Expert panel discuss the findings of Australia’s largest Health Consumer Sentiment Survey
The Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) hosted an important webinar on Monday to coincide with the release of the latest Health Consumer Sentiment Survey, the largest health study of the general population in Australia.
The survey is aimed at understanding the health system from a consumer point of view to inform better delivery and planning of healthcare services in our communities.
Whilst the survey results show overall satisfaction with healthcare services remains high, gaps remain in affordability and accessibility among disadvantaged groups and people with chronic conditions.
On the eve of the Federal Budget where cost of living pressures are front and centre, the Health Consumer Sentiment Survey is a timely indicator of the challenges many vulnerable Australians face in accessing the healthcare services they need.
CHF CEO Leanne Wells hosted the webinar and panel discussion. She was joined by the two lead researchers Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite and Associate Professor Yvonne Zurynski, who spoke to some of the headline statistics.
Key findings from the Health Consumer Sentiment Survey
Areas of satisfaction or confidence with the system:
- 84% of Australians were satisfied with 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 dissatisfaction or 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 and remote regions said they needed more doctors, nurses and health workers
- 23% of Australians reported experiencing discrimination or disrespect when receiving healthcare
- 23% believed that residential aged care services are bad or very bad
- 24% experienced serious levels of mental distress
The report, titled The Voice of Australian Health Consumers, is available for download here>>>
Expert panel relate survey findings to their own experiences
The four person expert panel comprised consumer advocate Laila Hallam, researcher and mental health expert Professor Ian Hickie, health policy expert Professor Rosemary Calder, and digital health specialist Annette Schmiede. Some of the pane themes included:
- the need for consumer voices to drive actions to fix systematic gaps
- the barriers and inequity amongst consumers amplified by digital health need to be addressed, as confirmed by the survey, and the role of clinicians in maximising these opportunities
- the success of telehealth, including for consumers suffering mental distress and how this was a pre-pandemic success story
- the challenges of the complex Australian health sector, and how we are no closer to universal healthcare than when Medicare was introduced decades ago.
Watch the research presentation and panel discussion.
Ms Wells stressed the importance of the survey being a recurrent tool for government and policy makers.
“This deep and comprehensive data set gives us a really powerful barometer to track how consumers are experiencing the system and where we can strengthen and improve health care in Australia.
“So for whatever government we have the privilege of working with after the election it is important to fund this as a recurrent survey to really build that longitudinal data set.”
Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt and Shadow Minister for Health and Aging Mark Butler both sent video messages to support the release of the Consumer Sentiment Survey findings.
Mr Hunt paid tribute to health workers who have faced hardship and challenge through the pandemic. He said that the increase in satisfaction with health services from 67% in 2018 to 84% as being one the “extraordinary achievements of the pandemic”. The Minister said this was testament to the health workers, and everybody involved in design and delivery across the country. The Minister also acknowledged that the findings show ‘the job’s not done.”
Watch Minister Hunt’s video message:
Mr Butler noted the importance of the research in highlighting the consumer voice. In relation to gaps in accessibility and affordability, he said: “It's never been harder to access health care than it is today. Particularly, [it has] never been harder to get into a GP than it has been. And when you finally get in it's never been more expensive for the first time in the history of Medicare.” The Shadow Minister talked about the impact of Covid, including rising elective surgery waitlists, saying “[it] will be a very, very long tail of mental health impacts from [the pandemic].”
Watch Shadow Minister Butler’s video message:
More than 5,000 (5,100) Australians aged 18 and over were included in the survey which was conducted in October 2021 during the height of the Covid-19 Delta outbreak. The 2021 sample size is five times larger than the previous survey in 2018. The CHF co-designed the survey, which was conducted by the Australian Institute of Health Innovation, and the NHMRC Partnership Centre for Health System Sustainability (PCHSS).
The CHF and PCHSS wish to thank all the participants in the survey, the teams analysing the first cut of the data and everyone who attended the webinar. There will be further deep dives and research articles to come from the 2021 survey and a lot of work with stakeholders to convert the consumer voices into actions.