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All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are eligible for an annual Indigenous-specific health check: item 715 on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). This tool shows numbers and usage rates of the checks at various geographic areas. Charts and tables in the tool can be customised to show different time periods and, where possible, disaggregations by age and sex.
National and jurisdictional tool
Medicare Local and peer group tool
Primary Health Network tool
Source data: Excel download (915KB XLS).
Helpline: 1800 223 919 or
Differences in usage rates across geographic levels should be interpreted with caution because the use of MBS 715 health checks is influenced by a number of factors which may vary by geographic areas, including:
The health check tool:
The 4th version of the health check data tool, which was released in July 2015, includes a number of new features:
Data on the age group and sex of Indigenous people who had a MBS item 715 health check are provided in the tool at the national and jurisdictional levels. Data by age and sex for other geographic levels are not available on the Medicare Australia Statistics webpage.
The Council of Australian Governments’ 2008 Closing the Gap reforms included commitments to close the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation (by 2031) and to halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children aged under 5 within a decade (by 2018). Ensuring and increasing access to the health check is an important part of achieving these commitments as the checks can have both direct health benefits and provide access to additional Indigenous-specific health measures.
The sources of data presented in this tool are as follows.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates are used in the tool to calculate usage rates; those estimates are based on 2011 Census counts. Different sources of population data were used depending on the geographical level of data being presented.
At the national and jurisdictional levels, Indigenous population estimates produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) were used. The ABS estimates include population projections to 2026, with the Series B projections (which assume medium-level growth) used in this tool.
At the Medicare Local, peer group and Primary Health Network levels, Indigenous population estimates and projections are based on, or sourced from, work undertaken by Prometheus Information Pty Ltd under contract to the Department of Health (see technical notes).
In addition, the tool provides information on the number of services where GPs work.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) suppresses some data at the Medicare Local level on the Medicare Australia Statistics webpage to ensure confidentiality of provider information. If data for at least one quarter are suppressed, DHS also suppresses the annual total number of health checks for that Medicare Local and this is not publicly released. Data suppression is not a common occurrence.
When data on the number of health checks are shown by quarter at the Medicare Local level, suppressed data are indicated in the tables with a dot for both the number of checks and usage rate, and in the graphs as missing data points for the relevant quarter.
Data suppression at the Medicare Local level may impact on the reports in the tool on the number of health checks at the Medicare Local, but also at the peer group level and Primary Health Network level. Reports presented at jurisdictional and national levels are not affected by data suppression.
Annual usage rates for Medicare Locals, peer groups and Primary Health Networks that were affected by suppressed data were estimated by the AIHW as outlined in the technical notes. Note that while usage rates were estimated, the numbers of health checks shown in the health check tool were not adjusted. Suppressed data for health check numbers, and annual usage rates that were affected by suppressed data, are noted in the Excel spreadsheets.
The health check tool shows data for different geographical levels which have varying numbers of components:
Differences in usage rates across geographic levels should be interpreted with caution because the use of MBS 715 health checks is influenced by a number of different factors which may vary by geographic areas (see Dynamic data displays).
Health check data at the Medicare Local level are based on the medical provider’s address. This differs from health check data at the jurisdictional level which are based on the patient’s address. Thus if, for example, a patient lives in Queensland but gets a health check in New South Wales, the health check will be counted in the Queensland totals for jurisdictional reports, but counted in the New South Wales totals for Medicare Local reports. This means for Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory (that is, jurisdictions that were also a single Medicare Local and are now a single Primary Health Network), the number of health checks may be different depending on whether the information is viewed in a jurisdiction report, or a Medicare Local or Primary Health Network report.
All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, regardless of age, are eligible for an annual Indigenous-specific health check. This health check, listed as item 715 on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), was designed especially for Indigenous people. It was established because Indigenous people have considerably higher morbidity and mortality levels than non-Indigenous people, with earlier onset and more severe disease progression for many chronic diseases. The aim of the health checks is to provide Indigenous people primary health care matched to their needs by supporting early detection, diagnosis and intervention for common and treatable conditions.
