Decade of change for general practitioners
Australia’s general practitioner (GP) workforce is ageing rapidly, managing more problems per patient and increasingly making use of information technology.
It’s also a profession with a much higher proportion of females and those with a better work-life balance, according to a decade-long nationwide study.
Produced by the University of Sydney’s Family Medicine Research Centre, the report on changes to the GP workforce and the patients they treat is based on information from nearly one million actual patient encounters collected from 9,800 doctors.
The report says the ageing GP workforce is reflected in the significant decrease in the proportion of doctors surveyed who were aged 35 to 44 (down to 19 percent), while those aged 55 or over increased from 31 to 41 percent. The proportion of GP participants who were female also rose to 41 per cent (up from 35 per cent).
Interestingly, the average number of hours worked is on the decrease with more than half of GPs now restricting themselves to 40 hours or less.
On the ehealth front, the report notes some 96 percent of respondents are now using computers. In the report’s accompanying study for 2011-12, the authors note virtually two-thirds of surveyed practitioners are using electronic medical records exclusively when treating patients.
Additionally, 94 per cent reported they are producing prescriptions electronically, and 93 per cent receive pathology results online.
The ten year study also noted the rate of chronic condition-related patient visits has gone up significantly, with the survey figures “suggesting about 20.6 million more GP contacts with chronic problems nationally in 2011–12 than ten years earlier”. Doctors now also have to deal with more “problems per encounter” with patients, indicating 48 million more problems had to be managed in 2012 compared with a decade ago.
While the increase in chronic disease and patient complexity was reflected in a bump in the rate of referrals to other health providers, the growth overwhelmingly came from patients being sent on to an allied health professional.
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