MABEL is Australia's national longitudinal survey of doctors.
The medical workforce remains central to solving a number of key challenges in the healthcare sector. The Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) longitudinal survey of doctors is a trusted national resource producing key evidence to help ensure the sustainability of the sector, as well as delivery of better health outcomes and improved access to medical care.
Healthcare is the largest sector of the economy, at over 10 per cent of GDP and employing 14 per cent of the Australian workforce, making it the largest employer in Australia. Policy makers need to ensure medical practitioners are highly motivated, productive and optimally distributed across locations and specialties. Yet this is not the case. Poor health and wellbeing, oversupply in cities but continuing doctor shortages in areas of high need, increasing specialisation, and the slow uptake of new evidence and innovations are key issues. Without a productive, motivated and appropriately skilled medical workforce, distributed equitably across Australia, innovations to save lives and prevent and reduce the burden of disease will not have the desired impact.
The research undertaken will improve understanding of the determinants of decisions made by doctors on how many hours to work, where to work in terms of sector, geographic location and specialty, when to stop work temporarily or permanently, and productivity. These decisions have, in turn, a key influence on access to health care by the population, health care costs, and ultimately population health.
MABEL has been endorsed by a range of national professional medical organisations, colleges, societies and training providers. MABEL is also supported by an active National Advisory Group to ensure that the evidence provided by MABEL is used.
Frequently Asked Questions
How will this study benefit you and patient care?
Having a reasonable workload enables you to practice medicine the way you prefer, helps to increase the quality of care, and helps improve the availability of medical and other health services to the population. Increased pressures on your workload are further compounded by a complex and often unsupported health system. The 'right' balance between your working time and the time you have to enjoy family and leisure is becoming more difficult to maintain.
The information you provide in the MABEL survey will be used to:
- improve your morale and work satisfaction, thus leading to improved patient care;
- improve the population's access to medical services;
- develop policies to help you manage your workload; and
- improve the evidence base of medical workforce policy.
You will also receive a newsletter containing key survey results, information about how results are being used to change policy, and progress with MABEL.
Why is this study distinctive and different?
MABEL is not just an academic exercise, but is closely linked to the implementation of policy based on evidence incorporating your views and preferences, and to development in local and national medical workforce policy.
The longitudinal nature of the survey means that you will be followed up over time (if you choose to be included in future waves), enabling us to examine how your circumstances change over time, and what effect these changes are having on your working and family life.
- Is MABEL supported by medical profession organisations and governments?
Who is funding and conducting MABEL?
Funding for MABEL has been provided by the National Health and Medical Research Council (2007 to 2016: 454799 and 1019605); the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (2008); Health Workforce Australia (2013); and in 2017 The University of Melbourne, Medibank Better Health Foundation, the NSW Ministry of Health, and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services. In 2018 MABEL is being funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.
The survey is being conducted and analysed by researchers at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne in collaboration with Monash University.
What will I be asked to do?
We are asking you to fill out a questionnaire, which should take between 15 and 30 minutes to complete.
The study gives you an opportunity to tell us about:
- your preferences in regard to working in medicine and which aspects of your medical work you like and dislike;
- the medical work you do; and
- your family life.
There are two ways that you can complete the survey:
- complete the hard copy survey sent to you, OR
- complete the survey online using the username and password provided in the enclosed letter.
Since this is a longitudinal study we will contact you again next year (and every year for which the study is funded) to ask you to complete the survey, although of course you can choose to cease participation at any time.
How was I contacted?
Your name, address and email address are held by the Australasian Medical Publishing Company (AMPCo). AMPCo provided us (under their own privacy guidelines) with a computer file containing your name, address, age, gender and your AMPCo unique identifier, as well as information on your field of practice. We need this information to check that our respondents are representative of all doctors in Australia.
We then added our own unique MABEL username and password. This file was then returned to AMPCo who either:
- provided your details to a commercial mailing house who posted your invite letter on our behalf, or
- sent an email to you on our behalf inviting you to participate.
