Objective: To determine women's satisfaction with general practice services.
Design: Cross-sectional postal questionnaire conducted during April to September 1996 (part of the baseline survey of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health).
Participants: Women aged 18-22 (n = 14,739), 45-49 (n = 14,013) and 70-74 (n = 12,941) years, randomly selected from the Medicare database, with oversampling of women from rural and remote areas.
Main outcome measures: Frequency of use of general practice services; satisfaction with the most recent visit to a general practitioner (GP); prevalence of selected symptoms; preference for a female doctor.
Results: The most recent visit to a GP was rated overall as good, very good or excellent by more than 80% of women, with increasing levels of satisfaction with increasing age of the women. However, satisfaction was lower for waiting room time and cost of the visit. A third of the young and middle-aged women living in rural and remote areas were dissatisfied with the cost of the visit. Young women were more likely to prefer a female doctor, and many were dissatisfied with their GP's skills at explaining their problem and giving them a chance to give an opinion and ask questions. The most prevalent symptoms for all women included headaches and tiredness, and may were not satisfied with the health services available to help them deal with these symptoms.
Conclusions: Australian women have high levels of satisfaction with GP consultations. However, more effective strategies may be needed to improve communication with younger women, and there is an unmet need for services to help all women deal with some common symptoms. Dissatisfaction with cost of services and women's preference for female doctors have implications for future health policy.