Consumer research reveals most people experiencing disadvantage are still able to access a GP

To better understand how people who are most at risk of experiencing poor health outcomes access healthcare, WA Primary Health Alliance engaged the Behaviour Change Collaborative (BCC) in 2021 to research consumer views on access and barriers to primary care.

The survey targeted West Australians aged 18+, living in both Greater Perth and Regional WA areas and experiencing social and economic disadvantage.

What are the findings:

  • Although 31% of respondents encountered barriers when visiting a GP, 92% of health consumers experiencing disadvantage had visited a GP. Accessibility factors including appointment availability were the most frequently cited barriers to access a GP.
  • Interpersonal factors are the strongest influence on whether a person rates their experience with a GP as positive or negative. Those with a regular GP or regular Practice were more likely to have a positive experience.
  • Only 8% of people who needed, but did not visit, a GP saw another healthcare professional indicating this gap is not being filled by another part of the healthcare system.
  • 53% of respondents visit a GP to get a prescription.
  • 87% of respondents prefer attending a GP appointment in person as opposed to telehealth, but most would be comfortable with this option for follow up appointments.

Improving access to high quality primary care:

The BCC made the following recommendations that could have the potential to improve access to primary care.

  • The benefit of having a regular GP to the quality of a patient’s experience was clear. respondents with a regular GP reported finding it significantly easier to visit their GP and were significantly more likely to have had a positive experience, even compared to those with a regular GP practice, but not a regular GP. BCC recommended promoting the benefits of having a regular GP, both to patients but also to general practices.
  • As more than half of all visits to the GP in the last year were driven by the need to get a prescription, there is an opportunity to promote e-prescriptions where this is considered by a person’s GP to be clinically appropriate. This can both increase convenience for those seeking prescriptions and free up appointments for those seeking other forms of GP consultation and care.
  • The BCC recommended that more research is needed to understand the reasons for telehealth preferences and hesitations, and how to improve and encourage use of telehealth options.