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Healthy Communities: GP care for patients with chronic conditions in 2009–2013 - Report - Key findings: GP care for patients with arthritis and chronic back pain

Healthy Communities: GP care for patients with chronic conditions in 2009–2013

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Key findings: GP care for patients with arthritis and chronic back pain

In Australia, almost one in seven people have a musculoskeletal condition including arthritis (12%) and chronic back pain (4%).14

Among all people who visit the GP at least once in a year, the percentage of people who had arthritis or chronic back pain ranged from 16% to 18% in metropolitan, 20% to 21% in regional and 16% to 20% in rural areas (Figure 12).

The percentage of all GP consultations that involved patients who had arthritis, chronic back pain or both of these conditions, irrespective of whether the condition was managed, ranged from 21% to 27% in metropolitan, 27% to 28% in regional and from 19% to 29% in rural areas (Figure 13).

GPs manage arthritis or chronic back pain in about one-fifth of all consultations with these patients. Across local areas, the proportion of all GP consultations in which arthritis or chronic back pain were actively managed ranged from one in 33 (3%) GP consultations in Sydney North Shore & Beaches compared to one in 14 (7%) consultations in Murrumbidgee (NSW) and Tasmania (Figure 14b).

GP actions in the management of arthritis or chronic back pain also varied across local areas, which illustrates the diverse approaches to managing these conditions and may reflect the availability of allied health professionals and specialists.

Depending on where a GP practises, a medication was prescribed on 52% of GP management occasions for arthritis or chronic back pain in Northern Sydney compared to 75% in Nepean-Blue Mountains.

Across local areas, a referral to another health professional was provided on 11% of GP management occasions for arthritis or chronic back pain in Northern Melbourne, West Moreton- Oxley (Qld), Far North Queensland and Tasmania compared to 22% in Darling-Downs South West Queensland and Northern Sydney.

Across local areas, imaging was ordered on 8% of GP management occasions for arthritis or chronic back pain in North Coast NSW, Macedon Ranges & North Western Melbourne and Northern Adelaide compared to 20% in Central Coast NSW (Figure 15).

Figure 12: Percentage of people who visit the GP at least once in a year who had arthritis or chronic back pain*, by Medicare Local catchment peer group, 2005–2013

Peer groups Percentage of patients
Metro 1 16% (CI: 14%–18%)
Metro 2 18% (CI: 16%–19%)
Metro 3 18% (CI: 16%–20%)
Regional 1 20% (CI: 17%–23%)
Regional 2 21% (CI: 19%–23%)
Rural 1 20% (CI: 16%–25%)
Rural 2 16% (CI: 12%–20%)
Figure 13: Percentage of GP consultations with patients who had arthritis or chronic back pain*, by Medicare Local catchment peer group, 2005–2013

Peer groups Percentage of GP consultations
Metro 1 21% (CI: 18%–23%)
Metro 2 23% (CI: 21%–25%)
Metro 3 27% (CI: 24%–29%)
Regional 1 27% (CI: 24%–30%)
Regional 2 28% (CI: 25%–30%)
Rural 1 29% (CI: 24%–34%)
Rural 2 19% (CI: 15%–24%)
Figure 14a: Percentage of GP consultations in which arthritis or chronic back pain* was managed, by Medicare Local catchment peer group, 2009–2013

Peer groups Percentage of GP consultations
Metro 1 4% (CI: 4%–4%)
Metro 2 5% (CI: 4%–5%)
Metro 3 5% (CI: 4%–5%)
Regional 1 6% (CI: 5%–6%)
Regional 2 6% (CI: 5%–6%)
Rural 1 5% (CI: 4%–5%)
Rural 2 5% (CI: 4%–5%)
Figure 14b: Percentage of GP consultations in which arthritis or chronic back pain* was managed, by Medicare Local catchment, 2009–2013

