Research conducted in general practice not only helps health professionals to develop new treatment options for targeted populations. It also gives patients the opportunity to contribute to these solutions.
GP and Senior Lecturer in General Practice at UNE, Dr Jacqui Epps, believes general practice is an ideal environment for research, especially beyond our cities.
“There is pride locally in being part of a research project and seeing that we can conduct research in a rural or regional area,” Dr Epps said. “Many community members are keen to give up their time to participate, in order to see improvements in health outcomes for the conditions they live with. Some have firsthand experience in why we need more evidence to inform and improve patient care.”
A member of the NEGPRN Implementation Committee, Dr Epps has undertaken her own PhD research as an academic and encourages GPs to open their minds and practices to research projects.
“General practice is a wonderful career, but you don’t often have the opportunity to pursue something in detail or quite get to the bottom of some things,” she said. “By conducting research, you get to answer those questions, and develop new ones.
“We rely heavily on research undertaken by specialists in their fields of specific interest, but general practice is also a speciality field where research is equally important. We need to ensure that our practice is evidence-based, so the more research we do in general practice, the better.”
The network that can develop during a research project is beneficial, too.
“Research enhances the sense of teamwork and collaboration among the healthcare providers conducting the research and with the participants involved,” Dr Epps said. “Undertaking local primary care-based research also emphasizes the important role of general practice and ensures the research is relevant to the population groups GPs work with. It also demonstrates to patient groups that the health professionals in their community are committed to improving the quality of care they deliver.
“Undertaking research can be a very collaborative experience with people outside your immediate field of interest, like researchers from universities, other healthcare providers, practice nurses and management staff, and GP networks. Taking part in research allows us to share and benefit from the resources and skills of others, as part of a research network.”