Ensuring access to the health check is an important part of the Australian Government's commitments to Closing the Gap in both life expectancy and mortality. Use of health checks has increased substantially over time; nonetheless, only about 1 in 5 Indigenous people had such a health check in 2013–14. The AIHW Indigenous health check data tool aims to increase awareness, understanding and uptake of the health check among health care providers and Indigenous people.
The requirements of a health check, which are set out in the relevant section of the MBS, include an assessment of the patient’s health, including their physical, psychological and social wellbeing. The check also assesses what preventive health care, education and other help should be offered to the patient to improve their health and wellbeing. As at May 2015, the MBS rebate for a health check was $212.25. If the GP bulk bills this item, there is no charge to the patient. Health checks can be provided by any Medicare-billing GP—including those in mainstream practices and those providing services mainly for Indigenous people—and should generally be provided by the patient’s usual doctor.
The outcome of a health check may include access to other Indigenous-specific health measures. For example, if a GP identifies a need for follow-up care during a health check, they can give Indigenous people access to MBS-rebated follow up services from allied health workers, practice nurses and Aboriginal health workers.
For more information on the health check see the Department of Health.
Although all Indigenous people are eligible for a health check, there are a range of reasons why some people do not have one. For example:
Data on the number of health checks shown in this tool are the number of checks billed to Medicare in the relevant period, not the number of people who received a health check. That is, available data do not distinguish between a person receiving two health checks in one 12-month period and two different people receiving a health check in the same period. However, given these health checks are generally provided on an annual basis (although the minimum time allowed between checks is 9 months), the number of checks in a 12-month period is likely to be similar to the number of people receiving the checks.
The main Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific health measures which GPs provide directly, or provide access to, are:
Practices participating in the Practice Incentive Program Indigenous Health Incentive can also register eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for chronic disease management (see Indigenous Health Incentive guidelines).
The Medicare Benefits Schedule lists a range of medical services (consultations, procedures and tests) subsidised by the Australian Government, as well as the MBS rebate payable for each of these items.
The data presented in this tool about numbers of health checks are based on publicly available MBS reports from the Medicare Australia Statistics webpage (administered by the Department of Human Services). Those reports include numbers of MBS items billed to Medicare at the jurisdictional and Medicare Local levels. This health check tool uses those data to report numbers of 715 health checks at these 2 levels, as well as sums them to present numbers of checks at national and peer group levels. Since the Medicare Statistics webpage does not currently report MBS statistics at the Primary Health Network level, the AIHW developed a concordance (or correspondence) to derive Primary Health Network estimates based on Medicare Local numbers (see technical notes).
MBS statistics are subject to periodic review by the Department of Human Services. The Medicare Australia Statistics webpage notes that the reports and tables it provides are for general information purposes only. It also notes that while Medicare Australia takes care in the compilation and provision of the information and data, it does not assume or accept any liability for the accuracy, quality, suitability and currency of the information or data, or for any reliance on the information or data.
Medicare Locals were regional organisations which coordinated general practice and other health care services in the community for a geographic area. There were 61 Medicare Locals across Australia. Information about Medicare Locals can be found here and boundary and concordance files can be found here.
Medicare Locals were categorised by the National Health Performance Authority into 7 peer groups for easier comparison of similar Medicare Locals.
The Australian Government replaced Medicare Locals with Primary Health Networks in 2015. The new Primary Health Networks became operational from 1 July 2015, after a transition period from April 2015. The geographic relationship between these two structures is explained at relationship between Medicare Locals and Primary Health Networks.
The number of MBS 715 health checks billed to Medicare do not give a complete picture of all health checks provided to Indigenous people. Situations where care equivalent or similar to a MBS health check may be provided but not billed as a MBS 715 health check include:
Health checks provided by services not eligible to bill Medicare are not included in the number of MBS 715 health checks reported on the Medicare Australia Statistics webpage, and therefore are not included in this tool.
Some areas, especially in remote areas, may only have small numbers of MBS-billing GP services. The number of items billed to Medicare, including 715 health checks, in those areas is therefore likely to be lower.
