Pathology test-ordering behaviour of Australian general practice trainees: a cross-sectional analysis†

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In the context of increasing over-testing and the implications for patient safety, to establish the prevalence and nature of pathology test-ordering of GP trainees, and to describe the associations of this test-ordering.


A cross-sectional analysis of data from the Registrar Clinical Encounters in Training (ReCEnT) cohort study.


Five of Australia's 17 general practice regional training providers, encompassing urban-to-very remote practices.


GP trainees.

Main Outcome Measure(s)

The number of pathology tests ordered per problem/diagnosis managed.


A total of 856 individual trainees (response rate 95.2%) contributed data from 1832 trainee-terms, 108 759 encounters and 169 304 problems. Pathology test-ordering prevalence was 79.3 tests (95% CI: 78.8–79.8) per 100 encounters, 50.9 (95% CI: 50.6–51.3) per 100 problems, and at least 1 test was requested in 22.4% of consultations. Most commonly ordered was full blood count (6.1 per 100 problems). The commonest problem prompting test-ordering was ‘check-up’ (18.6%). Test-ordering was significantly associated, on multivariable analysis, with the trainee having worked at the practice previously; the patient being adult, male and new to both trainee and practice; the practice being urban; the problem/diagnosis being new; imaging being ordered; referral being made and follow-up being arranged. Trainees were significantly less likely to order tests for problems/diagnoses for which they had sought in-consultation information or advice.


Compared with the established GPs, trainees order more pathology tests per consultation and per problem managed, and in a higher proportion of consultations. Our findings will inform educational policy to enhance quality and safety in general practice training.

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