Young Aussies dodging GPs to save dollars

3 minute read

Dr Google is cheaper and easier to access than GPs, according to the Australian Healthcare Index report.

Over half of Australians aged 18 to 34 are avoiding visiting the GP because of out-of-pocket costs, as patient satisfaction with the healthcare system drops to just 7 out of 10, down from 7.8 in March 2021.

The newly released Australian Healthcare Index June 2023 report puts hard data to the gut feelings of patients and doctors over the past two years, with 35% of all 10,000+ respondents to the biannual survey conducted by Healthengine and the Australian Patients Association, saying they are skipping medical diagnostic tests due to associated out-of-pocket costs.

This follows a report last month that found some over-50s were also cutting down on GP visits for cost reasons.

The 18 to 34-year-olds are the Australians most likely to make “Dr Google” their first stop for health advice, with 25% turning to the internet first, according to the report.

“The 18-34-year-old cohort is the least likely age group to have a regular GP or dentist,” said the report authors.

“Twenty-three percent do not have a regular GP, compared to 12% of the general patient population without one. Fifty-one percent of 18-34-year-olds do not have a regular dentist, compared to 42% of respondents across all age cohorts who do not visit a regular dentist.

“Mental health is also a big concern for this group, with one in three of 18-34-year-olds seeking mental healthcare in the past six months, compared to 25% across all age groups. Also, this figure is higher for women and people who live in regional areas.

“They are also the most likely age cohort to have gone without prescription medication due to cost concerns, with 42% of 18 to 34-year-olds saying they had to skip scripts compared to 27% of respondents across the board.”

The report authors suggested the decline in patient satisfaction could primarily be attributed to dissatisfaction about bulk billing not being offered at enough clinics (71% of respondents), Medicare not covering a wide enough range of care (67%), and long wait times (66%).

Other key findings included 42% of Australians going less often to the GP, with 51% of 18 to 34 year-olds dodging regular GP care; 43% of patients considering OOPs to see a GP the top healthcare challenge, up 10% from November last year; 43% concerned about healthcare worker shortages, and 40% concerned about emergency department wait times; and 49% of ED attendees saying they thought care could have been provided by a GP or urgent care clinic instead.

“This suggests EDs are being inappropriately used because other services are unavailable or unaffordable,” the report said.

Stephen Mason, CEO of the APA, said: “We’re continuing to hear of patients all around Australia going to the emergency department for non-emergency care to avoid out-of-pocket costs instead of visiting a doctor.

“This is impacted by the initial problems of cost of basic care – patients who skip primary care check-ups because of cost concerns are increasing their chances of ending up in a hospital with a far more serious condition or forcing them to visit the emergency department with a non-urgent condition, contributing to a cycle of ED overuse, ambulance ramping and strain on medical resources and staff.”

Healthengine and the APA will host a webinar about the Australian Healthcare Index on Thursday 8 June.

End of content

No more pages to load

Log In Register ×