‘An excellent starting point’: PIP QI results published for first time

Jolyon Attwooll

27/08/2021 12:27:56 PM

More than 5700 general practices have been taking part in the incentives program since it launched in August 2019.

Image representing healthcare data.
The PIP QI scheme funds general practices to share de-identified data with local Primary Health Networks.

A milestone in the Practice Incentives Program Quality Improvement (PIP QI) was reached this week, with information designed to help primary care planning published for the first time.
The initial national report on the data collected is now available on the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) website.
The information covers 10 pre-designated Quality Improvement Measures (QIMs). Among other things, these are designed to track how many people in vulnerable groups have had influenza immunisations, the number of patients who have had cardiovascular disease assessments, cervical screenings, as well as those who have had their alcohol consumption status recorded.
The PIP QI is a $200 million Federal Government initiative aimed at primary care to allow a greater understanding of the overall health of Australian residents and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
The scheme pays general practices to share de-identified data, drawn from electronic records, with local Primary Health Networks (PHNs). The results collated so far are presented in the report as found in each of Australia’s 31 PHNs.
Dr Michael Wright, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Funding and Health System Reform (REC–FHSR), said the information provided is an ‘excellent starting point’ but has its limitations.
‘It is great to see this information being collated and shared.  Although we need to take some of the data with caution, overall it suggests practices are doing well,’ Dr Wright told newsGP
‘We have a good baseline here with some definite room for reflection and improvement.’
He highlighted the increased number of influenza immunisation rates recorded since the data collection began as one of the positive results outlined in the report.
Between October last year and July 2021, there was a 5.7% rise in patients aged 65 years and over having an influenza immunisation status recorded in their GP record – going from 58.5% to 64.2%.
However, the arrival of COVID-19 in early 2020 – around six months after PIP QI officially launched – inevitably had an impact.
‘There have been challenges in recording physical measures during the pandemic such as weight, BMI and blood pressure,’ Dr Wright said.
‘Many GPs and their patients have had less face-to-face visits during the COVID pandemic, so there will have been fewer opportunities to take physical measures. 
‘This data highlights the large burden of regular care that GPs provide, which we have had less chance to manage during the pandemic.’
Describing the report as an ‘important first step’, Dr Wright said more needs to be done to ensure the information is used in the right way to facilitate better outcomes for patients. 
‘If we are to make the most of it, and support improvement, GPs and practices need to be supported to look at their data and reflect on whether they can improve their practice results,’ he said.
The PIP QI payment depends on the practice size and is capped at $12,500 per quarter.
The program has strict protocols to ensure only deidentified data is shared. Practices only need to include data related to the 10 quality improvement measures and not entire data sets. They are also not obliged to install third-party software.

AIHW spokesperson Conan Liu said the information contained in the annual report provides ‘greater insight into what happens in primary care’.
‘This is the first time we have data from such a comprehensive source,’ Mr Liu said. ‘With over 158 million visits to general practitioners each year, the information they receive is key to the health and wellbeing of Australians.’
Some figures from the report include:

  • the number of people who listed their smoking status as ‘current smoker’ declined by more than 2% over the timeframe to 14.7%
  • the proportion of patients whose height and weight was recorded in the previous 12 months with a BMI in the obese range was highest among 45–54 year-olds for both men (47.5%) and women (46.4%). These figures come with the caveat that GPs may be more likely to record weight when they are concerned about patients’ weight
  • the percentage of regular female patients with a cervical screening test included in their GP record from 1 December 2017 and within the previous five years increased by 2.6% to 37.4%.
For the full figures and data set, see the AIWH website.
More information on the PIP QI program is available on the RACGP website.
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