Medicare Local catchments grouped by peer group Percentage of GP consultations
Metro 14% (CI: 4%–4%)
Inner East Melbourne5% (CI: 4%–5%)
Australian Capital Territory4% (CI: 4%–5%)
Inner West Sydney4% (CI: 4%–5%)
Northern Sydney4% (CI: 3%–5%)
Inner NW Melbourne4% (CI: 3%–5%)
Bayside (Vic)4% (CI: 3%–4%)
Eastern Sydney4% (CI: 3%–4%)
Sydney Nth Shore & Beaches3% (CI: 3%–4%)
Metro 25% (CI: 4%–5%)
Eastern Melbourne6% (CI: 4%–7%)
Sthn Adelaide-Fleurieu-Kang. Is.5% (CI: 5%–6%)
South Western Melbourne5% (CI: 3%–7%)
Gold Coast (Qld)5% (CI: 4%–6%)
Fremantle (WA)5% (CI: 4%–6%)
Greater Metro South Brisbane5% (CI: 4%–5%)
Perth Central & East Metro5% (CI: 4%–5%)
Central Adelaide & Hills5% (CI: 4%–5%)
Perth North Metro4% (CI: 4%–5%)
South Eastern Sydney4% (CI: 4%–5%)
Bentley-Armadale (WA)4% (CI: 3%–5%)
Metro North Brisbane4% (CI: 3%–4%)
Metro 35% (CI: 4%–5%)
Northern Adelaide6% (CI: 5%–7%)
South Western Sydney5% (CI: 5%–6%)
Macedon Ranges & NW Melbourne5% (CI: 3%–7%)
Northern Melbourne5% (CI: 4%–5%)
West Moreton-Oxley (Qld)4% (CI: 4%–5%)
South Eastern Melbourne4% (CI: 3%–6%)
Western Sydney4% (CI: 4%–5%)
Regional 16% (CI: 5%–6%)
Illawarra-Shoalhaven (NSW)6% (CI: 5%–8%)
Central Coast NSW6% (CI: 5%–7%)
Hunter (NSW)6% (CI: 5%–7%)
Perth South Coastal6% (CI: 4%–8%)
Sunshine Coast (Qld)5% (CI: 4%–6%)
Frankston-Mornington Peninsula (Vic)5% (CI: 4%–6%)
Barwon (Vic)5% (CI: 4%–6%)
Nepean-Blue Mountains (NSW)4% (CI: 4%–5%)
Regional 26% (CI: 5%–6%)
Murrumbidgee (NSW)7% (CI: 5%–8%)
Tasmania7% (CI: 6%–7%)
Grampians (Vic)6% (CI: 5%–8%)
Hume (Vic/NSW)6% (CI: 5%–8%)
Loddon-Mallee-Murray (Vic/NSW)6% (CI: 5%–8%)
Wide Bay (Qld)6% (CI: 5%–8%)
South West WA6% (CI: 5%–7%)
Gippsland (Vic)6% (CI: 5%–7%)
Southern NSW6% (CI: 5%–7%)
North Coast NSW6% (CI: 5%–6%)
Western NSW5% (CI: 4%–6%)
Goulburn Valley (Vic)5% (CI: 3%–6%)
Darling Downs-SW Qld5% (CI: 4%–6%)
Great South Coast (Vic)5% (CI: 3%–6%)
New England (NSW)4% (CI: 3%–5%)
Country South SANP
Rural 15% (CI: 4%–5%)
Townsville-Mackay (Qld)5% (CI: 4%–6%)
Country North SA5% (CI: 4%–6%)
Central Qld4% (CI: 3%–5%)
Far West NSWNP
Lower Murray (Vic/NSW)NP
Rural 25% (CI: 4%–5%)
Far North Qld5% (CI: 4%–6%)
Northern Territory4% (CI: 3%–6%)
Central & NW QldNP
Goldfields-Midwest (WA)NP
Kimberley-Pilbara (WA)NP

95% confidence interval.

* Results comprise patients who are recorded by the GP as having been with arthritis (defined as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis) or chronic back pain

Customised analysis of BEACH SAND substudy data (July 2005–June 2013) prepared for the National Health Performance Authority weighted to the attending patient population using Department of Human Services, Medicare Benefits statistics, 12 months ending June 2013.

# Interpret with caution.

NP Not available for publication.

Notes: Data are reported as whole numbers. However, for graphical display and ordering they are plotted unrounded. Data are collected from a national survey of GPs. Characteristics of participating GPs may differ from non-participating GPs in a Medicare Local catchment which may affect the generalisability of results. For data limitations and exclusions see this report’s Technical Supplement.

Sources: Customised analysis of BEACH dataset (April 2009–March 2013) and BEACH SAND substudy dataset (July 2005–June 2013) prepared for the National Health Performance Authority by the Family Medicine Research Centre, the University of Sydney.

Data can be downloaded from Explore the data.

