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Australians believe the nation’s healthcare system provides good quality overall but more must be done to address gaps in affordability and accessibility, especially for disadvantaged groups and people with chronic health conditions, the latest consumer driven survey of healthcare has found.

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) released the findings of the Health Consumer Sentiment Survey, The Voice of Australian Health Consumers, today.

Conducted in October 2021 during the height of the COVID-19 Delta outbreak, more than 5,000 Australians took part in the survey, which provides a national snapshot of the access to health services, satisfaction and experience of consumers.

Key findings of the survey were

Areas of confidence with the system:

  • 84% of Australians were satisfied with the health services they received
  • 30% said their confidence in the health system increased since the COVID-19 pandemic
  • 71% of Australians who used telehealth said it was as good or better than face-to-face
  • 85% with mental distress were satisfied with the care they received via digital healthcare

Areas of concerns with the system:

  • 14% of Australians with chronic conditions could not pay for healthcare or medicine because of cost
  • 24% did not fill a prescription or omitted doses of medicine – over a third said this was because of cost
  • 55% of Australians in regional or remote regions said they needed more doctors, nurses and health workers
  • 23% believed that residential aged care services are bad or very bad

CHF CEO Leanne Wells emphasised the importance of embedding consumer voice and experiences for a future-focused health system.

“Australians value high quality healthcare services. They believe we have a good healthcare system overall,” Ms Wells said.

“The survey does show, however, that more must be done to ensure the system remains affordable and accessible, particularly for disadvantaged cohorts and those with chronic health conditions.”

Ms Wells said the latest results show overall satisfaction with healthcare services remains high and that consumer confidence increased between 2018 and 2021 despite increased pressures amid the pandemic.

“Australians are more engaged with their health and wellbeing than ever before and this survey demonstrates just how important it is to ask consumers directly what their experience are, and importantly what they need from the health system of the future.”

NHMRC Partnership Centre for Health System Sustainability (PCHSS) Associate Professor Yvonne Zurynski, who co-designed the survey, said the results raise important questions regarding health equity.

“With 23% of Australians experiencing discrimination or disrespect when accessing healthcare, it’s time to ensure we implement effective cultural competency training for all who work in the system.”

Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite, Founding Director of the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Macquarie University, agreed, saying the health system is not helping those who need it the most.

“Many Australians are struggling to access or afford healthcare, with 24% reporting that they did not fill a prescription or omitted doses of medicine. Clever use of digital health technology such as telehealth and better integration of health services so that people can access the care they need, where they need it, will be key to delivering a better future for all Australians.”

Access the report here