• child health clinicians;
  • evaluation;
  • rare diseases;
  • surveillance

Aim:  To explore clinicians' perceptions of the value, usefulness and limitations of the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU) and obtain direct feedback regarding the surveillance mechanism and suggestions for improvement.

Methods:  Anonymous postal survey of Australian paediatricians (n = 1260) in 2007.

Results:  Of 1260 clinicians surveyed 818 (65%) responded, a similar proportion from all states/territories and specialties. Over half had participated in surveillance for >10 years. The majority (95%), believe APSU research is valuable, for generating knowledge (81%), identifying research needs (78%), facilitating collaborative research (75%), supporting education and advocacy (74%), guiding clinical practice (70%), informing future policy (70%) and evaluating current policy (68%). Of 458 respondents who had ever reported a case (90%) had no objection to providing de-identified clinical information; and about 75% said questionnaires were easy to complete; however, one third said clinical information requested was not always readily available. Most (680, 83%) respondents believed their contribution to the APSU was appropriately acknowledged and 20% said they had personally benefited from participation. The majority (90%) were willing to report immediately by email/fax/phone in an epidemiological emergency. Lack of time and resources was the most common limitation to participation identified by clinicians: some suggested on-line reporting would improve the ease and timeliness of reporting. Clinicians also suggested better use of the APSU website to disseminate results.

Conclusion:  Clinicians acknowledged the APSU as valuable. Improving communication with clinicians, ensuring that information requested in questionnaires is relevant and available, and developing a secure web-based reporting system are future APSU priorities.