About the GP pathology requesting letter initiative

The General Practitioner (GP) pathology requesting letter initiative provides GPs with comparative data about their pathology requesting rates and those of their peers. This gives GPs an opportunity to reflect on their pathology requesting process.

About the initiative

The GP pathology requesting letter initiative helps GPs to:

  • assess their pathology requesting rates
  • consider whether there are any opportunities in their practice to reduce pathology requests where testing will not change the patient’s treatment plan or improve their health outcomes, and where it is appropriate to do so.

In May 2022, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) wrote a letter to GPs who met certain criteria

The letters do not indicate that an individual GP is requesting pathology inappropriately. They are a tool for self-assessment and reflection.

The letters use percentiles to give GPs information about how their requesting rate for specific pathology combinations compares to other GPs practicing in a similar geographical region in Australia.

Requesting rates are influenced by GPs’ practice types and different patient cohorts, even within similar geographical regions. GPs whose high request rates are due to these factors may still benefit from reflecting on whether they can reduce requesting while:

  • maintaining a high quality of patient care
  • continuing to request pathology that is clinically indicated.

See Who will get a letter for more information on percentile calculation.

Why it is important

The number of pathology tests requested by GPs in Australia has increased substantially over time. Despite the increase, the number of clinically significant test results remains proportionate to the population. As many as two-thirds of requested pathology tests have a low diagnostic value and do not lead to a change to patient management.

Goals

Our goals are to:

  • give GPs an opportunity to review their requesting process using data relevant to them
  • give patients the best possible service
  • encourage quality use of pathology requests, or other alternatives if they are a better choice
  • contribute to the sustainability of Medicare.

For more information, see Who will get a letter.

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