Will the information I provide remain confidential and secure?
Strict confidentiality will be maintained at all times and the information you provide will be protected. The information provided in the questionnaire will be kept for at least 15 years, as this is a longitudinal survey.
If you choose to fill out the questionnaire online, the information you provide will be encrypted and transmitted via a secure website (the padlock icon will appear in your browser window once you log in). The data you provide will be held on a secure server that can only be accessed by the research team and designated IT staff.
The information you provide in the questionnaire will be linked to your MABEL username and password only (and not your name and address). This is necessary so that we can instruct AMPCo who to send reminder letters to, and who to contact in subsequent years of the survey. We will also use the MABEL username to link the information you provide across years. The published results will not contain any identifiable information on individuals as all results are presented across aggregated groups of individuals.
Unit record (individual-level) data from the survey will be made available in de-identified format for use by other researchers in other research projects, with prior ethical approval and under contract to the Melbourne Institute. This will enable the data to be used widely by other researchers, thus increasing the chances of influencing policy. De-identification means that all information in the data that could directly or indirectly be used to identify you is removed or aggregated to a less detailed level.
All researchers involved in this project must comply with the Privacy Act (1988) and data will be stored in accordance with the University of Melbourne's Management of Data and Research Records policy.
The Melbourne Institute and its staff operate within the University of Melbourne's ethics guidelines and MABEL has been approved by the University's Human Research Ethics Committee, as well as by the Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee.
Any concerns or complaints about the broad conduct of the survey should be directed to:
Human Research Ethics
The University of Melbourne
03 8344 2073
Participating in the survey is entirely voluntary and you can withdraw at any time. You can also choose to have any of your unprocessed data excluded from the analysis by contacting the research team and quoting your MABEL username.
MABEL Research Team
I have received many surveys. Why should I fill out this one? What makes it different?
MABEL is unique in that it is not just another academic exercise. Our National Advisory Group helps to ensure that the results will be used to improve your working life. The results will guide national workforce policy, whilst providing important information to professional organisations.
I filled this out last year, why do I need to fill it out again?
We want to examine changes over time in the working lives of doctors. This provides a much more powerful analysis of the causes of these trends and therefore leading to more effective policy solutions.
I'm worried about submitting information through the online survey. Is it secure?
Yes, the website has secure encryption and the padlock icon should appear on your browser. If you remain concerned, then please fill out the paper copy.
I am retired but still undertaking a few hours per week of clinical work – should I fill out the survey?
Yes, please fill out the survey as best you can. We want to include all doctors who are doing any clinical work.
I am not a qualified specialist or GP, but a medical practitioner working in private practice in an unrecognised specialty. Which survey should I fill in?
The questions in the specialist survey would most suit your circumstances.
I am a surgical assistant and I am not sure which survey I should fill in.
Please fill out the survey "Hospital Doctor Not Enrolled in a Specialist Training Program".
I have been sent the wrong version of the survey. I am now a qualified specialist.
You can contact us either by phone, email or fax, telling us your username and which version of the survey you would like. Alternatively, you can fill out the survey online and choose the correct version before you start the survey.
- Where can I get more information?
MABEL Research and Policy Forum
This annual forum is an opportunity to hear about the latest policy issues and supporting MABEL research. The program is a rich mix of policy presentations from governments and professional organisations alongside the latest MABEL research. Attended by a wide range of doctors, researchers, governments, and medical professional organisations, the forum presents a unique opportunity to network and discuss the key issues facing the medical workforce.View
MABEL Data Users Workshop
Usually held the day before the MABEL Research and Policy Forum, the Data Users Workshop provides a basic introduction to the MABEL data: how to access it, how it is structured and how to use it. The workshop is suitable for those wanting to find out more about the data, those already using the data, and those wanting to learn about the methods of longitudinal survey design.View
The Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) longitudinal survey of doctors is a trusted national resource producing key evidence to help ensure the sustainability of the sector, as well as delivery of better health outcomes and improved access to medical care.