How Often Do Australian Bulk Billed Patients Visit Their Doctor?

Bulk billing has reached a historic high. According to recent government data, the Medicare bulk billing rate rose to 86% in the 2017-18 financial year, with more than 133 million free GP services delivered. This rate represents more than 65.9 million GP visits, an increase of 3.1 million services over the previous year. Of course, these statistics lead to the question, how often are bulk billed patients actually visiting their doctor?

How often do bulk billed patients visit their doctor

To find this answer, we conducted a survey* of 620 patients who frequented 100% bulk billing medical centres. Interestingly, we discovered that most bulk billed patients (36%) visit their doctor every three months.

The second most common answer was every six months. 25% of patients selected this answer. Although these answers were the most popular among our survey respondents, many patients reported visiting a doctor more often.

For example, 23% of bulk billed patients visit their doctor even more frequently than every three months — 15% of them visit their doctor once a month and 8% are going to their doctor more than once a month.

Dr. Bastian Seidel, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, says that frequent doctor visitors like these “…tend to be older, from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and experiencing at least one chronic condition”.

By contrast, only 16% of patients report that they visit their doctor less than once every six months. Of them, 11% indicated they go to their doctor once a year and 5% visit their doctor even less often than that.

How often do you visit your doctor in a year?

Pictured: The results from a survey* of 620 patients who frequent 100% bulk billing medical centres

Based on the responses to our survey, 84% of bulk billed patients are seeing their doctors at least once every six months and many of them are going even more frequently than that.

How does this compare to private billing and mixed billing?

Perhaps not surprisingly, our survey results showed a substantial increase in the frequency of visits by patients to bulk billing medical centres compared to mixed and strictly private billing medical centres.

How often do you visit your doctor in a year?

Pictured: The results from a survey* of 1,677 patients of whom 37% frequented bulk billing clinics, 52% mixed billing clinics and 11% private billing clinics 

The assumption here would be that patients who regularly visit a GP, such as those managing one or more chronic conditions, tend to choose bulk billing medical centres because their medical expenses are higher and thus cost plays a bigger role in their decision-making. Still, with numbers like these, it’s not surprising Australia’s experienced a historic rise in bulk billing.

*Source: Patient Survey 2018, HotDoc

Related Articles