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

Occupational therapists

Page last updated: 30 May 2011

Overview of size, composition and role

Overview of group

Description of professionOccupational therapy is a profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by enabling people to do things that will enhance their ability to participate or by modifying the environment to better support participation.
Number13,000 (estimated by OTA)

4,700 (OTA membership)

(2006 Census recorded 6,838)

Gender mix93% female, 7% male

EXHIBIT 50 - Distribution by Age and State

Distribution by Age and State - occupational therapistsD

EXHIBIT 51 - Overview of practice attributes

Overview of practice attributes - occupational therapistsD

Education, registration and accreditation

  • An OTA-accredited university degree required. There are two tracks available, either a 4-year undergraduate university degree, or a 2-year postgraduate university degree (after completing an eligible undergraduate degree).
  • In order to be eligible to register with Medicare, occupational therapists practicing in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory must be registered with the Occupational Therapists Board in the state or territory in which they are practicing; in all other states and the Australian Capital Territory, they must be a ‘Full-time Member’ or ‘Part-time Member’ of Occupational Therapy Australia. Uniform national registration requirements are due to be introduced through NRAS in 2012.
  • Occupational therapists who wish to maintain membership with OTA are required to complete 30 hours continuing professional (CPD) per year. From 1 July 2011, Occupational Therapists who provide focussed psychological strategies services must complete 10 hours of CPD if they wish to be registered for Medicare funding under the Better Access to psychiatrists, psychologists and general practitioners through the MBS items.

Funding and referral system

  • Eligible Occupational Therapists 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); the Focussed Psychological Strategies services under the Better Access to psychiatrists, psychologists and General Practitioners through the MBS (MBS items80100 - 80170); and the Helping Children with Autism or any other Pervasive Developmental Disorder items (MBS items 82000-82025).

Peak National Body

Occupational Therapy Australia
Address6/340 Gore St
Fitzroy, Vic, 3065
ContactTel: 03 9415-2900

Toll free 1300 OT AUST [68 2878]

Fax: 03 9416-1421


Occupational therapists and eHealth

Examples of relevant eHealth applications

Some example uses of eHealth that occupational therapists could benefit from include:
  • Treatment applications and telehealth – occupational therapists can have patients undertake a treatment program through the use of programs such as Nintendo Wii Fit (some examples of this being adapted already exist). provide and monitor treatments.
  • Continuing professional development (CPD) – OTA already provides training courses and CPD seminars online.
  • Digital referrals and electronic health records – this will assist with multidisciplinary care, in particular the documentation of information flows around care plans under the Medicare Chronic Disease Management items.

Current eHealth 'Position'

Occupational Therapists can be technologically capable, particularly the younger ones, but frequently they do not have access to computers in the workplace. Access is particularly bad in the public sector. Few software programs are specifically tailored to occupational therapists in the market.

Occupational therapists would like greater engagement in Government initiatives such as TeleHealth and the PCEHR.

OTA believes important incentives to drive adoption include:
  • Access to the appropriate technology in all sectors
  • Training and education in the use of eHealth and related technologies
  • Streamlining of the national registration process and the access to Medicare provider numbers so that there are no delays in accessing health identifiers when the time comes to participate in Government programs like the PCEHR.

Barriers include the fact that occupational therapists are highly focussed on face-to-face patient care in their work culture which can be easily disrupted by poorly designed technology. Also occupational therapists tend to be among the lower-income earners amongst allied health practitioners, placing them at a higher risk of cost being a barrier.

Key insights from eHealth readiness survey

  • Occupational therapists typically see a smaller number of patients per day (61% see less than 6 patients per day). 56% report they practice at least occasionally in a rural or remote area.
  • Educational needs lead the current uses of eHealth solutions for occupational therapists, although adoption remains low in comparison with interest, with 55 accessing online clinical materials while a further 39% would like to. Similarly, 51% access CPD online, and a further 43% do not, but would like to.
  • Patient administration uses are relatively common, with 52% using computers for booking and scheduling, and 49% for billing and rebates. Again, desired use is significantly higher, with a further 33% and 22% respectively.
  • 50% of occupational therapists complete event summaries on a computer, although the proportion entering patient notes after a consultation on a computer (37%) and viewing or recording patient information via computer during a consultation (23%) are significantly lower – in both cases 56% don’t currently use computers, but would like to.
  • Telehealth uses amongst occupational therapists is relatively common, with 17% of practitioners currently using telehealth solutions, and 34% of those not using expecting to within 3 years. The two dominant interests are training (15% strongly agree) and consulting with other practitioners (15%), with lower interest in patient consultation (10%) and monitoring (9%).
  • 26% of occupational therapists maintain all records in paper form, while 7% only use computers. Of the 74% storing some form of records electronically, 45% use an EHR. 70% strongly agree that the majority of their colleagues are using computers, while 68% strongly agreed that computer use is expected in their profession. 50% of exercise physiologists strongly agreed they would like access to a shared patient record.
  • The three dominant benefits perceived by occupational therapists are improving collaboration (47% strongly agree), improving continuity of care (37%) and practice efficiency (36%). Business improvements are perceived less strongly (e.g., only 9% strongly agree the benefits of eHealth solutions include both increasing the number of referrals and reducing exposure to legal risk)
  • Affordability is the leading adoption barrier for occupational therapists (45% strongly agree), followed by the need to maintain IT compatibility (38%) and the absence of adequate IT support (30%).
  • The dominant adoption driver suggested by occupational therapists was the use of financial incentives (59%), while 38% suggested the influence of their professional body, and 37% suggested the expectation of their patients would be motivating.
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