This publication presents information from the 2016-17 Patient Experience Survey, which is the eighth in the series. Where possible, time series results comparing data from previous years to the 2016-17 cycle have been included.
The ABS Patient Experience Survey is conducted annually and collects data on access and barriers to a range of health care services, including:
- general practitioners (GPs)
- medical specialists
- dental professionals
- imaging and pathology tests
- hospital admissions
- emergency department visits (ED).
It includes data from people aged 15 years and over that accessed health services in the last 12 months, as well as from those who did not, and enables analysis of health service information in relation to particular population groups. Data are also collected on aspects of communication between patients and health professionals.
Data on patient experience is of value to both users of health services and those aiming to improve the health system. High quality health care leads to better health outcomes, and barriers to accessing health services may impede the best possible outcome. The availability of GPs, impact of varying levels of service and the coordination of health care are all important factors in ensuring an accessible, high quality health care system for all Australians.
At the national level, the results showed that in 2016-17:
General Practitioners (GPs):
- Eight in ten people (83%) saw a GP in the last 12 months.
- The proportion of people waiting longer than they felt acceptable for a GP appointment has decreased from 23% in 2013-14 to 18% in 2016-17.
- One in eleven people (9%) saw a GP for urgent medical care. Of those who saw a GP for urgent medical care, nearly two thirds (63%) were seen by a GP within four hours of making an appointment.
- Of those who needed to see a GP in the last 12 months, one in twenty five (4%) delayed seeing or did not see a GP at least once due to cost.
- Over two thirds of people (68%) had received a prescription for medication from a GP in the last 12 months. Of all people who received a prescription for medication, 7% delayed or decided against filling a prescription due to cost.
After hours GP care:
- One in twelve people (8%) saw an after hours GP in the last 12 months.
- Nearly one in five people (19%) who needed to see an after hours GP did not see one at all. This has decreased from 25% in 2013-14.
- The proportion of people who had a home visit has more than doubled from 13% in 2013-14 to 27% in 2016-17. This is due to a decrease in the proportion of people visiting late night clinics from 26% in 2013-14 to 18% in 2016-17 and those visiting an after hours clinic at a hospital from 19% in 2013-14 to 10% in 2016-17.
- 36% of people saw a medical specialist in the last 12 months.
- Of those who saw a medical specialist in the last 12 months, 21% waited longer than they felt acceptable to get an appointment with a medical specialist.
- One in fourteen people (7%) who needed to see a medical specialist delayed or did not see a medical specialist due to cost.
- Nearly half of all people (48%) saw a dental professional in the last 12 months.
- Nearly one in five people (18%) who needed to see a dental professional delayed seeing or did not see one due to cost. People living in areas of most socio-economic disadvantage were more than twice as likely to delay seeing or not see a dental professional due to cost than those living in areas of least disadvantage (26% compared with 11%).
Hospital admissions and emergency department (ED) visits:
- 13% of people were admitted to hospital in the last 12 months.
- 14% of people visited an emergency department (ED) for their own health in the last 12 months.
- When people who visited the ED were asked the main reason they went to an ED instead of a GP, nearly half (46%) reported that they were taken by ambulance or the condition was serious.
- People living in outer regional, remote and very remote areas were almost twice as likely to report visiting an ED because a GP was not available when required than those living in major cities (29% compared with 17%).
- Of those who visited an ED for their own health in the last 12 months, 17% thought care could have been provided by a GP.
Coordination of health care:
- One in six people (17%) saw three or more health professionals for the same condition.
- Among those who saw three or more health professionals for the same condition, 12% reported that there were issues caused by a lack of communication between the health professionals.