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Patient Experiences in Australia: Summary of Findings

Contains data on access and barriers to, and experiences of, healthcare services including GPs, specialists, dental professionals, hospitals and EDs.

Reference period
2019-20 financial year

Key statistics

  • 16.6% of people saw 3 or more health professionals for the same condition
  • 30.4% of people delayed or did not see a dental professional when needed
  • 56.5% of people had private health insurance

Health service use

Health service use in 2019-20 remained similar to 2018-19, with general practitioners (GPs) being the most common health service professionals seen:

  • saw a GP (83.2% compared to 82.8%)
  • had a pathology test (58.1% compared to 57.0%)
  • saw a dental professional (49.5% compared to 49.0%)
  • had an imaging test (38.3% compared to 38.6%)
  • saw a medical specialist (36.0% compared to 35.5%)
  • visited a hospital emergency department (ED) (14.4% compared to 13.8%)
  • were admitted to hospital (12.5% compared to 12.8%)
  • saw a GP for urgent medical care (8.3% compared to 8.4%)
  • saw an after hours GP (7.1% compared to 7.2%)

​​​​​​​See Table 1 in Data downloads section.

By sex

Females were more likely than males to:

  • see a GP (87.7% compared to 78.6%)
  • have a pathology test (64.9% compared to 51.2%)
  • see a dental professional (52.9% compared to 46.0%)
  • have an imaging test (44.0% compared to 32.5%)
  • see a medical specialist (39.0% compared to 33.0%)
  • visit a hospital ED (15.3% compared to 13.4%)
  • be admitted to hospital (14.1% compared to 10.7%)
  • see a GP for urgent medical care (9.2% compared to 7.3%)
  • see an after hours GP (8.2% compared to 6.0%)

By age

People aged 85 years and over were more likely than those aged 15-24 years to: 

  • see a GP (98.3% compared to 70.9%)
  • have a pathology test (80.1% compared to 33.9%)
  • see a medical specialist (58.9% compared to 20.3%)
  • have an imaging test (51.9% compared to 26.0%)
  • be admitted to hospital (27.5% compared to 6.8%)
  • visit a hospital ED (24.3% compared to 14.6%)
  • see a GP for urgent medical care (10.6% compared to 7.1%)
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  1. Excludes tests conducted in hospital
  2. Excludes tests conducted in hospital and dental imaging tests

By long term health condition

People with a long-term health condition were more likely than those without a long-term health condition to:

  • see a GP (94.5% compared to 71.5%)
  • have a pathology test (75.3% compared to 40.3%)
  • see a medical specialist (53.0% compared to 18.4%)
  • see a dental professional (52.4% compared to 46.5%)
  • have an imaging test (51.5% compared to 24.6%)
  • visit a hospital ED (19.5% compared to 9.1%)
  • be admitted to hospital (18.4% compared to 6.3%)
  • see a GP for urgent medical care (12.2% compared to 4.3%)
  • see an after hours GP (9.0% compared to 5.1%)

See Tables 2.3 and 3.2 in Data downloads section.

Waiting times

The proportion of people waiting longer than they felt acceptable for a medical specialist appointment was 22.7%, compared to 18.7% of people waiting for a GP appointment.

People living in areas of most socio-economic disadvantage were more likely to report waiting longer than they felt acceptable for an appointment than those living in areas of least disadvantage:

  • medical specialist appointment (26.3% compared to 20.6%)
  • GP appointment (22.2% compared to 15.2%)

Those living in outer regional, remote or very remote areas were more likely to report waiting longer than they felt acceptable for a GP appointment than those living in major cities (25.3% compared to 16.8%).

People who saw a GP for urgent medical care reported similar waiting times in 2019-20 compared to 2018-19:

  • seen within 4 hours (59.4% compared to 60.9%)
  • waited for 4 to 24 hours (10.8% compared to 11.2%)
  • waited for 24 hours or more (29.8% compared to 27.7%)

People living in major cities were more likely to be seen by a GP for urgent medical care within 4 hours than those living in outer regional, remote or very remote areas (62.5% compared to 51.6%).

See Tables 6.2 and 12.2 in Data downloads section.

Potential impacts of COVID-19

The 2019-20 Patient Experience Survey did not explicitly ask about the impacts of COVID-19. However, it is possible that COVID-19 may have contributed to an increase in the proportion of people who delayed or did not use health services when needed in 2019-20 compared to 2018-19:

  • dental professionals (30.4% compared to 28.2%)
  • GPs (25.7% compared to 22.8%)
  • medical specialists (19.9% compared to 17.4%)
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  1. Includes dentist, dental hygienist and dental specialists

See Tables 4, 10 and 15.2 in Data downloads section.

There was also an increase in reporting of ‘Other’ as the main reason people did not see a dental professional when needed (11.0% compared to 8.2% in 2018-19). This may be related to COVID-19 as this was one of the essential services closed during part of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020-21 Patient Experience Survey will include more specific questions relating to those who delayed or did not use certain health services due to COVID-19. It will also include a series of questions relating to use of telehealth services in order to better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on health service use.

Barriers to health service use

The proportion of people who reported that cost was a reason for delaying or not using a health service when needed has remained consistent with 2018-19:

  • dental professionals (18.7% compared to 17.6%) 
  • medical specialists (8.0% compared to 7.7%) 
  • GPs (3.7% compared to 3.4%)

See Tables 4, 10 and 15.2 in Data downloads section.

