Doctor and patient's hand on a table

Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH)

National study of general practitioner clinical activity
BEACH is the most valid, reliable general practitioner (GP) dataset in Australia, with almost 1.8 million GP-patient encounter records from 1998 to 2016.

About us

BEACH data is used for analyses and reporting on the content of GP-patient encounters. Data linkages between indication and patient management are unique to BEACH, making it an essential information source for research into GP management of specific health problems and for analysing the market to inform pricing and strategy.

The program has generated or contributed to several hundred academic publications and grant applications. It has provided data and reports to industry, government and not-for-profit organisations. It has been used to support health system planning, policy development, development of educational material and to inform marketing and pricing business decisions.

  • Collect reliable and valid data about general practice which is responsive to the ever-changing needs of information users.
  • Establish an ongoing database of GP-patient encounter information.
  • Assess patient-based risk factors and the relationship these factors have with health service activity.
  • Provide accurate and timely data to a wide variety of users including government bodies, GP organisations, consumers, researchers and the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Random GP samples were supplied by the Australian Government Department of Health.
  • Data was collated and processed 50 weeks of the year. 
  • 1000 GPs participated each year.
  • 25 new GPs started recording each week and 20 completed recording.
  • Each GP recorded details on 100 consecutive consultations with consenting patients.
  • All consultations that resulted in a management action were recorded.

GP and practice characteristics were supplied by each participant including age, gender, years in practice, number of clinical sessions per week, country of graduation, size of practice, computer use, location of practice, and hours worked and on call each week.

The following variables were recorded:
  • Encounter characteristics: date, how it was paid for, Medicare Benefits Schedule or Department of Veteran Affairs' item numbers (when applicable).
  • Patient characteristics: age, gender, non-English speaking background status, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, Health Care Card and Veterans' Affairs status, status to the practice.
  • Patient reasons for encounter.
  • Problems managed at the consultation.
  • Status of each problem to the patient (new/managed before) and whether the problem was work-related.
Management at the encounter for each problem:
  • Drugs prescribed, over-the-counter advised, drugs supplied by the GP, status of the drug (new, continuation), dosage and regimen.
  • Other treatments including therapeutic procedures and counselling, referrals to a specialist, referrals to allied health professionals and admissions.
  • Tests and investigations.
  • Pathology and imaging ordered at this consultation.

Benefits of utilising the data

BEACH has a long history of collaborating with researchers from national and international universities. Over 130 analyses have been provided which formed the basis for a number of peer-reviewed publications, grant applications or theses on a wide range of topics. Some examples include:

GP management of:
  • Intellectual disability
  • Vertebral compression fractures
  • Heart failure and multi-morbidity
  • Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Respiratory infections in children under the age of five years
  • Musculoskeletal conditions in children
  • Unplanned pregnancy and emergency contraception
Quality indicators such as:
  • Antibiotics for acute respiratory infections
  • Lipid medication in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous patients
  • Steroid injections for tennis elbow
Broader issues such as:
  • International comparison of prevalence of multi-morbidity
  • Cost and disease burden of pneumonia
  • Validation of electronic medical data
  • Determinants of HIV testing

For many years BEACH was a source of independent GP clinical data that both government and industry could agree on during their negotiations. BEACH delivered over 800 bespoke reports to inform and shape policy decisions by governments and support key business decisions by industry.

  • Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee submissions
  • Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme pricing decisions
  • Changes in GP prescribing patterns
  • Product information with the prescribed daily dose
  • Changes in practice in response to changes in health policy
  • Baseline evidence for change measurement
  • Evidence of prescribing behaviours for specific medications and conditions or indicators
  • Other non-medical management of conditions of interest

BEACH publications 

Read publications from BEACH: