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Sexual health problems managed in Australian general practice: a national, cross sectional survey

Abstract

Objectives: To ascertain how frequently Australian general practitioners (GPs) identify sexual health (SH) problems, to gain understanding of how SH problems are managed in general practice and to determine the characteristics of GPs who manage them.

Methods: A secondary analysis of data from the BEACH programme April 2000–March 2003. BEACH is a cross sectional national survey of GP activity: approximately 1000 GPs per year, each records details of 100 consecutive patient encounters. Initially, patient reasons for encounter (RFE), suggestive of a SH problem, were used to derive a list of SH problems (that is, doctor’s diagnosis/problem label). Management of these problems was then investigated for all encounters with patients aged 12–49 years. The frequency of SH problems, their management and the characteristics of GPs managing them, were analysed using SAS.

Results: During 299 000 encounters with 2990 GPs, 3499 (1.17 per 100 encounters) STI/SH problems were managed, the majority (81.1%) in females. The most common in women were genital candidiasis, vaginal symptoms, urinary symptoms, and intermenstrual bleeding, and in men were testicular symptoms, genital warts, and urethritis. Tests to exclude specific STIs were seldom taken and symptomatic management was common. GPs managing SH problems were younger, more likely to be female, have fewer years in practice, work in larger practices; hold FRACGP status (all p = <0.001) than those GPs who managed none.

Conclusion: Patients seeking medical attention for SH problems are often managed by GPs. Tests to diagnose or exclude specific sexually transmitted infections are seldom ordered and symptomatic management is common. Strategies to improve management of SH problems in general practice need to be developed and evaluated.

  • BEACH, Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health
  • CAPS, Coding Atlas for Pharmaceutical Substances
  • FRACGP, Fellowship of the Royal Australian Collage of General Practitioners
  • GP, general practitioner
  • HSV, herpes simplex virus
  • ICPC, International Classification of Primary Care
  • MC&S, microscopy and culture and sensitivity
  • NGU, non-gonococcal urethritis
  • NSU, non-specific urethritis
  • PID, pelvic inflammatory disease
  • RFE, reasons for encounter
  • SH, sexual health
  • STI, sexually transmitted infections
  • sexual health
  • general practice
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • cross sectional survey

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