Background Chronic disease risk on a population level can be quantified through health surveys, either continuous or periodic. To date, information gathered from primary care interactions, using sentinel sites, has not been investigated as a potentially valuable surveillance system in Australia.
Methods A pilot study was conducted in a single General Practice in a regional area of New South Wales, Australia to assess the feasibility of accessing data obtained through a computerised chronic disease management program that has been designed for desktop application (Pen Computer Systems (PCS) Clinical Audit Tool: ™ PCS CAT). Collated patient data included information on chronic disease management and prevention, prevalence of overweight and obesity, mental health indicators, medication profiling and home medicine reviews, as well as uptake of preventive health services (immunisation and cervical cancer screening).
Results Higher than national average estimates were found for the age-adjusted prevalence of chronic diseases such as hypertension (14.3% for sample vs 10.4%, nationally), anxiety disorders (4.4% vs 3.8%) and obesity/overweight (67.1 vs 63.4%). Preventive health assessment items were undersubscribed, ranging from 6–20% in eligible patients.
Conclusions This pilot study has demonstrated that the scope of data collected by patient visits to their General Practitioners, facilitated through the Medicare-funded primary health care system in Australia, offers a feasible opportunity for monitoring of chronic disease prevalence and its associated risk factors. The inclusion of a larger number of sentinel sites that are generalizable to the population being served would provide an accurate and region-specific system for the purposes of population health planning at the primary care level in order to improve the overall health of the community.