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Estimating non-billable time in Australian general practice

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The known General practitioners spend time on patient care not claimable through Medicare (ie, not face-to-face consultations), but the extent of this non-billable time has not been quantified.

The new 12.1% of consultations were associated with non-billable time (average, 10.1 minutes per occasion) since the previous GP consultation with the patient. If claimable through Medicare this would equate to $10 000–$23 000 per annum per GP.

The implications GPs spend significant unpaid time on patient care between consultations. This is likely to increase as the population ages, with implications for planning changes to our current fee-for-service funding model.

Australian general practice is largely funded through the national health insurance scheme, Medicare, on a fee-for-service basis. General practitioners can claim payment from Medicare only for patient care that occurs during face-to-face consultations or for chronic disease management (eg, team care arrangements).

Generalisations about GP behaviour are occasionally expressed without supporting evidence. GPs are alleged to routinely provide “6-minute medicine”, in which patients are filtered through the consultation process, assessed, diagnosed and managed within this timeframe. Some GP consultations are of short duration; this is…