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Need to improve care for patients with chronic conditions

The latest data on patient experiences from the Australian Bureau of Statistics ABS) show more work is needed to provide seamless care for people with chronic conditions.

It includes data from people that accessed health services in the previous 12 months, as well as from those who did not, and enables analysis of health service information in relation to particular population groups. Data are also collected on aspects of communication between patients and health professionals.

Data on patient experience is of value to both users of health services and those aiming to improve the health system. The availability of GPs, impact of varying levels of service and the coordination of health care are all important factors in ensuring an accessible, high quality health care system for all Australians.

At the national level, the results showed that during 2015-16 almost one in six people (16 percent) saw three or more health professionals for the same condition and those one in eight (13 percent) reported there were issues caused by lack of communication between health professionals.

The health professional most likely to coordinate care was a GP (61 percent) followed by a medical specialist (24 percent).

One in five people (19 percent) waited longer to see a GP than they thought acceptable, while 22 percent of people who needed to see an after-hours GP did not see one at all, and one in four (24 percent) reported their GP did not spend enough time with them.

When Brendan Freeman began experiencing chronic abdominal pain at the age of 14, he faced doctor who dismissed it altogether.

“I visited many doctors and specialists over a period of two years, and no one knew what to do with me. Some of them even told me I was pretending,” said Brendan.

“I missed three terms of school, I couldn’t go out with my friends, and I had to give up sport.”

“When I finally found a gastroenterologist who acknowledged my pain was real, it was the first time I felt validated and taken seriously.”

The data also show that many Australians are unable to access appropriate care with those in areas of greatest socio-economic disadvantage more likely to delay seeing or not seeing a medical specialist due to cost.

Reference: Anon, 2017. 4839.0 – Patient Experiences in Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015-16. [online] Abs.gov.au Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/abs@nsf/0/FF6DFB1413D8C335CA257ABE0012F4F2?OpenDocument>


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