Variation in General Practice Services Provided to Australian Workers with Low Back Pain: A Cross-Jurisdictional Comparative Study

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Purpose: To compare the frequency of General Practitioner (GP) services and the time between first and last GP services (service duration) provided to workers with low back pain (LBP) between four Australian workers’ compensation jurisdictions. Methods: Retrospective cohort study using service level data collated from the Australian states of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Queensland. Negative binomial regression was used to compare GP service volume between jurisdictions in workers with accepted LBP compensation claims. Quantile regression was used to compare GP service duration. Models were adjusted for sociodemographic factors and occupation. Analyses were repeated in four cohorts with progressively more restrictive cohort definitions to account for the influence of jurisdictional policy variation in employer excess, service delivery and maximum time-loss benefit duration. Results: The study sample included 47,185 time-loss claims accepted between July 2010 and June 2015, that were linked with 452,391 GP services. Workers with LBP in Queensland recorded significantly fewer GP services funded and recorded significantly shorter average service duration than in other states. This pattern of jurisdictional variation was evident in all four cohorts, but was attenuated when cohorts excluded short- and long duration claims. In the final, most restricted cohort statistically significant adjusted incidence rate ratios of 1.47–1.60 were observed in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, while these states recorded additional service duration of 4.3–20.7 weeks at the median. Conclusion: There is significant variation in provision of GP services to injured workers with LBP between four Australian workers’ compensation jurisdictions. Administrative requirements for time-based provision of work capacity certificates by medical practitioners may be contributing to service variation.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Nov 2021


  • Comparative study
  • General practice
  • Health service use
  • Low back pain
  • Workers’ compensation

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