The health system through the eyes of 5100 health consumers



Understanding the needs and experiences of consumers is paramount to realising a safe, accessible, and equitable health system. Regularly surveying health consumers allows identification of critical improvement opportunities.

The most recent survey shows inadequate workforce perceptions which need to be addressed, increased usage of virtual services which should be further supported, and a significant minority reporting serious levels of psychological distress.

A significant minority reported experience disrespect or discrimination, requiring intervention to increase cultural competency in the health system.



Understanding the needs and experiences of consumers is paramount to realising a safe, accessible, and equitable health system. Results from a nationwide survey of more than 5100 health consumers, provides a unique snapshot of the views and experiences of those that rely on our health system.

The Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University, together with the Consumers Health Forum of Australia and NHMRC Partnership Centre for Health System Sustainability have released preliminary findings of the Australian Health Consumers Sentiment Survey, 2021.

The report, titled The Voice of Australian Health Consumers, was launched by the Federal Health Minister the Hon Greg Hunt MP and is available on online.

This unique population-based survey of Australian adults aged over 18 years, was undertaken in December 2018 with 1024 respondent and in October 2021 with 5100 respondents, to understand the use of, satisfaction with, and opinions about our health system. Questions regarding health service use during the COVID-19 pandemic were also included, providing unique insights. 

The survey, supported by the Commonwealth Department of Health and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Heath Care, is a unique resource to inform policy and practice. It is purpose-designed to capture the views and experiences of health consumers, in order to identify critical improvement opportunities. Significant findings include the need for greater affordability and equitable access to healthcare.

Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite, Australian Institute of Health Innovation, reiterated the importance of engaging consumers with the health system and emphasised the need for this survey to be undertaken repeated regularly to ensure consumers views inform health policy.

Preliminary analysis showed despite ongoing disruptions to the Australian healthcare system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, overall, Australian’s satisfaction of their healthcare system continued to increase. However, concerns persist over inadequate workforce capacity in the health system and ability to afford needed care, especially among people with chronic conditions. Use of telehealth and other virtual care services increased, and such services were highly rated. Almost a quarter of respondents reported serious levels of psychological distress and were more likely to use virtual care. With over 20% of people reporting disrespect or discrimination, especially among vulnerable populations, interventions to increase cultural competency in the health system are needed.


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