Children Attending Paediatricians Study: a national prospective audit of outpatient practice from the Australian Paediatric Research Network

Harriet Hiscock, Gehan Roberts, Daryl Efron, Jillian R Sewell, Hannah E Bryson, Anna M H Price, Frank Oberklaid, Michael South and Melissa A Wake
Med J Aust 2011; 194 (8): 392-397.


Objective: To audit general paediatric outpatient practice in Australia, including consultation characteristics and management patterns, diagnoses, factors associated with diagnoses, and billing practices.

Design, setting and participants: In October – November 2008, members of the Australian Paediatric Research Network (APRN; a national network of paediatricians established to facilitate multisite secondary care research) were invited to prospectively complete brief standardised data collection forms for 100 consecutive patients or all patients during a 2-week period, whichever came first.

Main outcome measures: Length of consultation and type of diagnoses made; proportions recorded as having medications, investigations or referral; odds ratios for factors associated with diagnoses; and proportions of Medicare items billed.

Results: Of 300 APRN members, 199 (66%) completed data forms for 8345 consultations in which 15 375 diagnoses were made (mean, 1.8 diagnoses per consultation); 46.0%, 30.9% and 22.8% of consultations involved 1, 2 and ≥ 3 diagnoses, respectively. New and review consultations lasted a mean of 41 (SD, 20) and 26 (SD, 15) minutes, respectively. The most common diagnoses were attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (18.3%), baby checks (9.1%), and learning difficulties (7.5%). Patients seen in 47.5% of consultations had medications (eg, prescriptions, vaccinations) recorded, and patients in 27.2% of consultations were referred elsewhere, usually to a subspecialist or psychologist (31.6% and 26.6% of referrals, respectively). Male sex of the child and owning a Health Care Card were associated with most developmental–behavioural diagnoses. Paediatricians tended to bill for single disease/non-complex consultations, even when seeing a child with multiple problems.

Conclusions: Australian paediatricians see children with a range of diagnoses that are often multiple and complex. Our findings provide directions for future secondary care research, and may inform workforce planning and paediatricians’ training requirements.

  • Harriet Hiscock1,2,3
  • Gehan Roberts1,2,3
  • Daryl Efron1,2,3
  • Jillian R Sewell1,2,3
  • Hannah E Bryson1,2
  • Anna M H Price1,2
  • Frank Oberklaid1,2,3
  • Michael South1,2,3
  • Melissa A Wake1,2,3

  • 1 Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 2 Centre for Community Child Health, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 3 Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC.


This study was funded by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. Melissa Wake and Harriet Hiscock are supported by National Health and Medical Research Council Career Development Awards (546405 and 607351). We thank all the APRN members who took part in this study, and the Paediatrics and Child Health Division of the RACP for their support of the APRN.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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