4839.0.55.001 - Health Services: Patient Experiences in Australia, 2009  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/07/2010   
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After hours

After hours care is care that is received after the standard business hours of the health service on a public holiday; or a Sunday; or before 8am or after 1pm on a Saturday; or before 8am or after 8pm on any other day.

Coordination of care

In this survey, coordination of care refers to help with the following, provided by one or more health professionals treating a person for a single condition:

  • booking or coordinating appointment times;
  • finding relevant specialists or other health professionals;
  • scheduling diagnostic tests; and/or
  • collating medical history information.

Harm or harmful side-effect.

The terms 'harm' and 'harmful' were left to the respondent's interpretation. Discretionary interviewer advice was to include:
  • any harm or side-effect the respondent perceived as harmful caused by any kind of medical treatment.
  • harmful side-effects cause by prescribed medications (including problems with dosage, timing or incorrect medication).
  • harmful side-effects from diagnostic tests (such as x-rays, blood tests, endoscopy).
  • harmful side-effects from anaesthesia in hospital.
  • harm caused by error or incompetence during surgery or other medical procedure.
  • harm caused by rough physical treatment by medical staff.

and to exclude any side-effect the respondent did not personally consider harmful.

Health professional

A health professional is a person who helps in identifying or preventing or treating illness or disability. Health professionals may include, but are not limited to:
  • general practitioners;
  • medical specialists;
  • physiotherapists;
  • dieticians;
  • nurses;
  • pharmacists;
  • surgeons;
  • optometrists;
  • chiropractors;
  • cardiologists;
  • dermatologists;
  • gastroenterologists;
  • haematologists;
  • neurologists;
  • obstetricians;
  • oncologists; and
  • psychiatrists.

Hospital admission

A hospital admission is the formal acceptance by a hospital or other inpatient health care facility of a patient who is to be provided with room, board, and continuous nursing service in an area of the hospital or facility where patients generally reside at least overnight.

Hospital emergency department visit

Any time a person went to an emergency department for their own health, whether it was within normal GP practising hours or after hours.

Imaging test

Imaging tests or diagnostic imaging include all tests that produce images or pictures of the inside of the body in order to diagnose diseases. Tests involve the use of radiant energy, including x-rays, sound waves, radio waves, and radioactive waves and particles that are recorded by photographic films or other types of detectors.

Issues caused by lack of coordination between health professionals

The definition of an 'issue' was left to the respondent's interpretation. Discretionary interviewer advice was to include:
  • test results or other records not reaching the health professional’s office in time for an appointment;
  • having to provide the same details about a medical condition to different health professionals;
  • being sent for the same tests by different health professionals;
  • given contradictory information about a condition by different health professionals;
  • not being told by a pharmacist or other health professional that the medication prescribed might be harmful because of other drugs they were taking.

Index of disadvantage

This is one of four Socio-economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFAs) compiled by the ABS following each Census of Population and Housing. This index summarises attributes such as low income, low educational attainment, high unemployment and jobs in relatively unskilled occupations. The first or lowest quintile refers to the most disadvantaged areas, while the 5th or highest quintile refers to the least disadvantaged areas. For further information about SEIFAs see SEIFA: Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas on the ABS website.

Medical specialist

A medical specialist is a doctor that practices one branch of medicine. Patients are usually referred to a specialist by their general practitioner or by a specialist from another branch of medicine.

Out-of-pocket expense

Out-of-pocket expenses refer to expenses of services or procedures less the Medicare rebate. The person did not have to have been aware of the exact amount they would pay, rather an approximate amount of what was not covered by Medicare.

Pathology test

A pathology test is laboratory medicine that includes analysis of specimens such as urine and blood in order to diagnose disease.

Pharmaceutical care

For the purposes of this publication, this relates to instances where a person sought health-related advice from a pharmacist (chemist) either on their own or someone else's behalf. Discretionary interviewer advice was to exclude information asked of or received from pharmacy assistants.

Prescription medication

A drug that requires a prescription from a medical practitioner before it can be dispensed. This differs from over-the-counter medication, which can be purchased without a prescription.

Private health insurance

Refers to voluntary coverage through the private health care system (e.g. Medibank Private, MBF, NIB,HCF and Manchester Unity). Private health insurance supplements the Medicare system, which provides a tax-financed public system that is available to all Australians. Depending on the type of cover purchased, private health insurance provides cover against all or part of hospital theatre and accommodation costs in either a public or private hospital, medical costs in hospital and costs associated with a range of services not covered under Medicare, including private dental services, optical, chiropractic, home nursing, ambulance and natural therapies.

Private patient

Patients admitted to public or private hospitals can choose their treating doctor. Medicare pays 75 per cent of the Medicare schedule fee for services and procedures provided by the nominated doctor. For patients who have private health insurance, some or all of the outstanding balance may be covered.

Public patient

Patients admitted to public hospitals as public (Medicare) patients receive treatment by doctors and specialists nominated by the hospital. Public patients are not charged for care and treatment or after-care by the treating doctor, as the schedule fee for services and procedures is fully subsidised by Medicare.


The Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) is used by the ABS for the collection and dissemination of geographically classified statistics. The classification divides Australia into six broad regions called Remoteness Areas. The ASGC Remoteness classification was developed by the ABS in response to a demand for a statistical geography that allows quantitative comparisons between 'city' and 'country' Australia, where the defining difference between 'city' and 'country' is physical remoteness from goods and services.

Self-assessed health status

A person's impression of their own health against a five point scale from excellent through to poor.

Statistical significance

Differences between population estimates are said to be statistically significant when it can be stated with 95% confidence that there is a real difference between the populations. (See the Technical Note for more information).

Urgent medical care

In this question, the term 'urgent' was left to the respondent's interpretation. Discretionary interviewer advice was to include health issues that arose suddenly and were serious, e.g. fever, headache, vomiting, unexplained rash; but that seeing a GP to get a medical certificate for work for a less serious illness would not be considered urgent.