Cost and location impact access to health care for people with disability

The vast majority (95%) of people with disability living in the community saw a general practitioner (GP) in 2012. However, almost one-fifth delayed seeing or did not see a GP when they needed to, because of cost, according to a new report today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Access to health services by Australians with disability 2012, shows that among people with disability, 17%  delayed seeing or did not see a GP when they needed to because of cost, and  20% of people with disability delayed seeing, or did not see, a medical specialist when they needed to due to cost.

AIHW spokesperson Justine Boland said 'Similar figures from the ABS for the general Australian population, show that among Australians aged 15 and over, 5% delayed seeing or did not see a GP because of the cost and 8% who needed to see a medical specialist delayed seeing, or did not see, a specialist due to cost.'

Similar to findings around cost, the AIHW report showed that location was also a factor affecting access to health services by people with disability.

The report found that people with disability living in Outer regional and Remote areas, had lower use rates of services from GPs, medical specialists and dentists, than those people living in Major cities.

'They were also more likely to visit a hospital emergency department for health issues that could potentially be dealt with by non-hospital services,' said Ms Boland.

People with disability primarily visit their GP in the first instance when accessing medical care. About 22% people with disability saw a GP for urgent care. More than half (59%) saw a medical specialist, and nearly half (49%) visited a dentist. About a quarter (26%) visited a hospital emergency department.

'Again, when we compare with all Australians aged 15 and over, 81% saw a GP and 34% saw a medical specialist and 49% visited a dentist,' Ms Boland said. 

The AIHW report shows that one-third (32%) of people with disability saw 3 or more different health professionals for the same health condition and 22% received assistance for coordination of their care provided by 3 or more different health professionals.

'Of people with disability who saw 3 or more different health professionals for the same health condition, 16% had difficulties caused by a lack of communication or coordination among different health professionals,' said Ms Boland.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 4 June 2015

Further information: Ms Justine Boland, AIHW, tel. 02 6249 5124; mob. 0412 957 936