4839.0 - Patient Experiences in Australia: Summary of Findings, 2016-17 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/11/2017   
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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. Respondents were asked about the frequency of their visits, waiting times, barriers to accessing care and their experience with the medical specialists.

Of the 6.9 million people (36%) 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 (39% compared with 33%). The proportion of people who saw a medical specialist generally increased with age. Nearly one quarter of people (23%) aged 15 to 24 years saw a medical specialist in the last 12 months, compared with 62% of people aged 75 to 84 years. See Tables 2.2 and 11.2 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 twice as likely to see a medical specialist than those who rated their health as excellent, very good or good (64% compared with 32%). Similarly, those with a long term health condition were more than twice as likely to see a medical specialist than those without (53% compared with 20%). 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 34%). See Table 3.2 in Downloads.

WAITING TIMES


Of those who saw a medical specialist in the last 12 months, 21% waited longer than they felt acceptable to get an appointment with a medical specialist. Females were more likely than males to report waiting longer than acceptable (23% compared with 19%). These rates were similar in 2015-16. People were more likely to report waiting longer than they felt acceptable for a medical specialist than they were for a GP (21% compared with 18%). See Table 11.2 and 5.2 in Downloads.

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 (25% 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 (22% compared with 18%). 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 2016-17, one in fourteen people (7%) who needed to see a medical specialist delayed or did not see a medical specialist due to cost. Females were more likely than males to delay seeing or not see a medical specialist due to cost (9% compared with 5%). Older adults were less likely than younger adults to delay seeing or not see a medical specialist due to cost, with 2% of people aged 65 years and over in this category, compared with 13% of people aged 25 to 44 years. See Table 11.2 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 6%). 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 (8% compared with 5%). See Table 12.2 in Downloads.

People living in major cities were more likely to delay seeing or not see a medical specialist due to cost than those living in outer regional, remote or very remote areas (8% compared with 5%). 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. All respondents who had seen a medical specialist were asked for their perceptions on how they were treated by the medical specialist.

Of those who saw medical specialist in the last 12 months, 79% reported that the medical specialist always listened carefully to them, 82% reported that they always showed them respect and 80% reported that they always spent enough time with them. These rates have remained consistent with 2015-16 (79%, 82% and 80% respectively). Males were more likely than females to report that the medical specialist always listened carefully to them (81% compared with 77%), always showed them respect (83% compared with 81%), and always spent enough time with them (82% compared with 78%). See Tables 11.2 and 12.2 in Downloads.