Research on what

General practice has its own unique characteristics including illness content, processes, epidemiology, health services, quality assurance and doctor-patient relationships. The special contact with patients provides opportunities to evaluate the patient's perspective on health service delivery, psychosocial issues and communication skills. The old saying 'dig where you are' is relevant to all of us. General practitioners invariably develop their own special interests and this is a logical area in which to conduct research. Conducting a morbidity and prescribing survey in a practice is a simple and fascinating study. If the results are added to a wider study invaluable information about the nature of general practice is obtained. 5 6 7

The development of the International Classification of Health Problems in Primary Care and the International Classification of Process in Primary Care by the World Organisation of National Colleges and Assemblies of General Practice and the World Health Organisation has greatly assisted the process of morbidity studies. This information is now presented in the publication International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC). 8

Research in general practice obviously covers many clinical areas studied by other groups but we may ask different types of questions, study different populations and use different methodologies, especially qualitative methods.

It would be logical to conduct research on those common problems requiring continuing care by the GP. These include:

• alcohol problems

• allergic disorders, e.g. asthma, allergic rhinitis

• anxiety and depression

• chronic back pain and neck pain

• cardiovascular disorders

• diabetes mellitus

• hypertension

• migraine and other headache

Special opportunities such as the observation that certain diseases or conditions are linked with specific circumstances present frequently in primary care. An example is the observation that a group of farmers who presented to their rural practitioner over a period of time with lymphosarcoma were all exposed to a specific herbicide to control blackberry growth on their farms. This led to further statewide investigations of this association, which indicated a significant link between the agent and the disease.

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