Figure 15: Percentage of GP management occasions in which medications were prescribed, a referral to a health professional or imaging was provided in the management of arthritis or chronic back pain, by Medicare Local catchment, 2009–2013

Medicare Local catchments grouped by peer group Percentage of GP management occasions for arthritis or chronic back pain*
Medications prescribed Referral Imaging
Metro 165% (CI: 63%–67%)18% (CI: 16%–19%)14% (CI: 13%–15%)
Bayside (Vic)71%# (CI: 66%–76%)16%# (CI: 12%–20%)11%# (CI: 9%–14%)
Inner NW Melbourne69% (CI: 61%–76%)19% (CI: 15%–23%)12% (CI: 9%–16%)
Inner West Sydney68% (CI: 62%–74%)16% (CI: 12%–19%)14% (CI: 10%–17%)
Sydney Nth Shore & Beaches67%# (CI: 61%–72%)17%# (CI: 12%–22%)15%# (CI: 11%–19%)
Inner East Melbourne66% (CI: 60%–72%)16% (CI: 12%–19%)15% (CI: 12%–18%)
Australian Capital Territory65%# (CI: 58%–72%)19%# (CI: 13%–25%)16%# (CI: 12%–20%)
Eastern Sydney61%# (CI: 54%–68%)20%# (CI: 15%–25%)13%# (CI: 9%–16%)
Northern Sydney52%# (CI: 46%–58%)22%# (CI: 17%–27%)14%# (CI: 10%–19%)
Metro 266% (CI: 64%–68%)15% (CI: 13%–16%)14% (CI: 13%–16%)
Sthn Adelaide-Fleurieu-Kang. Is.69% (CI: 64%–74%)16% (CI: 12%–20%)12% (CI: 9%–15%)
Perth North Metro69%# (CI: 63%–74%)14%# (CI: 9%–18%)13%# (CI: 9%–16%)
Gold Coast (Qld)69%# (CI: 62%–75%)13%# (CI: 10%–17%)18%# (CI: 13%–22%)
Greater Metro South Brisbane68% (CI: 63%–73%)16% (CI: 13%–20%)12% (CI: 9%–15%)
South Eastern Sydney66%# (CI: 60%–73%)16%# (CI: 12%–21%)17%# (CI: 12%–22%)
Metro North Brisbane66% (CI: 62%–71%)15% (CI: 11%–18%)14% (CI: 11%–17%)
Eastern Melbourne66%# (CI: 58%–74%)12%# (CI: 8%–15%)13%# (CI: 9%–18%)
Perth Central & East Metro63% (CI: 58%–69%)14% (CI: 11%–18%)14% (CI: 11%–17%)
Central Adelaide & Hills61% (CI: 56%–67%)13% (CI: 10%–17%)15% (CI: 11%–18%)
Bentley-Armadale (WA)NPNPNP
Fremantle (WA)NPNPNP
South Western MelbourneNPNPNP
Metro 370% (CI: 66%–73%)13% (CI: 12%–15%)13% (CI: 11%–14%)
South Western Sydney74% (CI: 70%–79%)14% (CI: 12%–17%)14% (CI: 12%–17%)
Northern Adelaide74%# (CI: 69%–80%)14%# (CI: 9%–20%)8%# (CI: 5%–12%)
Western Sydney70% (CI: 66%–75%)14% (CI: 11%–17%)18% (CI: 14%–21%)
Northern Melbourne68%# (CI: 62%–74%)11%# (CI: 7%–15%)10%# (CI: 7%–13%)
West Moreton-Oxley (Qld)62%# (CI: 54%–70%)11%# (CI: 7%–15%)12%# (CI: 6%–18%)
Macedon Ranges & NW MelbourneNP13%# (CI: 8%–19%)8%# (CI: 4%–12%)
South Eastern MelbourneNPNPNP
Regional 168% (CI: 66%–70%)16% (CI: 14%–17%)16% (CI: 14%–18%)
Nepean-Blue Mountains (NSW)75%# (CI: 68%–81%)14%# (CI: 10%–19%)15%# (CI: 10%–19%)
Illawarra-Shoalhaven (NSW)73% (CI: 67%–78%)15% (CI: 11%–19%)13% (CI: 9%–17%)
Hunter (NSW)69% (CI: 65%–73%)13% (CI: 10%–17%)17% (CI: 14%–20%)
Central Coast NSW67%# (CI: 59%–75%)20%# (CI: 16%–25%)20%# (CI: 13%–27%)
Sunshine Coast (Qld)61% (CI: 56%–67%)18% (CI: 14%–21%)16% (CI: 13%–20%)
Frankston-Mornington Peninsula (Vic)NPNPNP
Barwon (Vic)NPNPNP
Perth South CoastalNPNPNP
Regional 270% (CI: 68%–72%)14% (CI: 12%–15%)12% (CI: 11%–13%)
Tasmania74% (CI: 69%–80%)11% (CI: 9%–14%)12% (CI: 10%–15%)
Darling Downs-SW Qld73%# (CI: 66%–79%)22%# (CI: 17%–28%)13%# (CI: 8%–17%)
Southern NSW72%# (CI: 66%–78%)15%# (CI: 10%–20%)13%# (CI: 9%–18%)
Western NSW71%# (CI: 65%–77%)15%# (CI: 10%–21%)13%# (CI: 9%–18%)
Gippsland (Vic)70%# (CI: 65%–76%)13%# (CI: 9%–16%)12%# (CI: 8%–16%)
South West WA66%# (CI: 60%–72%)14%# (CI: 11%–17%)15%# (CI: 10%–19%)
North Coast NSW65% (CI: 59%–70%)14% (CI: 11%–17%)8% (CI: 6%–11%)
Country South SANPNPNP
Goulburn Valley (Vic)NPNPNP
Grampians (Vic)NPNPNP
Great South Coast (Vic)NPNPNP
Hume (Vic/NSW)NPNPNP
Loddon-Mallee-Murray (Vic/NSW)NPNPNP
Murrumbidgee (NSW)NPNPNP
New England (NSW)NPNPNP
Wide Bay (Qld)NPNPNP
Rural 172% (CI: 68%–76%)13% (CI: 10%–16%)14% (CI: 10%–17%)
Townsville-Mackay (Qld)74%# (CI: 68%–80%)16%# (CI: 10%–21%)13%# (CI: 9%–18%)
Central QldNPNPNP
Country North SANPNPNP
Far West NSWNPNPNP
Lower Murray (Vic/NSW)NPNPNP
Rural 269% (CI: 64%–74%)13% (CI: 10%–17%)14% (CI: 11%–17%)
Far North Qld70%# (CI: 64%–76%)11%# (CI: 7%–16%)14%# (CI: 10%–18%)
Central & NW QldNPNPNP
Goldfields-Midwest (WA)NPNPNP
Kimberley-Pilbara (WA)NPNPNP
Northern TerritoryNPNPNP

