Overview of size, composition and role

Overview of group

Description of professionPhysiotherapists assist people with movement disorders. Physiotherapy uses a variety of techniques to help muscles and joints work to their full potential. It can help repair damage by speeding up the healing process and reducing pain and stiffness. Physiotherapists also have an important role in rehabilitation, for example, helping people who have had strokes to relearn basic movements. Preventive management plans are also important.21
Number22,186 registered physiotherapists 22

(2006 Census recorded 12,287)

Gender mix73% female, 27% male

EXHIBIT 56 - Distribution by Age and State

Distribution by age and location - physiotherapistsD

EXHIBIT 57 - Overview of practice attributes

Overview of respondent practice attributes for physiotherapistsD

Education, registration and accreditation

  • University degree required. Two principal tracks exist:
    • 4-year undergraduate degree in Physiotherapy or Applied Science (Physiotherapy)
    • 2-year graduate Masters degree (after completing an undergraduate degree)
  • Most physiotherapy courses will have both a theoretical and practical component. Students undertake placements at different health care centres, including acute hospitals, private practice, community health centres or rehabilitation hospitals.
  • In order to be eligible to register with Medicare, Physiotherapists must be registered with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia, which is one of the national boards established under NRAS.
  • Specialist qualifications in physiotherapy can be obtained through university degrees or through programs in one of the special interest groups of the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA).

Funding and referral system

  • Eligible Physiotherapists 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 Physiotherapy Association
AddressLevel 1, 1175 Toorak Road, Camberwell VIC 3124

PO Box 437,
Hawthorn BC VIC 3122

ContactPhone: +61 3 9092 0888

Fax: +61 3 9092 0899

E-mail: national.office@physiotherapy.asn.au

Physiotherapists and eHealth

Examples of relevant eHealth applications

Some example uses of eHealth that physiotherapists could benefit from include:
  • Treatment applications and telehealth – for example physiotherapists can provide extra guidance on exercise programs as well as monitoring patient progress and compliance with that program. For example iPhone apps that have been developed with exercise programs and which can be used by physiotherapists.
  • Education and senior supervision – for example a ‘TeleRehab’ program that operates in Queensland which enables junior physiotherapists to get supervision online.
  • Continuing professional development (CPD).
  • Digital referrals and electronic health records – 10% of all GP referrals are to physiotherapy, and physiotherapists could benefit from streamlined access to data through digital referrals and access to shared patient records.

Current eHealth 'Position'

Physiotherapy remains a ‘low-tech profession’. There are few early adopters. This has been confirmed by a recent study undertaken by the APA in 2009. In private practice the receptionist usually has the IT skills, and these are limited to practice management and billing. Use of electronic health records remains low, and GP letters tend to be typed out and sent in the mail. Use of electronic health records and secure messaging remains low.

There are one or two software programs around that physiotherapists can use, but they tend to be poorly customised for the profession which has heavy reliance on drawings and diagrams in the health record. The Medicare Chronic Disease Management process has been streamlined by software a little, but incentives to change still remain low. Physiotherapists also take extensive notes on the patient’s social history, including details about how they are likely to cope at home post-discharge, which are not easily entered into commercially available software packages which are designed for the medical market.

Many physiotherapists working is hospitals are greatly limited by the available IT infrastructure which is difficult for allied health practitioners to access, and allows only the most basic levels of office functions to be performed.

Key insights from eHealth readiness survey

  • 52% of physiotherapists work in a single practice. 67% see between 6-15 patients per day. Only 21% indicated they practice even occasionally in a rural or remote location.
  • Physiotherapists have broadly adopted eHealth solutions for educational purposes including CPD (62% currently use) and accessing online clinical reference materials (64%), as well as administrative tasks such as billing and patient rebates (53%) and booking and scheduling (60%).
  • The most prominent unmet need for physiotherapists is sharing patient records with other practitioners (19% currently use, but a further 62% don’t use, but would like to). The ability to send and receive referrals is a similar collaboration need (24% currently use, a further 50% would like to).
  • The patient interface also reflected the adoption desires of physiotherapists, with 35% currently using computers to show patients health-related information and a further 41% suggesting they would like to. 20% currently communicate with patients electronically, while 48% would like to. Note-taking shows a similar dynamic – 21% of physiotherapists enter patient notes on computer after a consultation, 19% use a computer to view or record patient information during a consultation. Of these, a further 45% and 47% respectively would like to have this functionality.
  • Telehealth use is above average, with 16% of practitioners reporting some involvement. Of the remaining 84%, 42% expected to adopt in the next three years. Training (38%) and consultations with other practitioners (24%) register the most interest, although a small amount of patient consultation and monitoring does occur remotely.
  • The majority of physiotherapists only use paper records (55%), and only 6% suggest they only use electronic records. Of the 45% using some form of computer records, 51% reported they use an EHR. 49% of practitioners strongly agreed that computer use is expected, and 48% strongly agreed they would like access to a shared patient record.
  • The core benefits as recognised by physiotherapists revolve around provision and quality of care, including improving collaboration (33% strongly agree), improving continuity of care (32%) and improving the care delivery process (19%). Efficiency (25%) and patient satisfaction (18%) are also strong.
  • Affordability is the leading concern amongst physiotherapists, with 33% strongly agreeing. The potential visibility of practitioner performance data also registers (30%). Several of the top concerns relate to adequate IT systems, for example a preference for established technology (28%), the need to maintain compatibility with existing IT systems (26%), concerns about malfunction or downtime (25%) and access to adequate IT support (23%).
  • Three drivers resonate most strongly for physiotherapists – financial incentives (49% strongly agree), the advice of professional bodies (42%) and the expectations of other practitioners (41%).

21<http://www.physiotherapy.asn.au/> (Accessed May 2011).
22Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, Registrant Snapshot, media release (19 April 2011).

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