Changing clinical practice: evidence-based primary care in Australia
Evidence-based health care (EBHC) is a concept which in the past decade has gained momentum internationally. Its emphasis on linking practice and policy more closely to evidence from research and literature has challenged many assumptions and established practices in health care, whilst helping the move away from an over-reliance on medical authority and accumulated wisdom. Since the concepts of EBHC were first introduced their relevance for primary care has been examined and there has been active debate over the extent to which primary care should be restructured to accommodate these new concepts. Many argue, for example, that they devalue important but less measurable aspects of primary care. Furthermore, little is known about whether EBHC has changed practice in primary care, despite a range of implementation strategies having been put in place. This paper focuses on the response of primary care practitioners and policy makers to the challenges of EBHC in Australia. Government investment in EBHC infrastructure is detailed, and the implementation of EBHC is described from the perspective of primary care providers, individuals with chronic illnesses and other consumers of primary care services. Current issues facing Australian primary care in implementing EBHC include the relative paucity of direction from a policy framework, the dearth of multi-disciplinary primary care teams and the lack of experience in Australia of primary care health service reform.