Spotlight on Health Care & Insurance

Spotlight on Health Care & Insurance

This year marks the 13th Health Care & Insurance – Australia report in the biennial series commencing in 1987. It provides consumers’ views of the Australian healthcare system ‘on a broad range of issues and is designed to assist key strategy planners in both the public and private health sectors. Findings are based on 5,579 comprehensive telephone interviews with a random sample of insurable unit heads from all areas of Australia. Interviews were conducted during the winter of 2011.

This year, the report had a particular focus on Australian’s experiences within emergency departments between 2009 and 2011. The results may pleasantly surprise.

As reported by patients, the average wait to see a doctor was 82 minutes, with a shorter median wait of 38 minutes (meaning 50% of patients were attended to within 38 minutes). Over nine in ten patients (92%) reported waiting less than four hours.

The vast majority of patients (85%) were satisfied with their emergency department experience, taking all aspects of the visit into consideration. Satisfaction was highest in WA (88%), but was not lower than 80% in any state/territory. These figures show that while emergency departments are under pressure, the vast majority of patients presenting themselves to an emergency department are happy with the outcome.

Looking at the health system more broadly, further positive news emerged, including:

  • 93%+ satisfaction in both public and private hospitals, with South Australia having the best public hospital satisfaction (96%), followed by WA, QLD and NSW.
  • Across Australia, ratings of the overall quality of health care have improved significantly since 2009. The improvement was most noticeable in NSW, VIC and QLD.
  • Satisfaction levels with GPs and specialists have additionally improved, as has confidence in hospital systems at the local level, and satisfaction with after–care in home.
  • The report also reveals an increase in demand for hospital beds overnight. The average number of nights spent in hospital over the last year by Australian adults is currently at their equal highest recorded since 1993. Reported overall nights spent in hospital per–capita remain more than 30% higher than during the 2001–2007 period. Even so, these results suggest our nation’s hospital staff are performing well under increased pressure.

In short, it would appear Australians are experiencing the benefits of a world class health system.

Natasha Ludowyk
Research Manager