Overview of size, composition and role

Overview of group

Description of professionOsteopathy is a form of manual medicine which recognises the important link between the structure of the body and the way it functions. Osteopaths focus on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function as a holistic unit. Using skilled evaluation, diagnosis and a wide range of hands-on techniques, osteopaths can identify important types of dysfunction in your body. Osteopathic treatment uses techniques such as stretching and massage for general treatment of the soft tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments) along with mobilisation of specific joints and soft tissues.20
Number1,580 registered osteopaths

(2006 Census recorded 778)

Gender mix60% female, 40% male

EXHIBIT 54 - Distribution by Age and State

Distribution by age and location - osteopathsD

EXHIBIT 55 - Overview of practice attributes

Overview of respondent practice attributes for osteopathsD

Education, registration and accreditation

  • A 3-year undergraduate degree followed by a 2-year Masters program. Degrees must be accredited by the Australian and New Zealand Osteopathic Council.
  • In order to be eligible to register with Medicare, Osteopaths must be registered with the Osteopathy Board of Australia, which is one of the national boards established under NRAS.
  • Osteopaths must complete a minimum of 25 hours of CPD activities each year which includes a mandatory CPD activity approved by the Osteopathy Board of Australia.

Funding and referral system

  • Osteopathy is a private sector-based profession offering ambulatory care in private rooms. 10% of patients receive some Government rebate from either Medicare, DVA or Workcover, the remainder pay full fees or receive a rebate from the private health funds.
  • Eligible Osteopaths 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) and the follow-up allied health items for people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent (MBS items 81300-81360).

Peak National Body

Australian Osteopathic Association

Suite 4, 11 Railway Street
Chatswood NSW 2067

PO Box 5044
Chatswood West, NSW 1515

ContactPh: 1800 467 836

Fax: 61 2 9410 1699

Email: aoa@osteopathic.com.au

Osteopaths and eHealth

Examples of relevant eHealth applications

Some example uses of eHealth that osteopaths could benefit from include:
  • Electronic transfer of diagnostic scans
  • Continuing professional development (CPD)
  • Electronic health records
  • Digital referrals and electronic health records

Current eHealth 'Position'

Willingness to adopt new technologies and receptiveness to eHealth is generally related to age in this profession, however as only 10% are over 50, this is becoming less of an issue. Most new graduates are keen to use computers and adopt new technologies.

80% of osteopathy clinics are using computers for practice management functions, however only 20% are using computers for other functions like electronic records management. This is improving because practices are consolidating and getting larger, generating greater cash flow.

The main non-administrative uses of IT for osteopaths are related to online CPD, patient education and research. Most practices have internet access although practitioners may need to share a computer.

Cost is a barrier to greater adoption of eHealth applications by osteopaths. Financial assistance to help cover upfront costs of hardware and software would drive greater uptake.

Many osteopaths are not convinced of the benefits eHealth applications bring for patients. Greater education on the benefits of eHealth applications may therefore help drive further adoption. Skills training is also important, as basic competencies in eHealth applications cannot be assumed. It is the position of the Australian Osteopathic Association that a basic ‘generic’ software program with an easy-to-use interface should be made available at a subsidised rate for allied health practitioners, as they have the view that only the really expensive software packages will comply with the evolving NeHTA standards.

Key insights from eHealth readiness survey

  • 75% of osteopaths work from a single practice location. 78% see between 6-15 patients per day. Only 21% indicated they practice even occasionally in a rural or remote location.
  • Osteopaths have broadly adopted eHealth solutions for educational purposes including CPD (63% currently use) and accessing online clinical reference materials (57%), as well as administrative tasks such as billing and patient rebates (68%) and booking and scheduling (64%).
  • The use of computers for other purposes is less prevalent but practitioners indicate a desire to adopt. For example, 15% view diagnostic images online but a further 52% would like to. 5% order diagnostic imaging online, yet a further 55% would like to. Collaboration is a similarly unmet need – 13% of osteopaths send or receive referrals electronically, although a further 45% would like to. 15% share patient records with other practitioners electronically, while a further 42% would like to.
  • Telehealth use is low, with just 5% of osteopaths involved. Of the remnant 95%, just 19% expect they will probably be using telehealth solutions within 3 years. Training (12%) and consultations with other practitioners (9%) register the most interest.
  • The majority of osteopaths only use paper records (56%), although 17% suggest they only use electronic records. Of the 44% using some form of computer records, 61% reported they use an EHR. Expectations of computer use are low – while 24% strongly agreed they would like access to a shared patient record, 21% believed they were expected to use a computer professionally.
  • The provision and quality of care registers the greatest benefits for osteopaths, with improving collaboration strongest (23% strongly agree), improving continuity of care second (17%). 13% strongly agreed eHealth would improve practice efficiency, and 12% that it would improve patient engagement. Potential improvements to patient satisfaction and patient care both registered only 5% strong agreement.
  • Computer and connectivity access for osteopaths is prevalent but not ubiquitous. 20% of practitioners in major cities reported they did not have access to a computer in their practice. Osteopaths practicing in outer regional or remote areas suggested connectivity was unavailable (50% and 43% respectively did not have internet access in their practice).
  • Privacy and data security are the foremost concerns for osteopaths, both a concern about the visibility of practitioner performance data (35% strongly agree) and breaches of patient privacy (31%). Technology concerns also register strongly, particularly malfunction or downtime (31%) and a desire for established technology (25%).
  • Three drivers resonate most strongly for osteopaths – financial incentives (41% strongly agree), the advice of professional bodies (39%) and the expectations of patients (36%).

20< http://www.osteopathic.com.au/> (accessed May 2011)