Identification of the general practitioner and practice attributes regarded as important by consumers can inform health care policy by contributing to the design of primary care services which reflect the priorities of the users of those services. Understanding the factors consumers regard as important when choosing a GP can also be important for ensuring the availability of relevant and useable information for consumer decision making. Primary care policies which require patients to attend a single general medical practice and not ‘doctor shop’ will be facilitated by providing patients with sufficient information on which to base the initial choice of doctor and practice, rather than having to ‘shop around’ to find a satisfactory GP. This is relevant to the current Australian context as, based on the recommendation from the Primary Health Care Advisory Group,1 the Australian Government is about to trial a policy of ‘Health Care Homes’ which includes practice enrolment to enhance the care of patients with chronic health conditions.2 Currently, the GP section of the Australian government health service finder website does not include information about service quality, such as that provided by the equivalent site in the UK.
This research theme aimed to identify the information Australian consumers would find useful for choosing a GP and the best way of presenting that information. It investigated consumer preferences for primary care services through three projects. Project 1 aimed to identify the factors Australians consider important when choosing a GP and examined the extent to which this varies by health and demographic characteristics. Project 2 used a discrete choice experiment (DCE) to investigate consumer preferences for general practitioner services in Australia and New Zealand, and also examined whether preferences differed for different presenting health problems (routine problem through to an unknown problem). Using the findings from Project 2, Project 3 investigated how information about GP services can be presented to consumers and whether the presentation style influences consumer choice.