95% confidence interval.

* Due to the opportunity to have zero, one, two or three management options percentages do not add to 100.

# Interpret with caution.

NP Not available for publication.

Notes: Data are reported as whole numbers. However, for graphical display and ordering they are plotted unrounded. Data are collected from a national survey of GPs. Characteristics of participating GPs may differ from non-participating GPs in a Medicare Local catchment which may affect the generalisability of results. For data limitations and exclusions see this report’s Technical Supplement.

Source: Customised analysis of BEACH data prepared for the National Health Performance Authority by the Family Medicine Research Centre, the University of Sydney, 2009–2013.

Data can be downloaded from Explore the data.

GP management of arthritis or chronic back pain
Years of data: 2009–2013

During 2009–2013, the percentage of GP consultations in which arthritis or chronic back pain1 was managed varied across Medicare Local catchments and across peer groups, ranging from 7% in Murrumbidgee (NSW) and Tasmania to 3% in Sydney North Shore & Beaches.

Percentage of GP consultations in which arthritis or chronic back pain were managed, 2009–2013

The following image is a map of Australia showing the percentage of GP consultations in which arthritis or chronic back pain was managed for mddicare local catchments. Data can be found in the Fair comparisons section.

Results for Medicare Local catchments were ranked from highest to lowest and then split into five groups.2

The following is a legend for the maps detailed on this page. The first row shows the various colour ranges, the second is the relevant colour's range value and the third indicates which end is highest and lowest.
NP
3.0%
4.0%
5.0%
6.0%
7.0%
Lowest group
Highest group
Medicare Local catchment boundary
506
Numbers on map are Medicare Local reference codes
The following are images of maps around major cities showing the percentage of GP consultations in which arthritis or chronic back pain was managed for mddicare local catchments. Data can be found in the Fair comparisons section.

i. Perth and
surrounding areas

ii. Adelaide and
surrounding areas

iii. Melbourne and
surrounding areas

iv. Canberra and
surrounding areas

v. Sydney and
surrounding areas

vi. Brisbane and
surrounding areas

1. Results comprise management of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis which account for 85.6% of all arthritis managed by GPs during consultations for chronic back pain.

2. Each Medicare Local catchment has been assigned to a group that represents one percentage point.

3. For more information on peer groups and the calculation of peer group results refer to this report’s Technical Supplement.

Notes: Data are reported as whole numbers. However, for graphical display and ordering they are plotted unrounded. Data are collected from a national survey of GPs. Characteristics of participating GPs may differ from non-participating GPs in a Medicare Local catchment which may affect the generalisability of results. For data limitations and exclusions see this report’s Technical Supplement.

Source: Customised analysis of BEACH data prepared for the National Health Performance Authority by the Family Medicine Research Centre, the University of Sydney, 2009–2013. Data can be downloaded from Explore the data.

