Extent and utilisation of computerisation in Australian general practice

Joan Henderson, Helena Britt and Graeme Miller
Med J Aust 2006; 185 (2): 84-87.


Objective: To assess the availability of computers to general practitioners and individual GPs’ use of computers for clinical functions.

Design, setting and participants: A secondary analysis of data from a random sample of 1319 Australian GPs who participated in the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) survey, a continuous cross-sectional survey of general practice activity, between November 2003 and March 2005. Participants reported the availability of computers at their major practice address and the clinical functions for which they used the computers.

Main outcome measures: Proportion of practices with computers available; proportion of individual GPs who used computers for clinical purposes.

Results: The proportion of GPs not using a computer was 11.2% (6% did not have a computer at their major practice address and a further 5.2% chose not to use an available computer). The majority of GPs using a computer at work used it for electronic prescribing (94.7%), ordering tests (82.2%) and keeping some patient data in an electronic medical record (79.5%). Of those with clinical software available (n = 1114), 6.6% chose not to use it. A third of GPs (32.8%) kept all patient information in an electronic format. The proportion of GPs keeping all data electronically and using all clinical functions available in their computer was 21.7%.

Conclusion: While the physical presence of computers has increased significantly over the past decade, GPs are still reluctant to fully embrace the technology.

  • Joan Henderson1
  • Helena Britt2
  • Graeme Miller3

  • Family Medicine Research Centre, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.



We wish to thank the GP participants for their generosity. During the data collection period for this study, the BEACH program was funded by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing, AstraZeneca Pty Ltd, Janssen-Cilag Pty Ltd, Merck Sharp & Dohme Pty Ltd and Roche Products Pty Ltd. We thank them for their continued support. This secondary analysis was supported in part by an RACGP/General Practice Computing Group Informatics Scholarship.

Competing interests:

None identified.


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