71 per cent of Australian patients have delayed or cancelled healthcare appointments in the last year with affordability concerns being the key driver, according to the inaugural CommBank Patient Experience Insights report released today.

The report also revealed that almost one third (28 per cent) of Australian patients are now postponing routine medical check-ups and avoiding specialist consultations following a GP referral. This trend was most prevalent among Gen X patients (40 per cent) who were found to be the most cost-conscious.

Commenting on the findings, CommBank Health CEO Albert Naffah said that while these trends were concerning, the report also revealed that Australians are adopting the old adage “prevention is the best cure,” with 39 per cent taking on healthier lifestyles to reduce consultations. Adopting a healthier lifestyle is most prevalent among Gen X (43 per cent).

Missed appointments and avoiding the doctor or dentist altogether are largely driven by affordability concerns in the current cost of living environment, while two thirds (65 per cent) of patients also experienced issues with payments and claims in the last year.

One in three patients reported experiencing “bill shock” from unexpected charges and out-of-pocket expenses. Confusion about Medicare rebates and private health insurance claims, and delays in claims reimbursements, are also a drawback for around one in five people.

This is contributing to an expectation for on-the-spot claims processing among 78 per cent of patients who are looking for certainty and a seamless experience when engaging with healthcare providers.

Mr Naffah said that issues finding suitable, affordable care were being felt differently across the population, with opportunities for healthcare providers to respond to changing preferences.

“Affordability concerns and cost-cutting among patients are bringing technology and healthcare payments into greater focus with opportunities for providers to adapt to changing patient preferences.

“We’re seeing Australians wanting to engage with providers and take more control over their own health. But many are running into obstacles navigating the complexity of the healthcare system, particularly as their expectations of the non-clinical side of healthcare are increasingly informed by how easy today’s technology has made it to order a ride or meal or track a package. This has spurred consumer support for initiatives that enable more convenient and personalised care.

“Today, two-thirds of Australians say that technology enhances their healthcare experience. That broad endorsement by patients extends to technology that makes it simpler to find and book appointments, communicate with providers, and instantly process gap payments and insurance claims. These features are no longer nice-to-have but an expectation among most patients,” Mr Naffah said.

“Among healthcare providers leading the adoption of digital solutions, we’re seeing new applications of existing technology, such as SMS to manage appointments, as well as testing of emerging technology, including artificial intelligence where appropriate, to respond to patients’ needs.”

Healthcare providers can improve patient experiences and streamline administration and payments using digital solutions. CommBank Smart Health enables healthcare providers to process Medicare and private health insurance claims on-the-spot as well as integration with Whitecoat, Australia largest digital healthcare directory. Contactless claiming is also available for patients who have a digital membership card with participating healthcare funds.

The Patient Experience Insights report surveyed more than 1,100 healthcare patients and is the latest in a suite of health industry reports produced by CommBank. To learn more, visit: commbank.com.au/healthcare

About the report

The CommBank Patient Experience Insights focuses on the experiences and preferences of Australians when engaging with the healthcare system. The insights are derived from an online quantitative survey of 1,127 respondents completed in October 2023 and conducted by Fifth Quadrant on behalf of the Commonwealth Bank. All respondents consulted with at least one of either a general practitioner (90 per cent), dentist (62 per cent), medical specialist (56 per cent), or allied health provider (42 per cent) in the past 12 month

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