The Multi-Topic survey is an amalgamation of several short surveys on important member-nominated topics. We hope the survey will provide important new information that leads on to larger APRN studies.

The 2013 Multi-Topic Survey had 3 topics led by Australian paediatricians; Autism Spectrum Disorders, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Oral Health. There was also a short section on E-health.

Start date: April 2013
End date: June 2013

Funding: Royal Australasian College Physicians Fellows Award 2013. 
Ethics approval: The Royal Children’s Hospital Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC#33021)

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Katrina Williams, Vivian Bayl, Catherine Marraffa & Natalie Silove

The prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has been increasing over the past 3 decades with current estimates being around 1% of the population. Through this survey we aim to find out how paediatricians in Australia diagnose and manage ASD and who they involve in these processes. Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) are frequently sought by parents who have children with ASD. We are interested in knowing more about how paediatricians manage families who use CAM. The results will help us to plan a study on CAM.

The study findings suggest:

  • Most paediatricians take 2 -3 sessions (51% and 28% respectively) to make an ASD diagnosis with the average length of time per session being 75 minutes.
  • Most responders reported that for nearly all children (75-100% of the time) diagnosis was based on informal observations of the child (82.4%) and parent report (73.3%) rather than use of a formal diagnostic tool.
  • Most paediatricians (86.3%) used DSM-IV criteria to make a diagnosis of ASD
  • Only a minority (29 to 33%) reported using other sources of information most of the time (i.e. 75-100% of the time) when making a diagnosis of ASD. Other sources reported were results from
    • cognitive assessments (31%)
    • psychological assessments (29%)
    • speech pathology assessments (33%)
  • Less than a quarter reported they would know if children with ASD were using complementary and alternative treatments (18.8%)

Publication: Randall M, Albein-Urios N, Brignell A, Gulenc A, Hennel S, Coates C, Symeonides C, Hiscock H, Marraffa C, Silove N, Bayl V, Woolfenden S, Williams, K. Diagnosing autism: Australian Paediatric Research Network surveys. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.2016:52(1): 11–17. doi:10.1111/jpc.13029. JPCH link

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Mike South, Sabine Hennel, Kathy Rowe, Lionel Lubitz, Susan Towns, Donald Payne & Adam Scheinberg.

Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) in children and adolescents is becoming increasingly recognised. We want to know how your patients present clinically with CFS/ME in your practice and your approach to diagnosis and management. The information gained will help inform future research into effective, evidence-based management of this condition.

The study findings suggest:

  • Diagnosing and management of CFS form part of clinical practice for a sizeable minority of paediatricians (41%).
  • Paediatricians take a variety of approaches in diagnosis and management of CFS
  • Most keep to best practice guidelines using a multidisciplinary approach but few are aware of existing Clinical Practice Guidelines.
  • Common practice of managing paediatric CFS by most Australian paediatricians includes:
    • Consulting a Psychologist (81%)
    • Consulting a Physiotherapist (73%)
    • Liaising with the child’s school (76%)

Publication: Knight, S., Harvey, A., Towns, S., Payne, D., Lubitz, L., Rowe, K., Reveley, C., Hennel, S., Hiscock, H. and Scheinberg, A. (2014), How is paediatric chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis diagnosed and managed by paediatricians? An Australian Paediatric Research Network Study. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 50: 1000–1007. doi: 10.1111/jpc.12677 JPCH link

Oral Health

Sharon Goldfeld & Archana Koirala

Dental decay is on the rise in children and there are increasing inequalities. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons have joined forces to support better prevention, promotion and dental services for children, but we know little about the oral health practice of Australian paediatricians. Given the prevalence of dental caries, it seems important to know how paediatricians are addressing the oral health of children in their practice. This information will lead to identification of what is done well, and what needs improvement in order to develop better training opportunities and enable more research.

The study findings suggest:

  • Most paediatricians (85%) have had some training in oral health, which generally occurred pre-specialisation (67%)
  • Most paediatricians (85%) said they would like to increase their knowledge of oral health preferably through a feature presentation on Paediatric Updates (55%).
  • Nearly all paediatricians (93%) had seen children with oral health problems in their practice in past 3 years
  • Paediatricians identified the following as moderate to significant barriers that interfere with their participation in oral health-related activities:
    • other more pressing issues need to be addressed (93%)
    • lack of professional training (90%)
    • inadequate time during health supervision (82%)


Melissa Wake

In the 2010 Multi-Topic Survey, we asked members about their e-health capacities. In 2013 we re-surveyed members to see if anything had changed.

The study findings suggest:

Overall, paediatricians’ use of e-health has increased.

  • Use of smart phones has jumped from 39% - 70%
  • 76% of paediatricians now have a computer with acceptable Internet speed in their rooms
  • Whilst use of electronic records to document patient data has almost doubled from 26% to 49%, around half of paediatricians are hand writing their case notes.