Potential role of general practice in reducing emergency department demand: A qualitative study

Katie A. Willson, David Lim, Ghasem Sam Toloo, Gerry FitzGerald, Frances B. Kinnear, Douglas G. Morel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: To inform local, state and national strategies intended to reduce demand for ED care, the present study aimed to identify key factors influencing the current provision of acute care within primary healthcare (PHC) and explore the policy and system changes potentially required. 

Methods: Semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed through content and thematic approaches incorporating the Walt and Gilson health policy framework. 

Results: Eleven interviews were conducted. Five key considerations were highlighted, namely the barriers and enablers for general practitioners (GPs) in providing acute care, barriers to patient use of PHC instead of ED, suggestions for new PHC models and improvements for current ED models. Additionally, economic issues relating to clinic funding and GP remuneration, complexities of state or federal funding and management of urgent care centres (UCC) were identified. Potential policy changes included GP clinics incorporating emergency appointments, GP triage, further patient streaming and changes to the ED medical workforce model, as well as linking hospitals with PHC clinics. Suggested system changes included improving rapid access to non-GP specialists, offering qualifications for urgent care within PHC, developing integrated information technology systems and educating patients regarding appropriate healthcare system pathways. 

Conclusion: The present study suggested that while PHC has the potential to attenuate the demands for ED services, a whole-of-system approach focusing on realignment of priorities and integrated changes are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-724
Number of pages8
JournalEMA - Emergency Medicine Australasia
Issue number5
Early online dateMar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • emergency department
  • general practitioner
  • health policy
  • primary healthcare


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