Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research - Research Publications

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    Getting doctors into the bush: General Practitioners' preferences for rural location
    Scott, A ; Witt, J ; Humphreys, J ; Joyce, C ; Kalb, G ; Jeon, S-H ; McGrail, M (PERGAMON-ELSEVIER SCIENCE LTD, 2013-11-01)
    A key policy issue in many countries is the maldistribution of doctors across geographic areas, which has important effects on equity of access and health care costs. Many government programs and incentive schemes have been established to encourage doctors to practise in rural areas. However, there is little robust evidence of the effectiveness of such incentive schemes. The aim of this study is to examine the preferences of general practitioners (GPs) for rural location using a discrete choice experiment. This is used to estimate the probabilities of moving to a rural area, and the size of financial incentives GPs would require to move there. GPs were asked to choose between two job options or to stay at their current job as part of the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) longitudinal survey of doctors. 3727 GPs completed the experiment. Sixty five per cent of GPs chose to stay where they were in all choices presented to them. Moving to an inland town with less than 5000 population and reasonable levels of other job characteristics would require incentives equivalent to 64% of current average annual personal earnings ($116,000). Moving to a town with a population between 5000 and 20,000 people would require incentives of at least 37% of current annual earnings, around $68,000. The size of incentives depends not only on the area but also on the characteristics of the job. The least attractive rural job package would require incentives of at least 130% of annual earnings, around $237,000. It is important to begin to tailor incentive packages to the characteristics of jobs and of rural areas.
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    Cheng, TC ; Scott, A ; Jeon, S-H ; Kalb, G ; Humphreys, J ; Joyce, C (WILEY-BLACKWELL, 2012-11-01)
    To date, there has been little data or empirical research on the determinants of doctors' earnings despite earnings having an important role in influencing the cost of health care, decisions on workforce participation and labour supply. This paper examines the determinants of annual earnings of general practitioners (GPs) and specialists using the first wave of the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life, a new longitudinal survey of doctors. For both GPs and specialists, earnings are higher for men, for those who are self-employed and for those who do after-hours or on-call work. GPs have higher earnings if they work in larger practices, in outer regional or rural areas, and in areas with lower GP density, whereas specialists earn more if they have more working experience, spend more time in clinical work and have less complex patients. Decomposition analysis shows that the mean earnings of GPs are lower than that of specialists because GPs work fewer hours, are more likely to be female, are less likely to undertake after-hours or on-call work, and have lower returns to experience. Roughly 50% of the income gap between GPs and specialists is explained by differences in unobserved characteristics and returns to those characteristics.
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    The "Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL)" longitudinal survey - Protocol and baseline data for a prospective cohort study of Australian doctors' workforce participation
    Joyce, CM ; Scott, A ; Jeon, S-H ; Humphreys, J ; Kalb, G ; Witt, J ; Leahy, A (BIOMED CENTRAL LTD, 2010-02-25)
    BACKGROUND: While there is considerable research on medical workforce supply trends, there is little research examining the determinants of labour supply decisions for the medical workforce. The "Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL)" study investigates workforce participation patterns and their determinants using a longitudinal survey of Australian doctors. It aims to generate evidence to support developing effective policy responses to workforce issues such as shortages and maldistribution. This paper describes the study protocol and baseline cohort, including an analysis of response rates and response bias. METHODS/DESIGN: MABEL is a prospective cohort study. All Australian doctors undertaking clinical work in 2008 (n = 54,750) were invited to participate, and annual waves of data collections will be undertaken until at least 2011. Data are collected by paper or optional online version of a questionnaire, with content tailored to four sub-groups of clinicians: general practitioners, specialists, specialists in training, and hospital non-specialists. In the baseline wave, data were collected on: job satisfaction, attitudes to work and intentions to quit or change hours worked; a discrete choice experiment examining preferences and trade-offs for different types of jobs; work setting; workload; finances; geographic location; demographics; and family circumstances. DISCUSSION: The baseline cohort includes 10,498 Australian doctors, representing an overall response rate of 19.36%. This includes 3,906 general practitioners, 4,596 specialists, 1,072 specialists in training, and 924 hospital non-specialists. Respondents were more likely to be younger, female, and to come from non-metropolitan areas, the latter partly reflecting the effect of a financial incentive on response for doctors in remote and rural areas. Specialists and specialists in training were more likely to respond, whilst hospital non-specialists were less likely to respond. The distribution of hours worked was similar between respondents and data from national medical labour force statistics. The MABEL survey provides a large, representative cohort of Australian doctors. It enables investigation of the determinants of doctors' decisions about how much, where and in what circumstances they practice, and of changes in these over time. MABEL is intended to provide an important resource for policy makers and other stakeholders in the Australian medical workforce.
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    A randomised trial and economic evaluation of the effect of response mode on response rate, response bias, and item non-response in a survey of doctors
    Scott, A ; Jeon, S-H ; Joyce, CM ; Humphreys, JS ; Kalb, G ; Witt, J ; Leahy, A (BIOMED CENTRAL LTD, 2011-09-05)
    BACKGROUND: Surveys of doctors are an important data collection method in health services research. Ways to improve response rates, minimise survey response bias and item non-response, within a given budget, have not previously been addressed in the same study. The aim of this paper is to compare the effects and costs of three different modes of survey administration in a national survey of doctors. METHODS: A stratified random sample of 4.9% (2,702/54,160) of doctors undertaking clinical practice was drawn from a national directory of all doctors in Australia. Stratification was by four doctor types: general practitioners, specialists, specialists-in-training, and hospital non-specialists, and by six rural/remote categories. A three-arm parallel trial design with equal randomisation across arms was used. Doctors were randomly allocated to: online questionnaire (902); simultaneous mixed mode (a paper questionnaire and login details sent together) (900); or, sequential mixed mode (online followed by a paper questionnaire with the reminder) (900). Analysis was by intention to treat, as within each primary mode, doctors could choose either paper or online. Primary outcome measures were response rate, survey response bias, item non-response, and cost. RESULTS: The online mode had a response rate 12.95%, followed by the simultaneous mixed mode with 19.7%, and the sequential mixed mode with 20.7%. After adjusting for observed differences between the groups, the online mode had a 7 percentage point lower response rate compared to the simultaneous mixed mode, and a 7.7 percentage point lower response rate compared to sequential mixed mode. The difference in response rate between the sequential and simultaneous modes was not statistically significant. Both mixed modes showed evidence of response bias, whilst the characteristics of online respondents were similar to the population. However, the online mode had a higher rate of item non-response compared to both mixed modes. The total cost of the online survey was 38% lower than simultaneous mixed mode and 22% lower than sequential mixed mode. The cost of the sequential mixed mode was 14% lower than simultaneous mixed mode. Compared to the online mode, the sequential mixed mode was the most cost-effective, although exhibiting some evidence of response bias. CONCLUSIONS: Decisions on which survey mode to use depend on response rates, response bias, item non-response and costs. The sequential mixed mode appears to be the most cost-effective mode of survey administration for surveys of the population of doctors, if one is prepared to accept a degree of response bias. Online surveys are not yet suitable to be used exclusively for surveys of the doctor population.