4839.0 - Patient Experiences in Australia: Summary of Findings, 2011-12 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/11/2012   
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1 This publication contains results from the Patient Experience Survey, a topic on the Multipurpose Household Survey (MPHS) conducted throughout Australia from July 2011 to June 2012. The MPHS, conducted each financial year 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.

The Patient Experience Survey collected information from individuals about their experiences with selected aspects of the health system in the 12 months before interview. Information on labour force characteristics, education, income and other demographics were also collected.


The scope of the Patient Experience Survey was restricted to people aged 15 years and over. It also 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)
    • persons living in non-private dwellings such as hotels, university residences, boarding schools, hospitals, retirement homes, homes for people with disabilities, and prisons
    • people living in Indigenous communities (excluded for operational reasons).
4 2011–12 is the first time this survey has included households residing in very remote parts of Australia. This inclusion has minimal impact on Australian level estimates.


In the LFS, coverage rules are applied which aim 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 detail.


ABS interviewers conducted personal interviews during the 2011–12 financial year for the monthly LFS. Each month, one eighth of the dwellings in the LFS sample were rotated out of the survey and a sub-sample of these dwellings was selected for the MPHS.

In these dwellings, after the LFS had been fully completed for each person in scope and coverage, a usual resident aged 15 years or over was selected at random (based on a computer algorithm) 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).

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

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.


After taking into account sample loss, the response rate for the Patient Experience Survey was 79.6%. In total, information was collected from 26,437 fully responding households. One person aged 15 years or over from each household was asked questions in relation to their own health. This includes 334 proxy interviews for people aged 15 to 17 years, where permission was not given by a parent or guardian for a personal interview.



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 enumerated person. The weight is a value which indicates the number of persons in the population represented by the sample person.

For the MPHS, 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. For example, if the probability of a person being selected in the survey was 1 in 600, then the person would have an initial weight of 600 (that is, they represent 600 people).


The initial weights are then calibrated to align with independent estimates of the population, referred to as benchmarks. The population included in the benchmarks is the survey scope, for example, the estimated civilian population aged 15 years and over living in private dwellings in each State and Territory excluding persons out of scope. This calibration process ensures that the weighted data conform to the independently estimated distribution of the population described by the benchmarks rather than to the distribution within the sample itself. Calibration to population benchmarks helps to compensate for over or under-enumeration of particular categories of persons which may occur due to either the random nature of sampling or non-response.

The survey was benchmarked to the estimated resident population (ERP) in each state and territory at 31 March 2012.


Survey estimates of counts of persons are obtained by summing the weights of persons with the characteristic of interest.


All sample surveys are subject to error which can be broadly categorised as either:
    • sampling error
    • non-sampling error.
17 Sampling error is the difference between the published estimate, derived from a sample of dwellings, and the value that would have been produced if all dwellings in scope of the survey had been included. For more information refer to the Technical Note.

Non-sampling error may occur in any collection, whether it is based on a sample or a full count of the population such as a census. Sources of non-sampling error include: non-response; errors in reporting by respondents or recording of answers by interviewers; and errors in coding and processing data. Every effort was made to reduce the non-sampling error by: careful design and testing of the questionnaire; training and supervision of interviewers; follow-up of respondents; and extensive editing and quality control procedures at all stages of data processing.


19 Information recorded in this survey is '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.

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.

The definition of urgent medical care was left to the respondent's interpretation. If a respondent sought clarification, interviewers were instructed, for example, that visiting a GP to get a medical certificate for work would not be considered urgent medical care. Care should be taken when analysing or interpreting this data.

22 The definition of 'need' (in questions where respondents were asked whether they needed to use a particular health service) was left to the respondents' interpretation.

For some questions which called for personal opinions, such as self-assessed health or whether waiting times were felt to be unacceptable, responses from proxy interviews were not collected.


Comparability of Time Series

24 For the first time, the 2011–12 Patient Experience Survey included households in very remote areas of Australia. This inclusion has minimal impact on Australian level estimates.

25 The ABS seeks to maximise consistency and comparability over time by minimising changes to surveys. Sound survey practice, however, requires ongoing development to maintain and improve the integrity of the data. The Patient Experience Survey, as a relatively new survey, is subject to a comparatively high level of change from this ongoing development. When comparing data from different cycles of the survey, users are advised to consult the questionnaires (available from the Downloads tab of cat. no. 4839.0), check whether question wording or sequencing has changed, and consider whether this may have had an impact on the way questions were answered by respondents.

26 Due to changes in the questionnaire, the populations being asked some questions in the 2011–12 Patient Experience Survey may differ from the populations who were asked the same questions in previous cycles of the survey. In particular:

  • Data items on whether respondents delayed or did not use a service due to cost are not considered to be directly comparable with previous cycles. Initially these were asked as one question per service, but have since become separate questions across the survey cycles. The questions are subsequently asked of different populations within the cycles.
  • Medical specialist data items have changed since the 2010–11 survey. In 2010–11, respondents may have only included their most recent referral, whereas in 2011–12, the questions were expanded to include all referrals in the last 12 months.
  • Imaging data items have changed across the cycles. In the 2011–12 survey, respondents were asked about both referred and non-referred imaging tests, whereas in earlier cycles this was not the case.

27 The questions that contribute to some of the data items shown in this publication have changed between cycles of the survey. The following items have changed which may impact on comparability between cycles:
    • Received a prescription for medication from a GP
    • Whether saw GP for urgent medical care for own health in last 12 months
    • Length of time between making appointment and seeing GP for most recent urgent medical care in last 12 months
    • Whether waited longer than felt acceptable to get an appointment with a GP in last 12 months
    • Whether received written referral to a specialist by a GP in last 12 months
    • Whether had a referred pathology test in the last 12 months.
28 All time series tables produced by the ABS ensure that the populations being compared between survey cycles are the same. Where question wording has changed, this is noted in the table.

29 When comparing data items across survey cycles, refer to the questionnaires on the ABS website.

Comparability with other ABS surveys

0 Caution should be taken in comparisons across ABS surveys and administrative by-product data that address the access and use of health services. Estimates from the Patient Experience survey may differ from those obtained from other surveys (such as the Australian Health Survey, General Social Survey and Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers) due to differences in survey mode, methodology and questionnaire design.


1 Country of birth data are classified according to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), Second Edition, 2008 (cat. no. 1269.0).

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

3 Education data are classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001 (cat. no. 1272.0).

Socio-economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA)

4 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 measures such as income or unemployment alone.

5 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.

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.

7 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.

38 For more detail, see the following papers: PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Data Cubes

39 Data Cubes of all tables in Excel spreadsheet format can be found on the ABS website (from the Downloads tab of cat. no. 4839.0). The spreadsheets present tables of estimates and proportions, and their corresponding relative standard errors (RSEs).

Customised data requests

0 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 (including state and territory level data), tailored to individual requirements. These are provided in electronic form. A list of data items from the 2011–12 Patient Experience survey is available from the Downloads tab. All inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.


1 ABS surveys draw extensively on information provided by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated and without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.


2 The Patient Experience Survey is conducted annually, with the next survey occurring in 2012–13.