Healthy Communities: Frequent GP attenders and their use of health services in 2012–13

More than one-third of Australians (35.3%) went to a GP six or more times in 2012–13, and those who went most often tended to be older and less wealthy, were more likely to have several long-term health conditions and were more likely to see several different GPs.

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).


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