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Primary care
Content analysis of clinical questions from Australian general practice which are prioritised for answering: identifying common question types and perceived knowledge gaps
  1. Danielle Marie Muscat1,2,
  2. Pinika Patel2,
  3. Sharon Reid2,
  4. Tammy Hoffmann3,
  5. Loai Albarqouni3,
  6. Lyndal Trevena2
  1. 1 Sydney Health Literacy Lab, School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2 ASK-GP Centre for Research Excellence, School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3 ASK-GP Centre for Research Excellence, Centre for Research in Evidence-Based Practice, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Lyndal Trevena, ASK-GP Centre for Research Excellence, School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, Sydney New South Wales Australia ; lyndal.trevena{at}


Perceived knowledge gaps in general practice are not well documented but must be understood to ensure relevant and timely evidence for busy general practitioners (GPs) which reflects their diverse and changing needs. The aim of this study was to classify the types of questions submitted by Australian GPs to an evidence-based practice information service using established and inductive coding systems. We analysed 126 clinical questions submitted by 53 Australian GPs over a 1.5-year period. Questions were coded using the International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC-2 PLUS) and Ely and colleagues’ generic questions taxonomy by two independent coders. Inductive qualitative content analysis was also used to identify perceived knowledge gaps. Treatment (71%), diagnosis (15%) and epidemiology (9%) were the most common categories of questions. Using the ICPC-2 classification, questions were most commonly coded to the endocrine/metabolic and nutritional chapter heading, followed by general and unspecified, digestive and musculoskeletal. Seventy per cent of all questions related to the need to stay up-to-date with the evidence, or be informed about new tests or treatments (including complementary and alternative therapies). These findings suggest that current guideline formats for common clinical problems may not meet the knowledge demands of GPs and there is gap in access to evidence updates on new tests, treatments and complementary and alternative therapies. Better systems for ‘pulling’ real-time questions from GPs could better inform the ‘push’ of more relevant and timely evidence for use in the clinical encounter.

  • primary care
  • general medicine
  • qualitative research

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Contributors LT, DMM, TH and PP conceived of this study and its design, and were responsible for data collection. LT, DMM, PP and SR performed the content analysis and coding, and all authors were involved in interpreting the results. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

  • Funding This project was funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council Centre for Research Excellence (ID: 1106452).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee (Protocol # 2016/1011).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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