Notification of infectious diseases by general practitioners: a quantitative and qualitative study

Med J Aust. 2000 Apr 3;172(7):325-8. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2000.tb123979.x.


Objective: To examine general practitioners' knowledge and practices concerning reporting of notifiable conditions, and to examine barriers to notification of infectious diseases by general practitioners and identify strategies for improving the notification process.

Design and setting: Audit of the 100 most recent notifications received by the South Eastern Sydney Public Health Unit of cases of each of hepatitis A, pertussis and measles; and focus groups with GPs practising in Sydney's eastern and southern suburbs, some of whom were selected on the basis of their notification practices.

Results: Although these diseases are notifiable on clinical suspicion, only about 40% of the hepatitis A and pertussis cases and 80% of measles cases (54% overall) had been notified by GPs. Delays between doctor and laboratory notifications were an average of seven days for hepatitis A, 19 days for pertussis and seven days for measles. Focus groups showed that at least some GPs have poor understanding of the process of notification, most felt uncomfortable notifying an unconfirmed case, many preferred to leave notification to the laboratory because of concerns about damaging the doctor-patient relationship, and that there is need for financial or other incentives.

Conclusions: There are deficiencies in the completeness and timeliness of notification by GPs which may adversely affect the timing of prophylaxis and outbreak control. Notification by GPs may be improved by such strategies as better notification forms and better feedback to doctors on the outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Communicable Disease Control / statistics & numerical data*
  • Disease Notification / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Practice*
  • Forms and Records Control
  • Hepatitis A / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis A / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Measles / epidemiology
  • Measles / prevention & control
  • Medical Audit*
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Reminder Systems
  • Time Factors
  • Whooping Cough / epidemiology
  • Whooping Cough / prevention & control