COVID-19: protocol for observational studies utilizing near real-time electronic Australian general practice data to promote effective care and best-practice policy-a design thinking approach

Health Res Policy Syst. 2021 Sep 7;19(1):122. doi: 10.1186/s12961-021-00772-4.


Background: Health systems around the world have been forced to make choices about how to prioritize care, manage infection control and maintain reserve capacity for future disease outbreaks. Primary healthcare has moved into the front line as COVID-19 testing transitions from hospitals to multiple providers, where tracking testing behaviours can be fragmented and delayed. Pooled general practice data are a valuable resource which can be used to inform population and individual care decision-making. This project aims to examine the feasibility of using near real-time electronic general practice data to promote effective care and best-practice policy.

Methods: The project will utilize a design thinking approach involving all collaborators (primary health networks [PHNs], general practices, consumer groups, researchers, and digital health developers, pathology professionals) to enhance the development of meaningful and translational project outcomes. The project will be based on a series of observational studies utilizing near real-time electronic general practice data from a secure and comprehensive digital health platform [POpulation Level Analysis and Reporting (POLAR) general practice data warehouse]. The study will be carried out over 1.5 years (July 2020-December 2021) using data from over 450 general practices within three Victorian PHNs and Gippsland PHN, Eastern Melbourne PHN and South Eastern Melbourne PHN, supplemented by data from consenting general practices from two PHNs in New South Wales, Central and Eastern Sydney PHN and South Western Sydney PHN.

Discussion: The project will be developed using a design thinking approach, leading to the building of a meaningful near real-time COVID-19 geospatial reporting framework and dashboard for decision-makers at community, state and nationwide levels, to identify and monitor emerging trends and the impact of interventions/policy decisions. This will integrate timely evidence about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic related to its diagnosis and treatment, and its impact across clinical, population and general practice levels.

Keywords: COVID-19; Design thinking; General practice; Observational studies; Pandemics; Quality of care.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19*
  • Electronics
  • General Practice*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Policy
  • SARS-CoV-2