People with a long-term health condition were more likely to delay or not use the following health services when needed due to cost than those without a long-term health condition:

  • dental professionals (22.0% compared to 14.5%)  
  • medical specialists (8.9% compared to 5.4%)
  • GPs (4.4% compared to 2.8%)

People with a long-term health condition were also more likely to delay getting or go without prescription medication when needed due to cost than those without a long-term health condition (8.0% compared to 3.8%).

See Tables 6.2, 12.2 and 15.2 in Data downloads section.

Experience with health professionals

People who needed to and saw a health professional in 2019-20 generally reported similar experiences to 2018-19. However, more positive experiences were reported with regards to GPs and dental professionals showing respect, while relatively small decreases were reported with regards to hospital ED nurses listening, showing respect and spending enough time.

People reported the most positive experiences with dental professionals and the least positive experiences with hospital ED doctors and specialists.

The proportion of health professionals who always listened carefully, compared to 2018-19 was:

  • dental professionals (86.0% compared to 85.6%)
  • medical specialists (80.6% compared to 80.1%)  
  • hospital nurses (78.6% compared to 79.7%)
  • hospital doctors and specialists (76.0% compared to 77.1%)
  • GPs (75.5% compared to 74.8%)
  • hospital ED nurses (75.0% compared to 77.3%)  
  • hospital ED doctors and specialists (69.4% compared to 70.4%)

The proportion of health professionals who always showed respect, compared to 2018-19 was:

  • dental professionals (89.2% compared to 88.4%)
  • medical specialists (83.8% compared to 84.0%)
  • GPs (82.0% compared to 81.1%)
  • hospital nurses (80.9% compared to 82.2%) 
  • hospital doctors and specialists (79.6% compared to 79.1%)
  • hospital ED nurses (77.5% compared to 80.0%)
  • hospital ED doctors and specialists (74.2% compared to 75.0%)

The proportion of health professionals who always spent enough time with people, compared to 2018-19 was:

  • dental professionals (89.0% compared to 88.6%)
  • medical specialists (80.4% compared to 80.4%)
  • hospital nurses (76.3% compared to 78.3%)
  • GPs (76.2% compared to 75.7%)
  • hospital doctors and specialists (74.5% compared to 74.1%)
  • hospital ED nurses (71.7% compared to 74.7%)
  • hospital ED doctors and specialists (67.1% compared to 68.0%)

Those living in outer regional, remote or very remote areas reported more positive experiences with hospital ED doctors and specialists than those living in major cities:

  • always listened to carefully (75.0% compared to 68.0%)
  • always shown respect (79.4% compared to 73.2%)
  • always had enough time spent with them (73.5% compared to 65.6%)

See Tables 6.2, 12.2, 15.2, 18.2 and 21.2 in Data downloads section.

Coordination of care

The proportion of people who saw three or more health professionals for the same condition increased to 16.6% in 2019-20 from 15.1% in 2018-19.

Of these people:

  • 71.9% reported that at least one health professional helped coordinate their care
  • 14.3% reported that there were issues caused by a lack of communication between health professionals

Of those who received coordination of their care, 57.4% reported that GPs were most likely to help coordinate their care.

People with a long-term health condition were more likely than those without a long-term health condition to:

  • see three or more health professionals (26.8% compared to 6.1%)
  • receive coordination of care (74.3% compared to 60.8%)
  • report issues caused by a lack of communication between health professionals (15.0% compared to 10.3%)

See Tables 1 and 24.2 in Data downloads section.

Other health professionals

The proportion of people who saw at least one type of other health professional (excluding GPs, dental professionals or medical specialists) increased to 63.9% in 2019-20 from 62.7% in 2018-19.

The most common other health professionals seen remained the same in 2019-20 as in 2018-19:

  •  Radiographers or Sonographers (38.3% compared to 38.6%)
  •  Chemists or Pharmacists for advice only (19.7% compared to 18.5%)
  •  Physiotherapists or Hydrotherapists (17.7% compared to 16.6%)

Of those who saw at least one type of other health professional:

  • 69.8% were female compared to 57.8% who were male
  • a steady increase in use was observed with age from 48.8% of those aged 15-24 years to 83.3% of those aged 85 years and over
  • 79.5% had a long-term health condition compared to 47.7% of people without a long-term health condition
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 a. Excludes GPs, dental professionals or medical specialists

See Tables 25.3 and 26.2 in Data downloads section.

Private health insurance

The proportion of people with private health insurance was similar in 2019-20 compared to 2018-19 (56.5% compared to 56.9%). Both hospital and extras cover continued to be the most common type of private health insurance (45.5%). 

Of those with private health insurance:

  • 58.6% rated their health as excellent, very good or good compared to 41.4% who didn’t have private health insurance
  • 55.9% had a long-term health condition compared to 44.1% who didn’t have private health insurance
  • 59.0% were living in major cities compared to 41.0% who didn’t have private health insurance 
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  1. 2016 Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage: A lower Index of Disadvantage quintile (e.g. the first quintile) indicates relatively greater disadvantage and a lack of advantage in general. A higher Index of Disadvantage (e.g. the fifth quintile) indicates a relative lack of disadvantage and greater advantage in general

The proportion of people with private health insurance varied based on where they lived with 33.2% of those living in areas of most socio-economic disadvantage having private health insurance cover compared to 76.5% of people living in areas of least socio-economic disadvantage.

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  1. 2016 Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage: A lower Index of Disadvantage quintile (e.g. the first quintile) indicates relatively greater disadvantage and a lack of advantage in general. A higher Index of Disadvantage (e.g. the fifth quintile) indicates a relative lack of disadvantage and greater advantage in general

See Tables 1 and 3.2 in Data downloads section.

Data downloads

Data tables and Data item list

Data files

Survey material

Questionnaire

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4839.0.