The findings, by the National Health Performance Authority, provide the most detailed picture yet available about Australia's most frequent users of GP services. The report, Healthy Communities: Frequent GP attenders and their use of health services in 2012–13, shows that 1 in 8 Australians (12.5%) saw a GP at least 12 times in 2012–13, accounting for 41% of the $16 billion Medicare paid in out-of-hospital benefits.
Among very high GP attenders (20+ visits), three-quarters (75%) were aged 45 or above, and 57% were aged 60 or above. In contrast, 45% of frequent GP attenders (12-19 visits) a18% of occasional attenders (4-5 visits) were aged 60 or above. Very high GP attenders were almost twice as likely as low attenders (1-3 visits) to have lived in areas of low socioeconomic status (29% compared to 16%)
Among very high attenders (20+ visits), more than one-third (36%) reported having three or more long-term health conditions, compared to 29% of frequent attenders (12-19 visits). The figure for all Australians was just 7%. Very high and frequent GP attenders (12+ visits) accounted for about 60% of the people who reported being admitted to hospital four or more times in that year. Just over 40% of very high attenders (20+ visits) and 30% of frequent attenders (12-19 visits) reported visiting an emergency department, compared to 10% of low attenders (1-3 visits).
Some local areas have markedly higher concentrations of very high and frequent users than other areas. Across higher-income inner-city areas, the Australian Capital Territory had the lowest population rate of people in these two groups (7.1%), compared to 14.5% in Inner West Sydney. Similarly, across lower-income regional areas, the range was from 8.3% (New England, NSW and South West WA) to 15.3% (Wide Bay, Qld).