Rural GPs' satisfaction with radiology services to their communities: a qualitative study

Brett D Sounness, Clarissa J Hughes, Tania Winzenberg
Rural and Remote Health 2008, 8 (2): 902

INTRODUCTION: Despite the acknowledged clinical importance of radiology and an awareness of issues surrounding the rural radiology workforce and access to services and equipment, there is a paucity of information assessing the adequacy of rural radiology services in Australia. Assessing the satisfaction of rural GPs with the radiology services available to them is one way of assessing the adequacy of these services. This research aimed to contribute to this important knowledge gap by identifying the factors influencing rural GPs' satisfaction with the rural radiology services available to them.

METHODS: We used purposive sampling from Tasmanian general practice workforce data to select rural GPs with a range of demographics from all three regions of Tasmania, Australia. We performed semi-structured interviews with these GPs, in which they discussed rural radiology services in their local area. Interviews were performed by telephone and transcribed verbatim. The transcribed interviews were analysed using an iterative and interpretive technique aimed at identifying major themes and providing insight into the issues raised by the research participants.

RESULTS: Out of 15 GPs approached, two interviews were lost due to equipment problems and 10 interviews were successfully recorded. Major factors influencing GP satisfaction with rural radiology services included: access to service (particularly convenience for their patients and the level of direct and indirect costs to patients); the promptness and reliability of services; equipment; and access to training and skills levels. The GPs also described the added challenges that they and their communities face with dealing with problems requiring the use of radiology services after hours.

CONCLUSIONS: These new insights into rural radiology services can help to inform policy makers, funding bodies and private radiology providers responsible for rural radiology services of issues requiring further consideration. This contribution to the creation of an evidence base is important as a platform for further research and for the development of strategies to further assess and improve radiology services for rural communities.

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