Healthcare innovation: understanding the prescribing practices of GPs

This project seeks to understand the prescribing practices of general practitioners and what drives their decision-making.

How do different prescribing behaviors of general practitioners shape the adoption and diffusion of innovations in health care?

This project seeks to understand the prescribing practices and decision-making of Australian general practitioners (GPs) using a comprehensive dataset of GPs and their prescription records.

Existing literature suggests that a patient's choice of treatment relies mostly on their GP, making it of utmost importance to understand what drives a GP's decision-making.

Funded through a Faculty of Business and Economics research grant, this project is divided into three parts:

  • an investigation into the diversity in the prescribing behaviour of GPs in Australia,
  • an exploration of the causes of diversity in treatment styles, focusing on supply-side factors such as GPs’ personal characteristics, financial incentives, beliefs, ability, or practice norms, and
  • an examination of the effects that different treatment styles have on the adoption and diffusion of valuable medical innovations, which has a direct impact on access, affordability and quality of health care provision.

Impact

Medical decision-making has a direct impact on the access to and provision of high quality care, with patients relying on GP expertise to understand their choices and form clear expectations on the efficacy or possible side-effects they might experience.

At the same time, GPs face uncertainty as to which drug might be the best match to a specific patient, and are constantly learning from past experiences with other patients, their peers and the research community.

The importance of this project is not limited to its contribution to the academic literature, but to a public debate that is in the best interests of all Australians.

If the decision to use innovative medicines relies on GPs, it is important to understand what drives their decisions. A better understanding of the determinants of prescribing patterns will also help guide medical workforce policy in the design and implementation of optimal and cost-effective incentives to  improve care quality.