A review of medical journals shows that the number of hospitals in Australia that offer a throat exam is on the rise, with some doctors offering more than a dozen in a single visit.
The New South Wales Health Care System said in a statement to News.
Com.au that more than 90 per cent of the hospitals in the State had offered an exam in the past two years, with only a small number offering only a single test.
“Our throat examination service is designed to allow patients to get a full, objective medical assessment of their health condition without having to go through any invasive procedures, and the cost of the procedure is covered by the healthcare system,” the statement said.
“As we have a large number of our patients who require an oral exam, we have also offered a wide range of throat exams over the past year.”
However, in the last 12 months the number for a single service in New South and Central Queensland had grown by nearly three times, to 30, according to a study published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
This is in stark contrast to the number at the moment, when only 14 per cent and 15 per cent respectively of New South patients needed a throat examination.
Dr David Kastner, a New South Central Queensland ophthalmologist and head of the Queensland oesophageal surgery group, said it was a sign of the health of the State’s population and healthcare system.
“There are a lot of reasons why this is happening and that’s really concerning,” he said.
Dr Kastener said he was pleased with the growth in the number and that some hospitals had more than 100 staff members on staff, and he was happy to see more doctors offering oral examinations in the coming year.
“We are really keen to see that growth continue, but we also need to see it grow and expand to meet the needs of the patient population,” he told News.
“That is a big challenge for any healthcare provider, whether it is in terms of quality of service or cost.”
Dr Kestner said that oral exams were a common practice among many people, including his own patients.
“I know many people who have had one or two such visits,” he explained.
“It is a simple procedure, and I don’t think there is any need for any further discussion.”
He said that for the most part, oral exams had not had an impact on the quality of healthcare services, but he was concerned about the potential for more to go wrong in future.
“One of the big problems is the health system is getting smaller, and that is something that we are concerned about, particularly if there is a repeat problem, because we know that there are people that have been waiting for an oral examination for years,” he added.
Dr Paul Stoker, who was a Queensland Health Practitioner Executive (QHPEP) before retiring last year, said that a large part of the problem was the way that health services were funded.
“You can’t get enough money to be able to offer the services that you need,” he noted.
“People are really anxious about this and want to see a return to some of the old ways of doing things.”
He also questioned the current emphasis on oral exams.
“In terms of the current funding models, it’s really not a good idea to put an emphasis on one type of procedure that is more costly than others,” he remarked.
Dr Stoker said he had noticed that the majority of patients were satisfied with the way their healthcare services were conducted.
“Some patients are really interested in the oral exam.
There’s been a lot more discussion about it, and a lot has been done about that, and it’s quite good,” he admitted.