GP consultations longer than 20 minutes are on the decline, according to the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).
A study released by AHHA on November 14 shows a decrease in average consultation time per GP is declining, while some general practitioners have effectively abandoned longer consultation times.
The proportion of GPs offering 'Level C' consultations has remained constant at 96 per cent. Level C sessions are those longer than 20 minutes.
However, the amount of Level C consultations provided per GP decreased by 21 per cent between 2006 and 2010.
In addition to this decline, the proportion of GPs granting sessions longer than 40 minutes (Level D) has fallen from 72 per cent in 2006 to 62 per cent in 2009.
These figures have sparked fears that those patients with complex needs may potentially miss out on vital care.
In particular, patients needing more time to discuss chronic disease management, mental health care and preventative health measures could be at risk, according to AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven.
The report offers several explanations for the decline in longer consultations, including the administrative burden related to meeting Medicare Benefit Schedule requirements and auditing.
Ms Verhoeven has highlighted the misalignment between GP consultations and recent Medicare reforms, such as introducing higher fees for longer consultations – aimed at steering health care away from '6-minute medicine'.
"The intent was to ensure patients were better supported to manage their chronic conditions or to stay healthy," says Ms Verhoeven.
"It appears that the May 2010 reforms and the greater reward associated with longer consultations have yet to realign with the policy objective."
Medicare will cover the full cost of a visit to your general practitioner, regardless of the length of consultation.