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Research activities

Below are some of the research activities undertaken by PHCRIS to generate, manage and share information and knowledge that will inform, influence and enhance Australian primary health care practice, policy and research.

Current research projects

PHCRIS Policy Issue Review

Authored by PHCRIS staff and reviewed by an expert, PHCRIS Policy Issue Reviews examine topical policy-relevant issues in primary health care by synthesising recent research relevant to key directions in Australian health policy.

Past research projects

Medicare Locals - A mechanism for primary health care integration?

Rachel Katterl, Petra Bywood, Tracy Cheffins and Lynsey Brown

This qualitative research project explores the role of Medicare Locals in the integration of primary health care services in Australia. The CEOs of five Medicare Locals across all states are being interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire. The study aims to gain an appreciation of the way that Medicare Locals understand integration within the primary health care sector. It is investigating this by examining four main issues: 1.) what CEOs understand about the principles of integrated health care; 2.) how Medicare Locals plan to improve the integration of health services; 3.) how Medicare Locals will link with the Local Hospital Network/s in their region; and 4.) the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of Medicare Locals as agents for integration.

Stocktake of primary health care research in Australia

Laurann Yen, Libby Kalucy, Nathaniel Ward, Rachel Katterl, Ellen McIntyre and Simon Patterson 

Since the commencement of the PHCRED strategy in 2000, research into the primary health system has been a focus for many academic and clinical primary health care researchers. Over this period, 46 research grants have been awarded by the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute (APHCRI) and 166 projects through the National Health and Medical Research Council. In addition, the Research Capacity Building Initiative has focused on developing capacity within the primary health care research community through education, awareness raising, mentoring, and research. Of particular note has been the development of the Practice Based Research Networks, which have provided opportunities for clinicians to become active in research and for collaborations between academic and clinical practitioners to take place.

In light of the development of primary health care research over the past 10 years, and the current agenda for reform, this work by APHCRI and the Primary Health Care Research and Information Service provides a stocktake of the current state of primary health care research in Australia. It identifies the strengths and weaknesses of Australian primary health care research in the context of current health priorities and ways in which current research gaps might be addressed.

Primary health care research contribution project

Libby Kalucy and Eleanor Jackson Bowers

Trying to pin down the impact of research on policy and practice can be a challenging task. Previous studies of the impact of research on policy have either surveyed policy makers or followed research projects. To our knowledge the methodology used in this research project makes a unique contribution to the knowledge base on the subject of research impact assessment.

This project used publicly available information on the websites of the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission, The National Primary Health Care Strategy, and the Preventative Health Taskforce to establish what contribution Primary Health Care (PHC) research and researchers have made to health reform processes in Australia in 2008-2009, and to gain insight into the role of research in the deliberations of the three reform groups.

We identified the number of submissions by PHC researchers or research organisations and the numbers of citations to PHC research in commissioned papers, submissions and in the final reports. We obtained supplementary information from a facilitated plenary panel discussion on the use of research, involving representatives of the three initiatives during the General Practice and Primary Health Care Research Conference in July 2009.

This project demonstrates that PHC research contributed to the three reform initiatives in multiple ways, and that the working groups valued the contributions of research organisations.

The capacity of Australian PHC research to contribute to such policy initiatives could be enhanced by a better understanding of research relevance within the research community. It could further be enhanced by equipping researchers with the skills to write strong submissions and take better advantage of opportunities to contribute to submissions within their networks.

Primary health care research impact project

Elizabeth Kalucy, Ellen McIntyre, Eleanor Jackson-Bowers and Richard Reed

The Primary Health Care Research and Information Service is interested in the pathways through which a research project impacts on its environment and how these pathways can be enhanced. The Primary Health Care Research Impact Project (PHC RIP) was a large study, undertaken in two stages, to assess the impact of primary health care research projects and how this impact took place.

PHC RIP Stage 1, conducted during 2006, studied four randomly selected, large research projects and trialed a methodology for gathering information to assess the impact of primary health care research. 

PHC RIP Stage 2 was undertaken during 2007.  This study used a web-based questionnaire to gather information on the impact of a larger sample (n=17) of Australian primary health care research projects. The study examined, from the perspective of the chief investigators, the impact of these research projects and how this impact had come about.

Annual Survey of Divisions (ASD)

The ASD is a comprehensive survey completed by all Divisions of General Practice in Australia since 1993-94. Through the ASD, Divisions report publicly on their membership, activities and infrastructure. This longitudinal data collection reflects the development and maturation of Divisions and their responses to emerging national policies.

Connecting people: The magic of networking at conferences

Gerhard Winter, Ellen McIntyre, Ann-Louise Hordacre and Elizabeth Kalucy

Given the importance of networking at conferences, this project was undertaken during 2007 to find out if and how networking occurred at the General Practice and Primary Health Care Research Conference, and how networking could be enhanced at future conferences.

What supports effective links between Divisions of General Practice and universities?

Barbara Beacham, Elizabeth Kalucy, Bronnie Veale, Belinda Lowcay, Christopher Pearce and Rachel Yates

Leading on from JournalWatch: Collaborative Partnerships in Research, the Effective Links Project was conducted during 2005 as a collaborative research endeavour between the Primary Health Care Research and Information Service, the Australian Divisions of General Practice (now known as the Australian General Practice Network) and the university sector. Its aim was to explore the experiences and perceptions of a sample of participants from Divisions and universities who were involved in or had an interest in research and evaluation activity.

Sharing the know-how: An exploration into knowledge sharing between Divisions of General Practice

Belinda Lowcay and Elizabeth Kalucy

There used to be more than 120 Divisions of General Practice across Australia that conducted a wide range of projects and programs in primary health care. The Divisions gained expertise and 'know-how' about the reasons that projects and activities were successful or unsuccessful. In order to understand how to enhance the spread of successful programs between Divisions, we wanted to find out how and if Divisions shared their knowledge and expertise, how they found out about other programs, and how this could be enhanced.

Australian general practice research: Investigators' experiences of diffusion, dissemination and implementation of research results

Barbara Beacham, Michelle Hale, Belinda Lowcay, Ellen McIntyre and Elizabeth Kalucy

Between 2001-2002 the Primary Health Care Research and Information Service conducted a study to explore the dissemination of the General Practice Evaluation Program (GPEP) research. The results had implications for policy, practice and research in both general practice and primary health care settings.