Patient Delays to GP Visits

November 18, 2019 0 Comments

The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that of the amount of people who needed to see a GP, 22.8% delayed seeing or did not see a GP over the past 12 months. This has been a 6.5% decrease from the previous year. 

GP Visit Delays

A decrease in GP visits delay

Private insurers’ push to fund GP visits

 

A decrease in GP visits delay

In the new release, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that of the people who needed to see a GP, 22.8% delayed or did not see a GP over the past 12 months, a decrease of 6.5% since the last year’s period.

The result are from the Patient Experience Survey which collected information from people aged 15 years and over about their experiences with health services in the last 12 months.

The report also highlights that General Practitioners were the most common health service people visited. Around 8 in 10 people (82.8%) saw a GP, followed by dental professionals (49.0%) and medical specialists (35.5%).

However, there has been a general decrease in health service use compared to the previous year:

  • 1.8% decrease for GPs (from 84.3% last year to 82.8% this year).
  • 2.2% decrease for dental professionals (from 50.1% last year to 49.0% this year).
  • 5.1% decrease for medical specialists (from 37.4% last year to 35.5% this year).

Doctor seeing a patient

In an interview to newsGP, RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said that the statistics emphasise the crucial role of Primary Care from general practices in Australia’s healthcare system. They also highlight the needs for better government support. 

Of the survey respondents, only 3.4% reported that cost was a factor for them to delay a visit to the GP. Cost was also considered a more serious factor for younger people (aged 15–24) than for those aged 65 and over. For people living in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage, cost was also a more predominant factor. 

For people living outside of the cities, RACGP points to issues like longer waiting times, fewer after-hours appointments and higher out-of-pocket expenses. but highlights that better distribution could help tackle some of these issues.

Attractive female doctor working on her laptop in her office

Earlier this year, RACGP has announced the Rural Generalist Pathway (Rural Generalist Fellowship), the new program to ensure suitably trained GPs are available to provide services in rural and remote Australia.

RACGP will continue to work in collaboration with the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and other specialist medical colleges to ensure future rural doctors are well supported and adequately skilled to address the health needs of Australia’s rural and remote communities.

However, Dr Harry Nespolon added that serious investment is still required in those remote regions to ensure all Australians receive the same high-quality healthcare, regardless of where they are.

 

Private insurers’ push to fund GP visits

A recent KPMG report suggested that community-based Preventive and Primary Care are preferred by the general public over hospital visits. This is due to fewer complications, lower mortality rates, cost savings and better patient outcomes in a lot of cases.

Private health insurers have asked to cover services outside hospitals that currently attract a Medicare benefit, such as GP visits. Australians are not always able to cover medical expenses incurred outside of the hospital system with their current private health insurance policies.

However, RACGP worries that any proposed reform should avoid risking disruption to universal patient access, and it could create a two-tiered system that excludes the most vulnerable patients. Health Minister Greg Hunt also indicated they are open to considering new options for providing care in different settings that would benefit those patients.

However, Australian Private Hospitals Association’s Chief Executive raised a safety concern as having an insurer determining care options instead of a medical professional could lead to dangerous business. 

As a better option, the Chief Executive considered this as a base for health insurers to diversify their business models and move into the delivery of health services themselves. Any further reform should be in the consumers’ best interests, she said.

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