Reporting of research data by GPs: a cautionary tale for primary care researchers

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Given the importance of community-based research, there is a need to ensure the quality of data obtained from such studies. However, research has been considered a low priority for most GPs.


To assess the quality of data reported by GPs in a large community-based study.


Men were recruited as part of a population-based study on prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing. Those with elevated initial PSA levels in the mid-1990s and no investigation in the intervening period were invited for repeat PSA testing. The GP of each included man was contacted and asked to report basic clinical information. Trained data extractors independently reviewed each man's GP medical notes and recorded data relating to prostate problems. Data provided by GPs were rematched with data extracted from medical notes.


A total of 758 men with 379 GPs were included. In all, 366 (96.6%) GPs agreed to participate. Of 698 men suitable for follow-up, GP and note review data were available in 505 (72.3%) cases (287 GPs). Overall, 245 (85.4%) GPs provided completely accurate data. Male GPs, compared to female GPs, were found to have a higher level of inaccurate reporting (P=0.008).


We found that when GPs were asked to record basic clinical information, for the purposes of a primary care-based study, there was a significant level of inaccurate reporting. The results from our study confirm the importance of quality control in primary care research, especially in studies that involve GPs’ reporting data.

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