Acupuncture in Australian general practice: Trends in reimbursed acupuncture services from 1995 to 2011

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Journal Article
Acupuncture in Medicine, 2013, 31 (1), pp. 45 - 50
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Objectives: To ascertain the extent of and trends in the use of acupuncture in Australian general practice and the characteristics of patients receiving publicly subsidised acupuncture services from general practitioners (GPs). Design: Secondary analysis of national patient Medicare data for claims by all non-specialist medical practitioners for Medicare Benefits Schedule items for an attendance where acupuncture was performed by a medical practitioner from 1995 to 2011. Main outcome measures: Use of acupuncture by GPs, patients' sex and age and the socioeconomic disadvantage index of GP's practice. Results: There has been a 47.7% decline in the number of acupuncture claims by GPs per 100 000 population in the period from 1995 to 2011. Acupuncture claims were made by 3.4% of GPs in 2011. Women were almost twice as likely to receive acupuncture from a GP as men, and patients in urban areas were more than twice as likely to receive acupuncture from a GP as patients in rural areas. Acupuncture claims were highest in areas that were socioeconomically advantaged. Conclusions: Claims for reimbursement for acupuncture by GPs have declined significantly in Australian general practice even though the use of acupuncture by the Australian public has increased. This may be due to increased use of referrals or use of non-medical practitioners, barriers to acupuncture practice in general practice or non-specific factors affecting reimbursement for non-vocationally registered GPs.
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