4839.0.55.001 - Health Services: Patient Experiences in Australia, 2009  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/07/2010   
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1 This publication presents results of the Patient Experience Survey, a topic on the 2009-10 Multipurpose Household Survey (MPHS).

2 The MPHS, conducted each year from July to June by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as a supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS), is designed to collect statistics for a number of small, self-contained topics. These include both labour topics and other social and economic topics. The topics collected in 2009-10 included:

  • Education, personal and household income, and occupation and industry (core)
  • Participation in sport and physical recreation
  • Work related injuries
  • Crime and safety
  • Patient experience
  • Family characteristics
  • Attendance at selected cultural venues and events
  • Sports attendance

3 Patient experience data was only collected between July and December 2009.

4 For all topics, information on labour force characteristics, education, income and other demographics are also available.

5 The Patient Experience Survey collected information from individuals about their experiences with selected aspects of the health system in the 12 months before interview. It is the first survey of this type and is expected to run annually from now on.

6 Data for other MPHS topics collected in 2009-10 will be released in separate publications.

7 The publication Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) contains information about survey and sample design, scope, coverage and population benchmarks relevant to the monthly LFS, and consequently the MPHS. This publication also contains definitions of demographic and labour force characteristics, and information about telephone interviewing.

Data collection

8 ABS interviewers conducted personal interviews during the 2009-10 financial year for the monthly LFS. Each month, one eighth of the dwellings in the LFS sample was rotated out of the sample and a sub-sample of these dwellings was selected for the MPHS.

9 In these dwellings, after the LFS has been fully completed for each person in scope and coverage, a person (usual resident) aged 15 or over was selected at random and asked the additional MPHS questions in a personal interview. If the randomly selected person was aged 15 to 17 years, permission was sought from a parent or guardian before conducting the interview. If permission was not given, the parent or guardian was asked the questions on behalf of the 15 to 17 year old (proxy interview).

10 Data was collected using Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI), whereby responses are recorded directly onto an electronic questionnaire in a notebook computer, usually during a telephone interview.

11 The number of fully responding households for the Patient Experience Survey was 7,124. One person aged 15 years or over from each household was asked questions in relation to their own health. A subset of questions on children's use of health services was also asked where the household included children aged 0-14. Proxy interviews for 154 people aged 15 to 17 were provided.


12 The scope of the Patient Experience Survey was restricted to people aged 15 years and over and households with children aged 0 to 14. It excluded the following people:
  • members of the Australian permanent defence forces
  • diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, customarily excluded from census and estimated population counts
  • overseas residents in Australia
  • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependents).

13 The Patient Experience Survey also excluded people living in non-private dwellings such as hotels, university residences, boarding schools, hospitals, retirement homes, homes for people with disabilities, and prisons.

14 The survey was conducted in both urban and rural areas in all states and territories, but excluded people living in very remote parts of Australia. This is expected to have only a minor impact on any aggregate estimates that are produced for individual states and territories, with the exception of the Northern Territory where people living in very remote areas account for around 24% of the population.


15 Coverage rules are applied to ensure that each person is associated with only one dwelling and hence has only one chance of selection in the survey. See Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) for more details.

Estimation methods

16 Weighting is the process of adjusting results from a sample survey to infer results for the total in scope population. To do this, a 'weight' is allocated to each sample unit, which, for the Patient Experience survey, can either be a person or a household. The weight is a value which indicates how many population units are represented by the sample unit.

17 The first step in calculating weights for each unit is to assign an initial weight, which is the inverse of the probability of being selected in the survey. The initial weights are then calibrated to align with independent estimates of the population of interest to ensure that the survey estimates conform to the independently estimated distribution of the population rather than the distribution within the sample itself.

18 The estimation process for this survey ensures that estimates of persons calibrate exactly to independently produced population totals at broad levels. The known population totals, commonly referred to as 'benchmarks', are produced according to the scope of the survey. The same is true for estimates of households produced in this survey, however, in these cases the household benchmarks are actually estimates themselves and not strictly known population totals.

19 Survey estimates are benchmarked to persons within the scope of the survey - for example, to the estimated civilian population aged 15 years and over living in private dwellings in each State and Territory excluding persons out of scope. Survey estimates of counts of persons or households are obtained by summing the weights of persons or households with the characteristics of interest.

