Pandemic sees impacts on Australia’s health service use

Media Release
Released
17/11/2021

New analysis of patient experiences released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows the impact of COVID-19 on the use of health services.

Key statistics 

  • 12.2 per cent of people delayed or did not see a dental professional when needed due to COVID-19
  • Those more likely to have delayed or not used health services when needed due to COVID-19 were generally younger, female or those with a long-term health condition
  • 28.8 per cent of people had at least one telehealth consultation for their own health in the last 12 months
  • About a quarter (23.6 per cent) of people reported having a telehealth consultation with a general practitioner (GP) in the last 12 months

ABS health statistics spokesperson, Robert Long, said, “In 2020-21, of those who had a telehealth consultation, 83.4 per cent reported that they would use telehealth for a consultation again if it was offered.”

The Patient Experience Survey 2020-21 showed females (35.0 per cent) were more likely to use telehealth services than males (22.2 per cent), as were people aged 65 to 74 years (35.8 per cent) than those aged 15 to 24 years (21.4 per cent).

Those with a long-term health condition (40.1 per cent) were also more likely to use telehealth services than those without a long-term health condition (16.5 per cent).

“The survey found 9.8 per cent of people delayed or did not see a GP, while 7.3 per cent did not see an after hours GP and 7.3 per cent did not see a medical specialist when needed due to COVID-19,” Mr Long said.

The proportion of people who reported that cost was a reason for delaying or not using a health service when needed decreased compared to 2019-20 for dental professionals (14.8 per cent compared to 18.7 per cent), medical specialists (5.9 per cent compared to 8.0 per cent) and GPs (2.4 per cent compared to 3.7 per cent).

New data collected in 2020-21 indicated that 17.3 per cent of people needed to see a health professional for their mental health. Of these people, 34.3 per cent delayed or did not see a health professional at least once when needed.

The proportion of people who waited for 24 hours or more to see a GP for urgent medical care increased to 33.9 per cent in 2020-21, while in 2019-20 that figure was 29.8 per cent.

Other survey results indicated people generally reported more positive experiences with health services in 2020-21 compared to 2019-20.

Further information can be found in Patient Experiences in Australia: Summary of Findings, 2020-21 available for free download from the ABS website.

Media notes

  • For this publication, dental professional includes dentists, dental hygienists and dental specialists.
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
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