15 July 2019

A usual GP means better information sharing

Clinical General Practice

It benefits a patient to have a usual GP, not just a usual place of care, when it comes to information sharing between health services, the AIHW has found.

The “Coordination of health care: experiences of information sharing between providers for patients aged 45 and over” report is based on the 2016 Survey of Health Care, whose 35,000 respondents were Australians over 45 who had seen a GP in the 12 months to November 2015.

The previous report in the AIHW’s series on coordination of healthcare found that nearly all patients surveyed (98%) had a usual GP or a usual place of care.

But those with a usual place of care only were far more likely (27%) than those with a usual GP (9%) to report that information was not shared by a specialist, by an emergency department (43% v 22%) and after their last admission to hospital (31% v 13%), according to the new report.

Nearly all patients (92%) who had healthcare needs or preferences felt that they had a health professional who understood those well. Of those who said they needed information about about their care, 92% said they received it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 2% of respondents with no usual GP or place of care were more likely to report that they did not receive enough information or have a health professional who understood their needs (30% and 36% compared with 7% and 6%).

Those who assessed their own health status as poor were more likely than healthy people to say they didn’t receive enough information about their care (20% v 4%), as were those without English as their main language.

People living in remote areas were about twice as likely (19%) as those in major cities (10%) to say their usual GP was not informed about a specialist visit; to report an occasion when the specialist did not have their medical information or test results (15% v 8%); and to say their usual practice did not seem informed of their follow-up needs or medication changes from their last admission to hospital (25% v 14%).

Patients aged 45 to 54 were the group most likely to say they didn’t receive enough information about their care (12% as opposed to 6% of those over 65). The same age group was more likely (17%) than those over 85 (6%) to say their usual GP or practice didn’t seem to know about their specialist care.

Rather than reflecting a difference in expectations between those generations, the report says, it could be that older people have more established relationships with their usual GPs.

It cited a UK study which found that people aged over 60 years had both higher expectations of their healthcare and were more likely to feel their expectations were being met.