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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Consumers express growing dissatisfaction with healthcare system, affecting access and quality of care

Health Industry Hub | May 31, 2023 |

Over 10,000 Australians have voiced their concerns about the healthcare system, indicating a consistent decline in satisfaction levels. The data from the latest edition of the Australian Healthcare Index highlights key issues such as the scarcity of bulk billing options at clinics (cited by 71% of respondents), insufficient coverage provided by Medicare (67% of respondents), and prolonged wait times (66% of respondents), all contributing to the growing dissatisfaction.

CEO of the Australian Patients Association, Stephen Mason, expressed his concern over the distressing state of the healthcare system, stating, “These results depict a health system grappling with significant strain, where patients face immense challenges in accessing the services they desperately need.”

Dr Marcus Tan, CEO and Founder of Healthengine, highlighted the government’s recent budget’s efforts to alleviate the financial burden of primary healthcare through bulk-billing incentives and increased rebates for concession cardholders and children. However, Dr Tan emphasised that additional measures must be taken to address cost concerns faced by individuals with health issues outside these categories, particularly among Millennials without a concession card and Gen Zs over the age of eighteen.

The report reveals a concerning trend, with 51% of patients aged 18-34, including both Gen Z and Millennials, reducing their visits to GPs due to out-of-pocket expenses. The data also indicates a decline in GPs being the first point of care and advice, dropping from 58% in November 2022 to 52% across all age groups. Furthermore, only 43% of individuals in the 18-34 age cohort seek care and advice from their GP as a first step. Instead, a significant 25% of this age group turns to online sources, such as “Dr Google” for health advice.

Within the 18-34 age group, regular GP and dentist visits are the least common. The report shows that 23% of individuals in this cohort lack a regular GP, compared to 12% in the general patient population, while 51% do not have a regular dentist, compared to 42% across all age groups.

Mental health poses a significant concern for the 18-34 age group, with 33% seeking mental healthcare within the past six months, surpassing the average of 25% across all age groups. This figure is even higher for women and individuals residing in regional areas.

The report also highlights the financial strain affecting prescription medication access for young adults, as 42% of 18-34-year-olds admitted to skipping necessary prescriptions due to cost concerns, in contrast to 27% across all respondents.

Furthermore, the issue of emergency department misuse persists, as 49% of those who visited the ED later believed their care could have been adequately provided by a GP or urgent care clinic.

CEO of the Australian Patients Association, Stephen Mason, noted that this aligns with the organisation’s observations.

“Throughout Australia, we continue to hear stories of patients seeking non-emergency care in emergency departments to avoid out-of-pocket costs instead of visiting a doctor,” Mr Mason emphasised. He further added that the initial challenges arising from the cost of basic care contribute to patients missing primary care check-ups, thereby increasing the likelihood of more severe conditions or non-urgent visits to emergency departments. This cycle perpetuates ED overuse, ambulance ramping, and strains the already stretched medical resources and staff.

The findings of the index reflect a growing sentiment of frustration and dissatisfaction among Australians regarding their healthcare experiences. With a decline in bulk billing options, limited Medicare coverage, and lengthy wait times, patients are finding it increasingly difficult to access the care they need. As a result, many individuals, particularly young adults, are turning to online sources for medical advice or simply forgoing necessary healthcare altogether due to financial constraints.

Efforts to expand bulk billing options and increase Medicare coverage for a wider range of care are steps in the right direction. However, more needs to be done to ensure that individuals from all walks of life can access affordable and timely medicines and healthcare services.

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