NP Not available for publication.

More information can be found at http://www.myhealthycommunities.gov.au and in this report’s Technical Supplement.

Fair comparisons

To compare Medicare Locals more fairly, each Medicare Local catchment has been grouped into one of seven peer groups3, based on remoteness and socioeconomic status.
This allows:

  • Medicare Local catchments to be compared within the same metropolitan, regional or rural peer group
  • Medicare Local catchments to be compared with the average for their peer group.

It also allows variation to be seen across peer groups that may be associated with remoteness and socioeconomic status.

See the PDF ReportOpens in a new window. for a graphical representation of the table below.

Peer groups Map Ref. Percentage of GP Consultations
Metro 14% (CI: 4%–4%)
Inner East Melbourne2065% (CI: 4%–5%)
Australian Capital Territory8014% (CI: 4%–5%)
Inner West Sydney1024% (CI: 4%–5%)
Northern Sydney1074% (CI: 3%–5%)
Inner NW Melbourne2014% (CI: 3%–5%)
Bayside2024% (CI: 3%–4%)
Eastern Sydney1014% (CI: 3%–4%)
Sydney North Shore & Beaches1083% (CI: 3%–4%)
Metro 25% (CI: 4%–5%)
Eastern Melbourne2076% (CI: 4%–7%)
Sthn Adelaide-Fleurieu-Kang. Is.4035% (CI: 5%–6%)
South Western Melbourne2035% (CI: 3%–7%)
Gold Coast3035% (CI: 4%–6%)
Fremantle5035% (CI: 4%–6%)
Greater Metro South Brisbane3025% (CI: 4%–5%)
Perth Central & East Metro5015% (CI: 4%–5%)
Central Adelaide & Hills4025% (CI: 4%–5%)
Perth North Metro5024% (CI: 4%–5%)
South Eastern Sydney1034% (CI: 4%–5%)
Bentley-Armadale5044% (CI: 3%–5%)
Metro North Brisbane3014% (CI: 3%–4%)
Metro 35% (CI: 4%–5%)
Northern Adelaide4016% (CI: 5%–7%)
South Western Sydney1045% (CI: 5%–6%)
Macedon Ranges & NW Melbourne2045% (CI: 3%–7%)
Northern Melbourne2055% (CI: 4%–5%)
West Moreton-Oxley3054% (CI: 4%–5%)
South Eastern Melbourne2084% (CI: 3%–6%)
Western Sydney1054% (CI: 4%–5%)
Regional 16% (CI: 5%–6%)
Illawarra-Shoalhaven1106% (CI: 5%–8%)
Central Coast NSW1096% (CI: 5%–7%)
Hunter1116% (CI: 5%–7%)
Perth South Coastal5056% (CI: 4%–8%)
Sunshine Coast3045% (CI: 4%–6%)
Frankston-Mornington Peninsula2095% (CI: 4%–6%)
Barwon2105% (CI: 4%–6%)
Nepean-Blue Mountains1064% (CI: 4%–5%)
Regional 26% (CI: 5%–6%)
Murrumbidgee1167% (CI: 5%–8%)
Tasmania6017% (CI: 6%–7%)
Grampians2116% (CI: 5%–8%)
Hume2166% (CI: 5%–8%)
Loddon-Mallee-Murray2146% (CI: 5%–8%)
Wide Bay3076% (CI: 5%–8%)
South West WA5066% (CI: 5%–7%)
Gippsland2176% (CI: 5%–7%)
Southern NSW1176% (CI: 5%–7%)
North Coast NSW1136% (CI: 5%–6%)
Western NSW1155% (CI: 4%–6%)
Goulburn Valley2155% (CI: 3%–6%)
Darling Downs-SW Qld3065% (CI: 4%–6%)
Great South Coast2125% (CI: 3%–6%)
New England1144% (CI: 3%–5%)
Country South SA404NP
Rural 15% (CI: 4%–5%)
Townsville-Mackay3105% (CI: 4%–6%)
Country North SA4055% (CI: 4%–6%)
Central Qld3084% (CI: 3%–5%)
Far West NSW118NP
Lower Murray213NP
Rural 25% (CI: 4%–5%)
Far North Qld3115% (CI: 4%–6%)
Northern Territory7014% (CI: 3%–6%)
Central & NW Qld309NP
Goldfields-Midwest507NP
Kimberley-Pilbara508NP

14 Harrison CM, Britt HC, Miller GC, Henderson J. Prevalence of chronic conditions in Australia.PLoS ONE. 2013;8(7):e67494. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0067494.

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