4839.0 - Patient Experiences in Australia: Summary of Findings, 2017-18 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 13/11/2018   
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MEDICAL SPECIALISTS

Medical specialists play a crucial role in the management and treatment of health conditions where they have specialist knowledge and skills. Examples of medical specialists include dermatologists, cardiologists, neurologists and gynaecologists. This chapter presents data on people who saw a medical specialist in the last 12 months for their own health. Respondents were asked about the frequency of their visits, waiting times, barriers to accessing care and their experience with the medical specialists.

Of the 7.3 million (37%) people aged 15 years and over who saw a medical specialist in the last 12 months, 30% went once, 40% went two to three times and the remaining 30% went four or more times. Overall, females were more likely than males to see a medical specialist (41% compared with 34%). The proportion of people who saw a medical specialist generally increased with age. Around one in five people (21%) aged 15 to 24 years saw a medical specialist in the last 12 months, compared with three in five people (60%) aged 75 to 84 years old. See Tables 1, 2.3 and 11.3 in Downloads.

Graph Image for Proportion of persons 15 years and over, saw a medical specialist in the last 12 months

Source(s): Patient Experience Survey: Summary of Findings



Visits to medical specialists were also related to health characteristics, with those who rated their health as fair or poor nearly twice as likely to see a medical specialist than those who rated their health as excellent, very good or good (64% compared with 34%). Similarly, those with a long term health condition were more than twice as likely to see a medical specialist than those without (54% compared with 21%). See Table 3.2 in Downloads.

People living in areas of least socio-economic disadvantage were more likely to see a medical specialist than those living in areas of most disadvantage (39% compared with 36%). See Table 3.2 in Downloads.

WAITING TIMES

Of those who saw a medical specialist in the last 12 months, 22% waited longer than they felt acceptable to get an appointment. Females were more likely than males to report waiting longer than acceptable (23% compared with 20%). People were more likely to report waiting longer than acceptable for a medical specialist appointment than for a GP appointment (22% compared with 19%). See Tables 4, 10 and 11.3.


People who rated their health as fair or poor were more likely to feel their wait for an appointment with a medical specialist was longer than acceptable than those who rated their health as excellent, very good or good (28% compared with 20%). Similarly, those with a long term health condition were more likely to feel their wait for an appointment with a medical specialist was longer than acceptable than those without (23% compared with 16%). See Table 12.2 in Downloads.

BARRIERS

The Patient Experience Survey collected data from those who did not access health services, as well as from those who did. It is therefore possible to obtain information from people who may have needed to access a health service, but did not access this service, and the reasons they did not access the health service.

In 2017-18, nearly one in five people (19%), who needed to see a medical specialist, delayed seeing or did not see one. Those aged 15 to 24 years were three times more likely to delay seeing a medical specialist than those aged 65 years and over (30% compared with 9%). The proportion of 15 to 24 year olds who delayed seeing or did not see a medical specialist has increased since 2016-17 from 21% to 30%. See Tables 10 and 11.3 in Downloads.

One in thirteen people (8%), who needed to see a medical specialist, delayed seeing or did not see one due to cost. Females were more likely than males to delay seeing or not see a medical specialist due to cost (9% compared with 6%). Those aged 15 to 24 years were more likely to delay seeing or not see a medical specialist due to cost than those aged 65 years and over (15% compared with 2%) and this has increased since 2016-17 when only 9% delayed seeing or did not see a medical specialist when needed due to cost. See Tables 10 and 11.3 in Downloads.

People who rated their health as fair or poor were more likely to delay seeing or not see a medical specialist due to cost than those who rated their health as excellent, very good or good (10% compared with 7%). Likewise, those with a long term health condition were more likely to delay seeing or not see a medical specialist due to cost than those without (9% compared with 5%). See Table 12.2 in Downloads.

People living in areas of most socio-economic disadvantage were more likely to delay seeing or not see a medical specialist due to cost than those living in areas of least disadvantage (11% compared with 6%). See Table 12.2 in downloads.

EXPERIENCE WITH MEDICAL SPECIALISTS

The way that a patient is treated by a health professional is an important aspect of their satisfaction with their care. Respondents who had seen a medical specialist were asked for their perceptions on how they were treated.

Of those who saw medical specialist in the last 12 months, 80% reported that the medical specialist always listened carefully to them, 83% reported that they always showed them respect and 80% reported that they always spent enough time with them. These rates have remained consistent with 2016-17 (79%, 82% and 80% respectively). Males were more likely than females to report that the medical specialist always listened carefully to them (82% compared with 78%), always showed them respect (85% compared with 81%) and always spent enough time with them (82% compared with 79%). See Table 11.3 in Downloads.