HSRAANZ 2019 – Highly Commended Early Career Researcher Paper – Khic-Houy Prang

The use of public performance reporting by general practitioners: a study of perceptions and referral behaviours

Prang, K., Canaway, R., Bismark, M. et al. The use of public performance reporting by general practitioners: a study of perceptions and referral behaviours. BMC Fam Pract 19, 29 (2018) doi:10.1186/s12875-018-0719-4 (Publishers Site)



Public performance reporting (PPR) of hospital data aims to improve quality of care in hospitals and to inform consumer choice. In Australia, general practitioners (GPs) are gatekeepers to secondary care with patients requiring their referral for non-emergency access. Despite their intermediary role, GPs have been generally overlooked as potential users of PPR of hospital data, with the majority of the PPR research focussing on consumers, surgeons and hospitals.


We examined the use of PPR of hospital data by GPs when referring patients to hospitals. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 40 GPs, recruited via the Victorian Primary Care Practice-Based Research Network and GP teaching practices in Victoria, Australia. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed thematically.


We found that the majority of GPs did not use PPR when referring patients to hospitals. Instead, they relied mostly on informal sources of information such as their own or patients' previous experiences. Barriers that prevented GPs' use of PPR in their decision making included: lack of awareness and accessibility; perceived lack of data credibility; restrictive geographical catchments for certain hospitals; limited choices of public hospitals in regional and rural areas; and no mandatory PPR for private hospitals.


Our findings suggest that lack of PPR awareness prevented GPs from using it in their referral practice. As gatekeepers to secondary care, GPs are in a position to guide patients in their treatment decisions and referrals using available PPR data. We suggest that there needs to be greater involvement by GPs in the development of hospital performance and quality indicators in Australia if GPs are to make greater use of them. The indicators require further development before GPs perceive them as valid, credible, and of use for informing their referral practices.