Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face considerable health inequities driven by factors such as socioeconomic determinants of health, resulting in gaps in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians. Improving patient experiences of health services, as well as increasing ease of access to those services, will contribute to better health outcomes.21
Primary healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is delivered by a range of providers, including mainstream organisations (such as general practices) and Indigenous-specific organisations.
Almost nine in 10 (86%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported seeing a GP or other medical specialist in the last 12 months.22 The rate of general practice MBS items claimed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people increased by 42% between 2003–04 and 2017–18 and has been slightly higher than the rate for non-Indigenous Australians since 2010–11.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people use GP services at rates that are slightly higher than non-Indigenous Australians (1.2 times) but do not reflect the higher level of need among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.23
More than one in 10 (13%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people said they had needed to see a GP but had not done so on at least one occasion in the last 12 months. The proportion of people who did not see a GP when needed is higher for those living in non-remote areas (14%) than in remote areas (8%). The most common reasons for not going are being too busy (33%) and deciding to not seek care (28%).22
More than nine out of 10 (92%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported they have a usual place to go for health services and advice. Of these, 34% usually go to an Aboriginal medical service (AMS) or community clinic and 54% go to a GP or other doctor. Almost seven in 10 (68%) people living in remote areas reported they usually see a GP who is part of an AMS or community clinic, compared with almost three in 10 (29%) in non-remote areas.22
When asked about their preferred source of medical help, almost half (48%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported they prefer to go to an AMS or a community clinic, 43% prefer a doctor or GP (other than at an AMS, community clinic or hospital), 7% prefer a hospital and 3% prefer other healthcare (including a traditional healer or Ngangkari).22
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported more positive experiences of their care at AMSs, community clinics and with their GP than with use of hospital services (Figure 17).