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Diagnostic scope of and exposure to primary care physicians in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States: cross sectional analysis of results from three national surveys



To compare mix of patients, scope of practice, and duration of visit in primary care physicians in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.


Comparison of three comparable cross sectional surveys performed in 2001-2. Physicians completed a questionnaire on patients' demographics, diagnoses, and duration of visit.


Primary care practice.


79,790 office visits in Australia, 10,064 in New Zealand, and 25,838 in the US.

Main outcome measures

Diagnostic codes were mapped to the Johns Hopkins expanded diagnostic clusters. Scope of practice was defined as the number of expanded diagnostic clusters accounting for 75% of all managed problems related to morbidity. Exposure to primary care was calculated from duration of visits recorded by the physician, and reports on rates of visits to primary care for each country.


In each country, primary care physicians managed an average of 1.4 morbidity related problems per visit. In the US, 46 expanded diagnostic clusters accounted for 75% of problems managed compared with 52 in Australia, and 57 in New Zealand. Correlations in the frequencies of managed health problems between countries were high (0.87-0.97 for pairwise comparisons). Though primary care visits were longer in the US than in New Zealand and Australia, the per capita annual exposure to primary care physicians in the US (29.7 minutes) was about half of that in New Zealand (55.5 minutes) and about a third of that in Australia (83.4 minutes) because of higher rates of visits to primary care in these countries.


Despite differences in the supply and financing of primary care across countries, many aspects of the clinical practice of primary care physicians are remarkably similar in Australia, New Zealand, and the US.

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