In 2022-23, we promoted 36 primary care research projects to stakeholders in our region and provided 7 letters of support.
Primary Care Practice Viability Study
Investigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health response on the viability of Australian primary care providers.
The Primary Care Practice Viability Project was a three-phase study investigating the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and public health response on primary care practices, conducted between 2020 and 2023. The project was undertaken by the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation, University of Technology, and funded by CESPHN.
The study was undertaken in three distinct stages. Stage 1 was a survey of primary care providers conducted in May 2020. Stage 2 involved interviewing 31 stakeholders from different practices about their experiences providing care during the pandemic. Stage 3 involved analysing MBS data from 2018-2021 to understand change in MBS income and practice activity.
The research highlighted an urgent need for greater understanding on the diverse business models operating in primary care and identifying indicators of financial sustainability, as well as a need for further research on the further and long-term impacts on primary care viability. The implications of this research are valuable for informing the Federal Government’s commitment to primary health reform and guiding the design and implementation of incentives to better support primary care.
Overall, the research identified
- primary care practices adapted rapidly to the changing demands of the pandemic and patients’ needs.
- the importance of additional Government funding at the start of the pandemic in supporting the viability of practices.
- the different experiences of practices related to their differing ability to adapt to the provision of telehealth and its related funding.
- high workload and stress experienced by primary care staff in responding to rapidly changing public health announcements.
- limitations on practice capacity to innovate models of care due to inflexibility of Medicare funding.
- practices sought alternative funding streams to supplement Medicare funding.
- widespread fatigue and burnout of much of the primary care workforce.
a sense of obligation and public service that many practices felt in providing care through the pandemic and their resilience in continuing to provide despite multiple challenges.
- most impacts of the pandemic were universally felt by practices, but there were differences in response according to profession type and practice size.
Over the last year we have hosted 4 students from the University of Sydney undertaking their Master of Public Health.
These students successfully completed research reports into
- Billing models in general practice
- Role of nurses in general practice
- Development and testing of a green practice checklist for use in primary care
- Knowledge and educational needs of primary care to support implementation of Voluntary Assisted Dying
In partnership with the public health Unit of Sydney Local Health District we also provided placement for two Public Health Registrars.