Background: To date there has been no detailed analysis of the profile of home visit patients, and the extent of any changes over time in Australian general practitioner home visiting patterns.
Aims: The article aims to provide a profile of current provision of home visits by Australian GPs, investigate whether there has been a decline in such services over time, and surmise about causes of changes in service provision and their impact.
Methods: We analysed home visit claims over the past decade. Data were extracted from Medicare Benefits Schedule statistics on services claimed and benefits paid for home visit items, for 1997-2007, stratified by item category and patient demographics.
Results: The rate of home visits decreased 51% in a decade, from 15.8 per 100 persons in 1997 to 7.7 in 2007. The majority of patients (60%) receiving home visits were aged 65 years and over in 2007, including 22% aged 85 years and over.
Discussion: There has been a clear decline in GP home visits over the past decade. This is problematic in the context of a large and growing population of older Australians. Strategies are needed to better support this function in general practice, and/or ensure that alternative providers are meeting the need for these services.