The hidden cost of visiting your doctor

More and more people are changing the way they think about healthcare – and turning to online doctors like Docto when they need to see a GP or specialist.

The decision is simple; it comes down to cost and convenience. While you might think that the odd GP visit or specialist follow-up doesn’t cost all that much, there are a range of hidden costs that come with seeing a doctor in-person.

Here are just a few of the hidden nasties you’re paying for when you schedule in a visit with your doctor or specialist.


Time spent in your doctor’s waiting room: $55. Think about how many days of your life have been spent in doctor’s waiting rooms. An article by Time Magazine estimates that it costs the average person US$43 (AUD$55) every time they are forced to sit around in a doctor’s waiting room.

This cost accounts for the loss of productivity and work-time that you suffer when you wait around watching Days of our Lives and trying to ignore the over-tired, screaming children who just want to get home and watch Peppa Pig. The Time Magazine article found that it takes an average of 121 minutes for a person to obtain medical care. This includes 37 minutes of travel time and 87 minutes at the doctor’s office or clinic. Of that 87 minutes, only 20 minutes is spent with the physician. The other hour or so is spent doing paperwork, communicating with non-medical staff, and just plain old sitting around waiting.

Waiting list times. In 2015 Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy made headlines when she revealed the ‘hidden waiting list’ that many Australians face when accessing the care of a specialist doctor.

Australians are waiting anywhere between one week and one whole year for an initial consultation with a specialist. That’s an awful long time to wait when you have an unexplained migraine or suspicious bleeding from your bowel.

According to the report by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, the average wait to see an ear, nose and throat specialist at Bendigo Hospital in Victoria was 469 days, meaning half of the patients surveyed waited even longer than that to be considered for further care.

Time off work: $229. Once you’ve factored in transit time to-and-from your doctor’s office, the time you spend in the waiting room and the window of time you get with your doctor, you’re looking at a half to full day of sick leave—that is if you’re lucky enough to get paid sick leave.

Once you’ve seen your doctor, chances are you’ll be sent for a blood test or over to the other side of town to pick up a prescription. Before you know it you’ve spent the better part of a day dealing with what could be a relatively simple and straightforward health concern.

Surely it would be better if you could spend your ten days of annual sick leave actually in bed being sick (or recovering from that Sunday session), rather than traipsing all over town. It’s no wonder that sick leave costs Australian employers and tax payers $27.5 billion a year in leave costs and lost productivity. With the average Australian earning around $229 a day, that’s a steady fee for a doctor’s consultation.

Parking & transport: $45-65. Once you’ve combined your fuel and / or public transport costs ($10-20) with the cost of off-street parking (which in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney CBD areas average at $45 for two hours), you’re looking at paying between $45 and $65 in transport fees alone.

Doctor and specialist fees: $65-$700+. So you’ve dragged yourself out of bed, braved the traffic, finally found a park a few blocks away, sat in the waiting room for one and a half dreary hours and finally seen your doctor for twenty minutes or so – and then as the grand finale, you get the bill.

As we know, healthcare in Australia doesn’t come cheap; a recent study by James Cook University and the NSW Bureau of Health Information has shown that Australians are paying five times more for medical care than our British counterparts.

Prices for specialists are especially high, with only around 30% of consultations bulk-billed. The average out-of-pocket expense for seeing a non-bulk-billed specialist is AU$65.73. And this doesn’t cover the blood tests, x-rays and pathology tests which your doctor is likely to order. If it turns out that you need to have an an operation or investigative procedure, these costs will be placed on top of your specialist fees – along with anesthetic fees and other hidden costs.

With all of the hidden – and obvious – costs and inconveniences of accessing straightforward healthcare, it is no wonder that an increasing number of Australians are neglecting their health. But it doesn’t have to be this way. By using Docto, you can receive specialist medical advice and consultations, prescriptions and medical reports 24 hours a day, from anywhere in the world— saving your time, your sanity and your wallet.