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HomeminewsChanging Demographics of Australia’s Healthcare Professions

Changing Demographics of Australia’s Healthcare Professions

Optometrists today are mostly salaried and working for corporates on lower incomes compared with 10 years ago when the majority of optometrists “had owned lucrative, if small private practices”, according to a benchmark report produced by BOQ Specialists.

The report reveals the changing demographics of Australia’s most influential healthcare professions and identified “distinct and differing trends across Australia’s 100,000 strong medical; dental and veterinary professions”.

It examined service demand vs. supply; incomes; ratios of male vs. women working in the professions; the age of professionals and the impact of technology.

The report stated “it is well known that demand for healthcare is growing. This is only partly due to the ageing of the population. The key issue, really, is the absolute growth of the population – driven by net immigration”.

it is well known that demand for healthcare is growing technology was dramatically changing the ways in which patients are treated and the way doctors work

The report identified that across medical professions entrepreneurs were developing large scale health centres, often affiliated with major health insurance companies, and “as a result specialists are exposed to disruptive change”.


Growing demand meant doctors were working longer hours (according to the 2011 census, GPs worked 42 hours per week, specialists 45 hours per week and the broader population 37 hours per week).“The peculiar nature of medical economics – where increased supply of services boosts demand for those services – means there is the risk that absolute spending on healthcare in this country will become a political issue.” The report went on to detail that “total demand for medical professionals is rising but the increase is not uniform… Opportunities for specialists vary markedly from place to place. They need to be assessed at a granular, local government area level.”

BOQ Specialists wrote that while the business of vets and dentists was more influenced by location than the business of doctors, “all three groups of specialists have some protection from global economic forces relative to other professionals.”


The report found that an increasing number of women have become doctors (43 per cent in 2015 compared to 25 per cent in 1986) though the number of specialists who were women was much lower (34 per cent). Sixty per cent of Australian vets across all ages were women and that percentage was higher for younger women. Females tended to work less hours per week then men. Over one third of each of the groups of specialists was over 50 years of age, suggesting that “many specialists have no intention of ceasing to work”.


BOQ Specialist’s report found that technology was dramatically changing the ways in which patients are treated and the way doctors work, reducing recovering time and increasing efficiency. Further, it was impacting the way patients accessed health services with the instances of doctors treating patients via internet or video increasing from less than 2000 in the September 2011 quarter to over 25,000 in March 2014.

Medical technology spending represents 2–5 per cent of national healthcare expenditure in Australia however the use of medical technology had reduced the length of hospital stays by an average of 13 per cent in 2012–13 and this reduction meant that more patients could be treated in a given period. BOQ Specialist identified that “this efficiency gain… can accrue to the operator of the hospital… the patients (through lower charges) or to the staff, including doctors, in the form of higher pay.”