The tool shows the number of services where general practitioners (GPs) work, as access to health checks requires access to GPs. This information was based on two sources:
The tool displays the number of services where GPs work at the Medicare Local and Primary Health Network levels. Services are included regardless of whether they are eligible to bill Medicare, so not all services counted are able to provide MBS 715 health checks. Information on the number of GPs at each service is not available.
Information on the number of services where GPs work is also available from HealthDirect, an autonomous Government-funded public company. This map shows services where GPs work as well as Primary Health Network and Medicare Local boundaries. Because HealthDirect information is continually updated and may use different definitions for inclusion, the number of services shown in the HealthDirect map may be different from the number shown in the tool. Any comments or queries about services shown in the HealthDirect map can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medicare Locals vary considerably in terms of size, degree of remoteness and population characteristics; so comparisons between them are not straightforward. The National Health Performance Authority (NHPA) allocated each Medicare Local to one of seven peer groups to better enable comparisons of similar Medicare Locals. The peer groupings were based on socioeconomic status and remoteness, including the average distance to the closest large capital city and major hospital (see NHPA Technical Supplement).
The Australian Government replaced the 61 Medicare Locals with 31 Primary Health Networks as of 1 July 2015, after a transition period from April 2015.
The geographic relationship between these two structures is detailed at relationship between Medicare Locals and Primary Health Networks. Information on the location of the Primary Health Networks, as well as boundary and concordance files, can be found here . Primary Health Network boundaries are aligned to Local Hospital Networks to facilitate working relationships with public and private hospitals.
The Australian Government has stated that Primary Health Networks will work with GPs, other primary care providers, secondary care providers and hospitals to ensure improved outcomes for patients.
Data at the Primary Health Network level are not currently available on the Medicare Australia Statistics webpage. To derive estimates of health checks at this level, the AIHW developed a concordance (or correspondence) between the Medicare Local level and the Primary Health Network level that is based on the relative distribution of the Indigenous population. See technical notes for more information.
In this tool, quarters (Q) refer to the following periods: Q1—1 January to 31 March, Q2—1 April to 30 June, Q3—1 July to 30 September, and Q4—1 October to 31 December.
The Australian Government replaced Medicare Locals with Primary Health Networks in mid-2015. Most (50) of the 61 Medicare Locals are wholly contained within a single larger Primary Health Network, but 11 were split across more than one Primary Health Network.
Further information about the relationship between Medicare Locals and Primary Health Networks is available in:
Data in this tool are shown from two different starting dates depending on the geographic level being considered:
The timeline shows major developments relating to MBS 715 health checks and the increase in the number of such checks over time.
This tool shows usage rates of MBS item 715 health checks as follows:
Methods for deriving the quarterly and annual population estimates are detailed in the technical notes.
AIHW authors and contributors
This tool was originally designed and authored by Helen Kehoe, Ronda Ramsay and Helen Johnstone from the Indigenous and Children's Group at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. This team was responsible for the first (April 2014) and second (August 2014) releases, with assistance from Jeremy Spindler on the second release.
The third (December 2014) release was authored by Helen Kehoe, Jeremy Spindler and Michelle Gourley.
The fourth (July 2015) release was authored by Helen Kehoe, Jeremy Spindler and Adriana Vanden Heuvel. Valuable assistance was provided by Martin Edvardsson, Jessica Cargill and Brett Nebe.
Fadwa Al-Yaman, Head of the Indigenous and Children’s Group at AIHW, provides ongoing advice and guidance on this project.
Stacey Costello, from AIHW’s Technology and Transformation Unit, built the original reports in the SAS VA software. He continues to help refine, improve and maintain the tool.
Dr Mitchell Whitelaw, Associate Professor Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra, produced the first prototype of the tool and helped change thoughts into reality.
Prometheus Information Pty Ltd produced Indigenous population estimates at small geographic levels, under contract to the Department of Health. Population estimates at the Medicare Local, peer group and Primary Health Network levels used in the tool were based on, or sourced from, this work.
Thanks are also extended to the many stakeholders who provided input to the initial development of the tool, including:
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2015. Indigenous health check (MBS 715) data tool. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed [access date], <http://www.aihw.gov.au/indigenous-australians/indigenous-health-check-data-tool/>.