go to a doctor are to obtain a prescription, for review of their conditions, and for upper respiratory tract infections.  

Professor Brendan Murphy (Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health) said the ‘General Practice Insights Report 2016-17’ working paper shows that the top five chronic conditions patients presented with to general practitioners (GPs) were hypertension (high blood pressure), depression, dyslipidaemia (high cholesterol), anxiety and asthma.  

“This working paper, which was commissioned from NPS MedicineWise by the Department of Health, examines MedicineInsight data from GPs’ own clinical software showing why patients went to GPs and how their conditions were managed,” Professor Murphy said. 

“The findings were derived from completely de-identified information from 2.1 million patients who attended 475 general practices across Australia. 

“The report shows that GPs most frequently prescribed penicillin, antidepressants, opioids and drugs for peptic ulcers and reflux. It also shows that 42 per cent of patients had at least one pathology test result recorded,” he said. 

NPS MedicineWise CEO Steve Morris said that MedicineInsight information is already being used to assist GPs in their treatment of patients and to ultimately improve people’s health. 

“This new MedicineInsight report provides examples of areas of practice where GPs were shown how they were currently managing patients, and where there may have been potential to improve health outcomes,” Mr Morris said. 

“In one of these examples, the data showed that around 43 per cent of patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease were not prescribed guideline-recommended, potentially life-saving statin therapy. 

“We subsequently undertook a targeted education program to help GPs better identify and manage patients at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease.” 

Professor Nigel Stocks of the University of Adelaide said this type of report and use of data in this way is critical in improving patient outcomes. 

“This insightful report will help GPs to understand the health of their practice population and to provide the best possible care to patients,” Professor Stocks said. 

Dr John Aloizos AM, a Brisbane GP familiar with NPS MedicineWise and the MedicineInsight program, said “the report shows how the analysis of quality data from GP practices provides insight and helps me focus on the best possible care to my patients.”

The General Practice Insights Report is a working paper, as it is using a source of data in a way that has never been done before on a national scale. NPS MedicineWise sought advice from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to ensure the data were nationally representative. 

“It’s also important for people to know that NPS MedicineWise takes its role as data custodian seriously,” said Mr Morris.

“Data are always encrypted during transit and storage following government and industry best practice standards, patient level data are de-identified at the source, meaning personal identifiers are not extracted from practice data.”

“Ideally this report will provoke discussion among the general practice community so more insights can be gained and we can continue to work together with clinicians and consumers to improve health outcomes for all Australians,” Mr Morris said. 

To read the full General Practice Insights Report 2016-17, go to www.nps.org.au

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