Introduction In Australia, general practitioners usually are the first point of contact for patients with non-urgent medical conditions. Appropriate and efficient utilisation of pathology tests by general practitioners forms a key part of diagnosis and monitoring. However overutilisationand underutilisation of pathology tests have been reported across several tests and conditions, despite evidence-based guidelines outlining best practice in pathology testing. There are a limited number of studies evaluating the impact of these guidelines on pathology testing in general practice. The aim of our quantitative observational study is to define how pathology tests are used in general practice and investigate how test ordering practices align with evidence-based pathology guidelines.
Methods and analysis Access to non-identifiable patient data will be obtained through electronic health records from general practices across three primary health networks in Victoria, Australia. Numbers and characteristics of patients, general practices, encounters, pathology tests and problems managed over time will be described. Overall rates of encounters and tests, alongside more detailed investigation between subcategories (encounter year, patient’s age, gender, and location and general practice size), will also be undertaken. To evaluate how general practitioner test ordering coincides with evidence-based guidelines, five key candidate indicators will be investigated: full blood counts for patients on clozapine medication; international normalised ratio measurements for patients on warfarin medication; glycated haemoglobin testing for monitoring patients with diabetes; vitamin D testing; and thyroid function testing.
Ethics and dissemination Ethics clearance to collect data from general practice facilities has been obtained by the data provider from the RACGP National Research and Evaluation Ethics Committee (NREEC 17–008). Approval for the research group to use these data has been obtained from Macquarie University (5201700872). This study is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health Quality Use of Pathology Program (Agreement ID: 4-2QFVW4M). Findings will be reported to the Department of Health and disseminated in peer-reviewed academic journals and presentations (national and international conferences, industry forums).
- quality in health care
- health informatics
- primary care
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Contributors This study is jointly undertaken through a collaboration between Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research at Macquarie University, the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia Quality Assurance Programs, POLAR Data Space (Outcome Health, Eastern Melbourne PHN, Gippsland PHN and South Eastern Melbourne PHN). AG initiated the project and led the development of the Quality Use of Pathology Program (QUPP) grant proposal. AG, JIW, LL, LGP, TB, CP and NR are chief investigators on the project and have contributed to the grant proposal and protocol in their area of expertise. From the PHNs, MS, RW and ED contributed their expertise in general practice to the protocol. AM, from Outcome Health, has contributed his expertise in EHR data to the protocol. R-AH, GS and GSF are members of the project team and contributed to the protocol in relation to describing the procedures of data collection, validation, and analyses procedures. R-AH and GS prepared the first draft of this protocol based on the grant proposal. All authors have reviewed and approved the final version of this protocol.
Funding This study is independently executed through funding by a grant from the Australian Government Department of Health, Quality Use of Pathology Program (Agreement ID: 4-2QFVW4M). This Australian national grants programme aims to improve health and economic outcomes from pathology tests.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Not required.
Ethics approval Ethics clearance to collect data from general practice facilities has been obtained by the data provider from the RACGP National Research and Evaluation Ethics Committee (NREEC 17–008). Approval for the research group to use these data has been obtained from Macquarie University (5201700872).
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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