What are the Different Levels of Healthcare in Australia?

Doctor examining a patient with a stethoscope

Australia has one of the best health systems in the world, a comprehensive and connected network of health service organisations providing a universal health care structure.

The federal government funds a large part of health service costs, around 67% of the total. This includes funding for Medicare, a public health insurance scheme which provides free or subsidised treatment by health professionals.

Primary Health Care

Primary health care, sometimes referred to as ‘frontline’ care, typically refers to a patient’s first contact point with the health system.

For the majority of Australians, their access to this level of healthcare will be via a visit to a GP who may write them a prescription for medication, order tests or refer them to a specialist.

Primary health care can also be delivered in community health centres, via allied health services, or through telephone or video consultation. One of the most fundamental levels of healthcare, primary health care aims to be easily accessible with an objective on keeping Australians healthy and assisting them to manage their health issues.

Secondary Health Care

Secondary health care relates to when patients are referred from a primary care service into another health service, this could be a hospital or specialist medical practice for example.

Public sector health services are provided by local, state or territory and/or federal government. For example, a local council may run vaccination clinics out of a community centre whereas public hospitals are managed by state and territory governments.

Both public and private hospitals are regulated by the respective state or territory. Patients with private health insurance may opt to be treated in a private hospital, as a private patient in a public hospital or as a public patient in a public hospital.

Private health insurance is not compulsory within Australia however in 2013, just under half the population had some form of private hospital cover.

Emergency Health Care

Emergency care is another one of the levels of healthcare within Australia. Hospital emergency departments cater to patients in urgent need of medical attention.

Ambulance services in most states are operated and funded by the state or territory government as a separate service. Call-outs are not covered by Medicare except in certain circumstances according to the individual state or territory. Emergency services within Australia are supported by a number of volunteer organisations.

The Australian Health System & Technology

The health system in Australia is constantly undergoing evaluation to provide the most effective and efficient health care and to more effectively integrate the different levels of healthcare in Australia.

With the increase of technology, primary health care through telecommunications is a rapidly growing area along with the use of electronic health monitors to assist patients to manage chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

More information about what are the different levels of healthcare in Australia can be obtained from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

If you’re interested in working in one of the levels of Australian health care mentioned, we have a variety of job opportunities available for all experience levels and qualifications.