Using non-hospital Medicare service data

How can information in this report be used?

Understanding how people use non-hospital Medicare services helps to:

  • inform health policy
  • support evidence based decisions about service planning, commissioning and delivery
  • improve understanding of how well programs are working
  • identify gaps in service provision.

With local knowledge and experience, community-level health service providers may be able to identify the factors relevant to their region and better understand local populations. The information in this report can help PHN organisations and other primary health care providers to coordinate care, understand trends, plan and deliver services to suit the needs and demands of their particular area. It also adds to the evidence base about health care use in Australia, strengthening knowledge about the needs of local populations and their use of health care.

Interpreting the data

There is no ideal rate of health care use and this report draws no conclusions about whether a higher or lower rate of service use is desirable for a particular area, nor does it try to assess the degree to which peoples’ needs are being met.

In particular, the reported number of people who receive mental health and chronic condition related services from their GP (e.g. asthma or diabetes mellitus cycle of care services) is likely to be an underestimate of total mental health and chronic condition related activity undertaken by GPs, because these services can also be claimed against other general GP items.

Variation in the use of non-hospital Medicare-subsidised services could be because of a range of factors, including differences in the:

  • prevalence of health conditions—areas with higher rates of health service use may have more people with complex health conditions
  • availability and quality of other community-based programs, services and support outside of MBS arrangements (e.g. Visiting Optometrists SchemeRural Health Outreach Fund or Medical Outreach - Indigenous Chronic Disease Program) (Department of Health 2016b; 2016c; 2020), or equivalent services provided by jurisdictions or other providers
  • changes to MBS arrangements where certain services may be ceased or amended, and new services are introduced (see Technical Information and Technical Note for details)
  • incentives arrangement (e.g. bulk-billing)
  • access to and availability of health care providers
  • age and sex distribution of the population in regions across Australia.