August 27, 2018

Australian Practitioners have their say on the future of health

Cost increases remain the single biggest challenge facing businesses within the health industry, with NAB’s latest report card showing that revenue pressures and compliance and regulation are among the biggest challenges facing the industry.

NAB’s latest Health Practitioners Survey found that less than half of all practitioners believe that Australia will still have a world class health system in 10 years’ time, with GPs and Specialists noticeably more pessimistic than in 2017.

150 Australian health practitioners were asked to assess Australia’s health and their impressions of our health system now and into the future.

GPs, Specialists and Allied health practitioners were also asked to nominate the biggest health-related issues that Australians face today and will face in 10 years’ time:

  • Obesity was considered to be the number one issue we face today by almost 2 in 3 (63%) GPs and Specialists, while around 1 in 2 also nominated mental disorders such as anxiety and depression (54%).
  • Almost 2 in 3 GPs and Specialists identified poor diet (65%) and inactivity (62%) as the biggest causes of the health related issues facing Australians today.
  • Almost half of GPs and Specialists also pinpointed excessive alcohol consumption (44%), stress (41%) and smoking (40%) as key causes of poor health. Almost twice as many GPs and Specialists (24%) also highlighted socio-economic status as a factor.

Health practitioners reported positive business conditions and confidence over the past six months, and noticeably stronger than in the broader economy. Conditions were strongest for Allied health and Dental services practitioners, with GPs and Specialists reporting conditions more similar to the economy as a whole.

Confidence was highest for Allied health practitioners, while GPs and Specialists expect a significant improvement in profitability in the next six months.

The survey also showed that patient recommendations are the key growth driver for medical practices followed by a growing local population.

Previous NAB research (Life in the “Lucky Country” – Is Australia still a great place to live, what makes it great and what of the future? – 2018) found that “Quality Healthcare” was among the most important factors that made Australia a great place to live.

NAB Head of Behavioural & Industry Economics, Dean Pearson said, “Health practitioners are mostly positive about Australia’s current health system – but less so than in 2017. Just over 7 in 10 (71%) believe our health system is world class (80% in 2017).

“GPs and Specialists (79%) were most positive (87% in 2017), followed by Allied health services practitioners (66% vs. 69% in 2017).

“Overall expectations for the health system were unchanged. When asked if it will still be world class in 10 years’ time, only 46% of all practitioners thought it would (47% in 2017). GPs and Specialists were more pessimistic (46% vs. 58% in 2017). There is also considerable uncertainty about the future, with around 1 in 3 practitioners indicating they ‘don’t know’.

Kate Galvin, Customer Executive, NAB Health believes that health practitioners are positive about their current circumstances because they have reason to be.

“In an era of stagnant wage growth, people are tightening their belts when it comes to visiting restaurants or buying toys for their kids but they are still spending on essentials such as healthcare,” Ms Galvin said.

“Compared to participants in most other sectors, health practitioners are still enjoying strong trading conditions and healthy margins.

“This report reinforces our confidence in the heath sector and our ongoing commitment to back practitioners.

“With practitioners raising valid causes for concerns about the future of Australia’s health system, it also provides a timely wake-up call for the need for continued investment in the sector.”

About the NAB Health Practitioners Survey:

  • Around 150 health practitioners – GPs, specialists, allied health providers and dentists – participated in the survey.
  • The NAB Practitioner Health Survey assesses how health practitioners rate the overall health of Australians and the healthcare system now and into the future. It also looks at innovation, business conditions and challenges facing the industry.

For more information, please refer to the attached report: