GP research projects awarded millions

4 minute read

As part of its MRFF funding for health and medical research, the federal government is awarding over $7 million to general practice research.

Six research projects in general practice have received federal funding, hopefully showcasing the value of GP research and bolstering “the backbone of the health system”, say experts.

Last week, the federal government announced $230 million of funding towards health and medical research through the Medical Reasearch Future Fund.

The funding will support 110 funding projects, including six projects focused on general practice.

Speaking to The Medical Republic, chair of the RACGP expert committee on research Professor Constance Dimity Pond said that, as “the backbone of the health system”, funding general practice research was “vital”.

“In order for us to improve our practice, to learn how to deal with emerging issues like the demographic transition, more and more older people with lots of complex disease, constantly changing scenes about guidelines around medications, around how to investigate things, and so on, we need research to learn how to apply all that in general practice,” she said.

“We need a tailored approach for our generalist way of looking at the world.”

Professor Pond added that having GP-led research allowed the generalist viewpoint to take the helm, avoiding unrealistic guidelines and hopefully producing research “that can be translated into everyday general practice”.

Professor Pond spoke of the importance of practice-based research networks, where research happens locally, outcomes are run past local GPs and are implemented locally.

“It would be nice to see some of these [research networks] get funded,” she said.

One of the GP-led projects, which received a grant of $1.5 million from the government, is led by Professor Meredith Makeham and her team at the University of Sydney.

It will investigate the implementation of safe, person-centred virtual care for aged care residents through The General Practice and Residential Aged Care Study of Virtual Care Models (The Grace-VC Study).

Professor Pond said that there’s good reason for thinking that aged care is particularly in need of research funding, although she professed that she may be biased due to her personal interest.

As the population ages, needs become more complex and are often compounded by a lack of financial resourcing, she said.

“We don’t have enough geriatricians to do all this, so GPs are turning into specialists in aged care in many cases because of the number of patients we see,” added Professor Pond.

Rural Medical Education Australia’s Dr Hannah Woodall, another GP heading up a project receiving a million-dollar grant from the government, agreed that it was exciting to see general practice research being recognised and funded.

“[The funding] is helpful in showing the value of general practice research,” said Dr Woodall.

“It’s really exciting to us to see that being recognised, valued and funded.”

Dr Woodall’s project centres on goal setting, which she said was integral to general practice and works best when it is “patient and person centred”.

But due to barriers, such as staffing and time pressure, tailoring to ensure the goals reflect the values and priorities of the patient can’t always be achieved, she said.

Dr Woodall’s team plans to co-design a tool with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities looking at goal setting for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with chronic disease to help GPs implement plans that are “meaningful, person-centred, and hopefully then more effective in managing those conditions”.

At the University of Melbourne, Professor Jane Gunn and team have been funded $1.2 million for their study on implementing a purpose-built decision support tool for the treatment of patients with mental health needs into general practice.

Dr Marguerite Tracy and her team, receiving $1.5 million, are looking at “creating and maintaining links for people in opioid dependence treatment programs with general practice care through LINK – a co-designed integrated care model”, a USyd spokesperson told TMR.

Receiving around $1.2 million is University of Notre Dame’s Professor Charlotte Hespe.

The grant will go towards the Breathlessness Rapid Evaluation And THErapy – Screening, Management And IntegRated Technology study.

A team at Bond University has received $1.3 million to research chronic insomnia, comparing the effectiveness of interventions utilising digital health in priority populations.

General practice research may be single-handedly solving Australia’s Daversity problem, with women leading at least five the MRFF-funded, GP-led projects.

“I think it’s great,” said Professor Pond.

According to Professor Pond, the number of female GPs is approaching and may have surpassed 50%, making it appropriate that women are leading research.

The college has been working to incorporate training on how to perform basic research in registrar training, which may partly be contributing to the rise in GP-led research receiving grants, she added.

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