Reliability of the estimates

20 Estimates in this publication are subject to sampling and non-sampling errors.

21 Sampling error is the difference between the published estimate and the value that would have been produced if all dwellings had been included in the survey. For more information see the Technical Note.

22 Non-sampling errors are inaccuracies that occur because of imperfections in reporting by respondents and interviewers, and errors made in coding and processing data. These inaccuracies may occur in any enumeration, whether it be a full count or a sample. Every effort is made to reduce the non-sampling error to a minimum by careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of interviewers, and effective processing procedures.

23 An observed effect so large that it would rarely occur by chance is called statistically significant. To determine whether there was evidence of a 'true' difference between corresponding population characteristics, a statistical significance test was done on all comparisons of estimates. For more information see the Technical Note.


24 Country of birth data are classified according to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 1998 (cat. no. 1269.0).

25 Remoteness areas are classified according to the Statistical Geography: Volume 1 - Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), 2006 (cat. no. 1216.0).

26 Education data are classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED) (cat. no. 1272.0).

Socio-economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA)

27 Socio-economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) is a suite of four summary measures that have been created from 2006 Census information. Each index summarises a different aspect of the socio-economic conditions of people living in an area. The indexes provide more general measures of socio-economic status than is given by measuring income or unemployment alone, for example.

28 For each index, every geographic area in Australia is given a SEIFA number which shows how disadvantaged that area is compared with other areas in Australia.

29 The index used in the Patient Experience publication is the Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage, derived from Census variables related to disadvantage such as low income, low educational attainment, unemployment, and dwellings without motor vehicles.

30 SEIFA uses a broad definition of relative socio-economic disadvantage in terms of people's access to material and social resources, and their ability to participate in society. While SEIFA represents an average of all people living in an area, it does not represent the individual situation of each person. Larger areas are more likely to have greater diversity of people and households.

31 For more detail, see the folowing papers:

Data quality

Interpretation of results

32 Information recorded in this survey is essentially 'as reported' by respondents, and may differ from that which might be obtained from other sources or via other methodologies. This factor should be considered when interpreting the estimates in this publication.

33 Information was collected on respondents' perception of their health status. Perceptions are influenced by a number of factors and can change quickly. Care should therefore be taken when analysing or interpreting the data.

34 The definition of urgent medical care was left up to respondents, however, discretionary interviewer advice suggested that visiting a GP to get a medical certificate for work would probably not be considered urgent medical care. Care should be taken when analysing or interpreting this data.

35 Where questions called for personal opinions, such as self-assessed health or whether felt waiting times were inappropriate, responses from proxy interviews were not collected.

Data comparability

36 The ABS produces statistics regarding the private hospital sector (cat. no. 4390.0) and these can yield different results regarding the use of private hospitals by patients in Australia because of conceptual differences with the data collection. Caution should be taken in comparisons across ABS surveys and administrative by-product data that address the access and use of health services.

Products and services

Data cubes

37 Data cubes of all tables in Excel spreadsheet format can be found on the ABS website (from the download tab of cat. no. 4839.0.55.001), and have also been attached as links throughout the publication. The spreadsheets present tables of estimates and proportions, with shadow tables of the corresponding relative standard errors (RSEs).

Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF)

38 Some data from the MPHS will be released as a Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) in 2011, (cat. no. 4100.0), subject to the approval of the Australian Statistician. This CURF will be accessible through the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL), in SAS, STATA and SPSS format. A full range of up-to-date information about the availability of ABS CURFs and about applying for access to CURFs is available via the ABS website (see Services - CURF Microdata). For inquiries regarding CURFs, contact the ABS CURF Management Unit via email at microdata.access@abs.gov.au, or telephone (02) 6252 7714.

Customised data requests

39 Special tabulations of the data are available on request. Subject to confidentiality and sampling variability constraints, tabulations can be produced from the survey incorporating data items, populations and geographic areas tailored to individual requirements. These are provided in electronic form. Further information about the survey and associated products can be obtained from the contact officer listed at the front of this publication.

Next survey

40 The Patient Experience Survey is expected to be conducted annually from 2009-10.

Related publications

41 ABS publications which may also be of interest include: