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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.

Around 150 health practitioners - GPs, specialists, allied health providers and dentists - participated in the survey.

Part One explores how GPs/Specialists, Dentists and “Other” health practitioners see Australia’s health system both now and in the future.

Part Two looks at business conditions and confidence among health practitioners, along with challenges, growth drivers and practice management.

Part Three examines innovation within the sector and attitudes to digital health.

Overview

Part One

Health practitioners on average rate Australians “moderately” healthy.

Women are healthier than men, across all aspects of their health (particularly oral health), and in nearly all age groups.

This is in contrast to our own perceptions of our health - men rate their health higher than women.

More importantly, while GPs/Specialists and Australian males rate their health the same, women are less positive about their health status than their doctors.

The gap between the health of women and men is typically widest between the ages of 25-44 and over 65. Young people are considered to be healthier than older Australians, except when it comes to their oral health.

Health practitioners (and Australians), are in agreement that the biggest health-related issue facing Australians today is obesity. Other big issues include cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, mental disorders, cancer and musculoskeletal diseases.

Of concern, more GPs/Specialists believe cancer will become a major health issue in 10 years’ time, along with dementia, as the population ages. Other health practitioners are however more optimistic around cardiovascular disease and mental disorders.

In regards to oral health, tooth decay and periodontal or gum disease are seen as the biggest issues today.

Gum disease is expected to be the biggest oral health risk we face in the next 10 years, but far fewer dentists think tooth decay will be a problem. A lot more also expect cosmetic concerns, dry mouth and oral cancer to become bigger issues for oral health in the next decade.

The key driver of poor health in Australia today is diet. Inactivity, stress, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are also significant.

Looking ahead, inactivity is set to replace poor diet over the next decade as the biggest cause of health-related issues. Other factors likely to become more significant include: excessive alcohol consumption; lack of sleep; infectious diseases; oral hygiene; and genetic disorders.

Most health practitioners (particularly GPs/Specialists) believe our health system is “world class” and are even more positive than the broader population.

But, practitioners are concerned for the future and are much less likely to recommend their profession (particularly dentists), to their children or family than they were 10 years ago.

Part Two

Practitioners reported positive business conditions in the last six months (in line with the broad economy).

Strong trading conditions (particularly for Dentists) was the main driver.

Conditions were broadly similar across practitioners, but there were differences in profitability and employment.

Profitability was highest for Dentists and GPs but flat for other health.

Employment conditions were positive for Other health and GPs/Specialists, but negative for Dentists.

Practitioner business confidence is also solid and slightly higher than the economy.

Other health practitioners are the most confident in the next six months.

Dentists predict a significant lift in employment, while GPs/Specialists expect employment to soften from current levels. Capital expenditure (particularly Other health) and sales margins (particularly Dentists) are also tipped to rise.

All practitioners expect patient recommendations to be the biggest driver of their business growth in the next 12 months, while bulk billing is the least important.

The biggest challenge facing GPs/Specialists is the availability of practitioners, for Dentists it is cost increases and for Other health practitioners, revenue pressures.

Part Three

Business innovation among Australian health practitioners is lower than the broader economy and in other industry sectors.

All components of NAB’s Innovation Index were weaker than the economy overall.

Innovation was highest for other health practitioners, followed by GPs/Specialists and Dentists.

Health practitioners reported higher levels of “incremental” rather than “radical” innovation, but both measures were also lower than the economy.

Health practitioners see only “moderate” potential for digital health to favourably impact patient care, but are more positive about digitisation of payment processes.

Practitioners (and Australians in general), are not particularly willing to video “consult” (especially dentists), and even less positive about engaging directly with patients via smartphones, computers or other devices (rather than face to face).

In terms of digital access, Other health practitioners are the most receptive to having patient’s access health information via smartphones or other devices. Finally, when it came to sharing medical records with the health system, health practitioners were even less agreeable than consumers.

While reported levels of practitioner innovation were low, when asked to provide examples of their innovation, there was no shortage of responses.

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