The eHealth Readiness of Australia's Allied Health Sector - Final Report

Exercise physiologists

Page last updated: 30 May 2011

Overview of size, composition and role

Overview of group

Description of professionAccredited exercise physiologists provide services for patients in a variety of settings including assessing movement capacity, rehabilitation at later stages of patient recovery, ‘return to work’ activities, and designing individualised exercise interventions for people at risk of chronic illnesses (e.g. type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease).
Number1,700 qualified exercise physiologists
(Not recognised in 2006 census)
Gender mix47% female, 53% male

Distribution by Age and State

Exercise physiology is one of the newest allied health professions – the peak body Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) has only been operating for about 20 years, and they have only been recognised as a separate specialty by the Government since 2006 – accordingly no census data is available for the distribution of exercise physiologists by age, state and remoteness.


Distribution by age and location - exercise physiologistsD

EXHIBIT 49 - Overview of practice attributes

Overview of practice attributes - exercise physiologistsD

Education, registration and accreditation

  • University degree accredited under the National University Course Accreditation Program conducted by Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA).
  • Two types of registration are available. An ‘exercise physiology’ registration is required for practitioners working in a clinical setting. Registration with ESSA as an ‘Accredited Exercise Physiologist’ is required in order to hold Medicare, DVA and WorkCover provider numbers. A ‘sports science’ registration is for practitioners working in the elite sports science industry.
  • Continuing professional development is compulsory for accredited members.

Funding and referral system

  • Eligible exercise physiologists can access Medicare on referral from a GP through the individual allied health items for people with a chronic or terminal medical condition and complex care needs (MBS items 10950-10970); the follow-up allied health items for people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent (MBS items 81300-81360); and the group allied health services for patients with type 2 diabetes (MBS items 81100-81125).
  • Many exercise physiologists provide services under the Australian General Practice Network (AGPN) – Lifestyle Modification Programs (LMP) for the prevention of Type 2 Diabetes. General practitioners are able to refer patients who are at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, as determined by the AusDrisk tool, to eligible LMP programs in their area at little, or no cost.
  • WorkCover recognises exercise physiologist services in a variety of states.
  • Patients are also able to attract private health fund rebates from a number of private health insurers, depending on their level of health cover.

Peak National Body

Exercise and Sports Science Australia

Suite 1a, AMA Place
88 L’Estrange Tce
Kelvin Grove, Queensland 4059

P.O. Box 123
Red Hill, Queensland, 4059

ContactPhone: +61 (07) 3856 5622
Fax: +61 (07) 3856 5688

Exercise physiologists and eHealth

Examples of relevant eHealth applications

Some example uses of eHealth that exercise physiologists could benefit from include:
  • Electronic access of other health professionals to ongoing monitoring of patient condition as part of exercise physiologist program – further automation of the Chronic Disease Management process would enable ongoing monitoring of cholesterol, blood glucose and body mass index by exercise physiologists to be fed back to GPs so that they can make the proper adjustments to medication like insulin in response.
  • Telehealth tools for designing and monitoring patient exercise programs – there is a growing interest in using eHealth tools for patient education and motivation, particularly as patient compliance is a major issue in exercise physiology. ExercisePro is one such program that allows the exercise physiologist to design compliance programs and monitor patients online with their participation. As patient motivation is such a major issue there is considerable interest in use of TeleHealth technology to better enable this. At the moment email and SMS contact is used during the exercise program with the chronically ill, however funding for this type of thing is a significant limitation.
  • Continuing professional development– ESSA provides some continuing professional development online, but usually outsources this to other companies due to financial constraints, would ideally like to do it all this way if they had the funding.

Current eHealth 'Position'

Exercise physiologists are generally a younger group of practitioners that are early adopters of technology and avid users of social media. However this does not always translate into use of technology in the workplace. Most of the multidisciplinary clinics use practice management software, but individual practitioners may have difficulty accessing computers and appropriate software for eHealth purposes. There are few products around that are suitable for exercise physiologist workflows, although some have designed their own software.

Key enablers for eHealth for EPs are financial assistance with capital expenses, education and training on software and an education campaign on the benefits to Allied Heath Professionals.

Key insights from eHealth readiness survey

  • Exercise physiology is the newest of the allied health professions, so perhaps not surprisingly 70% of practitioners are under 35 years of age. 49% work in more than one practice location, and 41% practice at least occasionally in a rural or remote area.
  • Educational needs lead the current uses of eHealth solutions for exercise physiologists, with 76% completing CPD online, and 61% accessing online clinical materials. A further 23% and 33% respectively would like to use these tools.
  • Administrative functions also utilise computers heavily, for example booking and scheduling (73% currently use) and billing and patient rebates (56%)
  • Note-taking and communication needs are less comprehensively met. For example, 32% of exercise physiologists send or receive referrals electronically, although a further 58% would like to, while 33% are able to share health records with other practitioners electronically and a further 55% would like to. 49% of exercise physiologists use a computer to enter patient notes after a consultation, while 35% do not, but would like to.
  • Telehealth use amongst exercise physiologists is low at 7% of practitioners using, although 36% suggested they would be using within 3 years. The top three uses were training (24%), consultations with practitioners (21%) and monitoring patients remotely (20%).
  • 17% of exercise physiologists maintain all records in paper form, while 15% only use computers. Of the 83% storing some form of records electronically, 55% use an EHR. 75% of exercise physiologists strongly agreed they would like access to a shared patient record. 73% strongly agree that the majority of their colleagues are using computers, while 69% strongly agreed that computer use is expected in their profession.
  • Top perceived benefits of eHealth for exercise physiologists include improving collaboration (60% strongly agree), improving continuity of care (52%) and improving practice efficiency (48%). Although exercise physiologists did perceive a benefit to patient engagement (32%), patient satisfaction (24%) and relationships (16%) were considered less likely to improve.
  • Affordability is the leading adoption barrier for exercise physiologists (33% strongly agree), followed by the need to maintain IT compatibility (31%) and the absence of adequate IT support (27%). Privacy of both patient and practitioner data registered some concern (24% and 21% respectively) while finding an adequate eHealth system (23%), system maturity (21%) and concern about system malfunctions (20%) were also visible.
  • Exercise physiologists suggested their top three drivers of adoption were financial incentives (57%), the advice of their professional body (55%) and the recognition afforded practitioners that drive new solutions (47%).
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