Overview

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can receive an annual health check, designed specifically for Indigenous Australians and funded through Medicare (Department of Health 2021). This Indigenous-specific health check was introduced in recognition that Indigenous Australians, as a group, experience some particular health risks.

The aim of the Indigenous-specific health check is to encourage early detection and treatment of common conditions that cause ill health and early death—for example, diabetes and heart disease.

During the health check, a doctor—or a multidisciplinary team led by a doctor—will assess a person’s physical, psychological and social wellbeing (Department of Health 2021). The doctor can then provide the person with information, advice, and care to maintain and improve their health.

The doctor may also refer the person to other health care professionals for follow-up care, as needed—for example, physiotherapists, podiatrists or dieticians.

As part of the Australian Government’s COVID-19 response, temporary telehealth items were introduced in March 2020 to help reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 and provide protection for patients and health care providers.

This report presents information on the use of:

  • health checks provided under the Indigenous-specific Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items 715 and 228; and
  • follow-up services provided under Indigenous-specific MBS items 10987 and 81300 to 81360;

as well as telehealth:

  • health checks provided under the Indigenous-specific Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items 92004, 92016, 92011 and 92023; and
  • follow-up services provided under Indigenous-specific MBS items 93200, 93202, 93048 and 93061.

The data include all Indigenous-specific health checks and follow-ups billed to Medicare by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health services or other Indigenous health services, as well as by mainstream GPs and other health professionals.

Note that the data are limited to Indigenous-specific MBS items, so do not provide a complete picture of health checks and follow-ups provided to Indigenous Australians. For example, Indigenous Australians may receive similar care through other MBS items (that is, items that are not specific to Indigenous Australians), or through a health care provider who is not eligible to bill Medicare (see also Data sources and notes). These have not been included in this report.

Throughout the report, ‘Indigenous-specific health checks’ is used interchangeably with ‘health checks’ to assist readability. Similarly, ‘Indigenous-specific follow-ups’ is used interchangeably with ‘follow-ups’.

This report differs from the previous edition, due to: new 2018–19 data and 2019–20 data; the introduction of new MBS items, including telehealth items; the use of population projections and backcasts based on the 2016 Census to calculate rates; new Indigenous Region-level analysis; new analysis of time between consecutive health checks; and minor changes to the treatment of age and geographic information.

The impacts of COVID-19 on numbers of Indigenous-specific health checks are touched on in AIHW 2020. That report discusses the number of MBS items processed each month from July 2018 to June 2020, by state/territory and age group.

Rate of health checks

28% of Indigenous Australians (about 239,000 people) had an Indigenous-specific health check in 2019–20

State and Territory rates

In 2019–20, the rates of Indigenous-specific health checks were highest in Queensland (35%) and the Northern Territory (34%)

Indigenous-specific follow-up services

Among Indigenous Australians who had an Indigenous-specific health check in 2018–19, 47% had at least 1 follow-up service within 12 months of the health check

References

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2020. Tracking progress against the Implementation Plan goals for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023. Cat. no. IHW 201. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 4 June 2021.

Department of Health 2021. Annual Health Assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Canberra: Department of Health. Viewed 4 June 2021.