When it comes to positive health care experiences, GP–patient relationships matter

But some Australians are missing out

Nearly all Australians have a usual general practitioner (GP) or usual place where they receive care, with a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) highlighting the importance of these relationships and how they impact a patient’s perceptions of the quality of care they have received.

The report, Coordination of health care: experiences with GP care among patients aged 45 and over, 2016, presents data from the Survey of Health Care, developed by the AIHW and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as part of the Coordination of Health Care Study. The Survey asked patients aged over 45 about their experiences of health care coordination and continuity. Until now, there hasn’t been much information available about how well health care is coordinated in Australia.

‘Health systems can be difficult to navigate, especially for people who have multiple or ongoing conditions involving a number of health care providers,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Lynelle Moon.

‘Coordination and continuity of health care is about making sure everyone involved in a patient’s care—such as GPs, specialists and hospital staff—understand a patient’s needs and preferences and have all the information they need to provide the right care.’

Having a usual GP or place where a patient receives care—for example, a clinic they usually attend—can help ensure their care is well coordinated across these services.

The report shows that most patients aged 45 or over have a regular GP and/or place where they receive GP care—and generally, they feel positively about these services. For example, 9 in 10 patients felt that they were involved in decisions about their care (89%) and that their test results were explained in a way they could understand (93%).

However, the report shows that some groups are less likely to have established health care arrangements, including people in lower socioeconomic groups, those who do not speak English at home and those with lower levels of education. People in these groups also generally reported poorer experiences of care—for example, 86% of patients in the highest socioeconomic group considered the care they received to be ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’, but this was lower, at 79%, for people in the lowest socioeconomic group. Results from the Survey released earlier this year revealed a similar pattern across remoteness areas; that is, people living in rural and remote areas had less positive experiences of care than those living in Major cities.

Today’s report also shows that results varied across Australia’s 31 Primary Health Network (PHN) areas. For example, the percentage of patients rating their care as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ ranged from 71% in Western Queensland to 87% in Eastern Melbourne, Western Victoria, Brisbane North and the Gold Coast.

This study fills an important data gap in Australia. Looking forward, information from this study will be brought together with Medicare, pharmaceutical claims, hospital and emergency department data. This will create a comprehensive picture of the patient journey through the health care system, from GPs in primary health care and interactions with specialists and allied health, through to medication and hospital usage.

Previous article Next article