Outpatient care

The survey looked at the frequency of consultations with doctors of general medicine, specialists in gynaecology and obstetrics, internal specialists, paediatricians, other specialists, walk-in clinics or hospital outpatients’ departments as well as dental therapists or dental outpatients’ departments in the year prior to the survey. It included not only visits to see a doctor but also house calls by a doctor as well as phone conversations with a doctor due to an illness or a complaint. Only those consultations where the respondent in person saw the doctor were included in the survey. (Visits to the surgery to collect prescriptions for example were not included.)

As expected doctors of general medicine (GPs) were consulted the most frequently. In the year preceding the survey, 75.3% of the Austrian population went at least once to see a GP; 62.0% saw a dental therapist; 42.6%, another specialist; 21.5%, an internal specialist; 17.0% attended a walk-in clinic or a hospital outpatients’ department. 63.3% of women (aged 15 and over) went at least once to a gynaecologist and 42.7% of children (up to age 14) to a paediatrician.

Differences between the sexes are noted in the frequency with which GPs were consulted. 73.8% of men and 76.7% of women reported that they had had at least one consultation with a GP during the year preceding the survey. Around one in seven men (14.1%) and one in six women (18.1%) attended a GP’s surgery more than five times. There were also clear gender-specific differences in the average number of consultations with GPs. While men consulted a GP 3.2 times on average during the year prior to the survey, women reported an average of 3.9 consultations. In contrast to that there was little difference between the genders regarding the average number of consultations with other physicians.

Age-specific differences

Generally speaking, the frequency of visits to the doctor – especially GP consultations – increases with age. In middle age, men and women aged 35 to 44 consulted GPs 2.7 times and 3.1 times on average respectively during the year preceding the survey; among 85-year-olds and over, men reported an average of 8.0 consultations, and women, 8.6. While the number of visits to internal and other specialists also increases with age, it does so far less dramatically than consultations with GPs. Among the very elderly (85 years and over), there is even a slight decline in the average number of consultations with internal and other specialists. On the one hand, this may be due to methodological reasons such as the difficulty of including very elderly patients with multiple morbidity in surveys; on the other hand, it is important to remember that mobility restrictions increase in very old age, forcing some patients to turn to hospitals for treatment as there are virtually no instances to date of specialists doing house calls. An analysis of patient flows would be highly revealing in this context.

For both sexes, visits to walk-in clinics and outpatients’ departments were most frequent between the ages of 45 and 74, and among the very elderly (85 and over). Visits to dental therapists (including dental outpatients’ department) were most frequent among children and people in middle age and decreased in old age.

The gender differences relating to physician consultations (differences which are particularly noticeable in the case of GPs) were by no means due solely to the different age structures of men and women. Women in all age groups consulted GPs more often. Consultations with internal or other specialists revealed another characteristic. While women up to middle age consulted internal specialists more often than men of a comparable age, the trend was reversed in old age. Although women over 65 continued to consult GPs more frequently than men of the same age group, they saw internal specialists less frequently. Likewise, dentists and other specialists were in part consulted more often by elderly men than by elderly women. The reasons for this cannot be determined on the basis of the data from the Microcensus. The referral habits of GPs may play a role as might gender-specific intensities in the spectrum of diseases and differences in the behaviour of male and female patients.

Regional differences

GPs were consulted most frequently on average by men in Lower and Upper Austria, and by women in Lower Austria and Styria. Women (aged 15 and over) in Carinthia consulted gynaecologists most frequently. Internal specialists were consulted most frequently by men in Styria and Carinthia and by women in Tyrol, Styria and Lower Austria. Visits by children (up to age 14) to paediatricians were the most frequent in Vienna.

The highest average number of consultations with other specialists was reported by Carinthia and Lower Austria for men and by Lower Austria and Vienna by women. Both genders consulted walk-in clinics and outpatients’ departments the most frequently in Vienna. Visits to the dentist were the most frequent on average among men in Lower Austria and Carinthia and among women in Lower Austria and Vienna.

Please consult our German website for tables and charts containing further information.

Results (overview): Frequency of consultations

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