Specialists generally only see their patients after receiving a ‘referral’ from a primary health care practitioner. They provide diagnostic and treatment services in a specific area of medicine, generally for a particular disease or body system. This is distinct from other practitioners, such as specialists in General Practice or allied health professionals, where a referral is not usually required.
Medical specialist attendances are referred patient and doctor encounters, such as visits, consultations, and attendances by video conference, involving medical practitioners who have been recognised as specialists or consultant physicians. All specialists have completed advanced training, and must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency in order to practise in Australia. Common referred medical specialties include: cardiology, dermatology, gynaecology, neurology, obstetrics, oncology, paediatrics and rheumatology.
Whilst many referred medical specialist attendances are rendered in hospital, not all of these are subsidised through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). Common examples of non-MBS subsidised services include:
- services provided by hospital doctors to public patients
- services provided under the Department of Veterans' Affairs National Treatment Account
- services covered by third party or workers' compensation.
This page focuses on referred medical specialist attendances subsidised through the MBS and provided in non-hospital settings. Of the MBS-subsidised specialist attendances, a high percentage was occurred in these settings, such as private consulting rooms and private outpatient clinics. The page reports non-hospital Medicare-subsidised specialist attendances based on the financial year of processing between 2015–16 and 2020–21. It also highlights the impact of COVID-19 on specialist attendances processed to the end of 2021.
The percentage of people who saw a GP was similar in regional PHN areas and metropolitan areas (90%)
Total specialist attendances differed across regional and metropolitan PHN areas, from 91 to 104 per 100 people.
People in metropolitan PHN areas had a higher number of GP services on average compared with regional areas.
About one in 20 people attended an allied health service for mental health care in metropolitan and regional PHN areas