Frequent GP visits linked to better patient experiences

New analysis by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that the more often people visit their General Practitioner, the more likely they are to view their patient experience as positive.

This release brings together de-identified data on the subsidised services patients received through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in 2015-16 with their responses to survey questions about their health care. This can be used to understand whether patterns of health service use have an impact on how positively patients feel about their experience with health care.

The majority of people (70 per cent) who had seen a GP 20 times or more in 2015-16 reported that their usual GP (or other staff in their usual place of care) always seemed informed about their health care history, compared with those who had only had one visit to a GP (59 per cent).

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Similarly, 61 per cent of people who had seen a GP 20 times or more said that they felt completely comfortable talking to their usual GP or other staff in their usual place of care, compared with people who saw a GP once (47 per cent).

“Frequent visits to a GP can help patients establish and maintain ongoing relationships with their care providers, which better allows their needs and preferences to be understood and met,” ABS spokesperson, Suraksha Maharaj said.

The results show that the vast majority of people (95 per cent) said that specialists had explained treatment choices in a way that could be easily understood. “Understanding the information and choices about treatment and care enables patients to take control and make informed decisions about their care, which can in turn, shape their quality of care and health,” AIHW spokesperson, Claire Sparke said.

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The release also explores reasons why patients did not see a GP when they needed to – the most common reason being they were unable to get an appointment (48 per cent). Patients who saw a GP less frequently were more likely to report cost as a barrier – 31 per cent of people who had seen a GP once in 2015-16 compared with 9 per cent who had seen their GP 20 times or more.

These findings are part of the broader Coordination of Health Care Study which was developed by the AIHW and the ABS to provide information on patients’ experiences of coordination and continuity of care across Australia.

“If we can understand patterns of health care use and their relationship to patient experience and outcomes, we have a rich source of information to inform health care professionals, policy makers and providers about high quality and coordinated care,” said Ms Sparke.