Overview of size, composition and role

Overview of group

Description of professionThe role of the podiatrist is to improve mobility and enhance the independence of individuals by the prevention and management of pathological foot problems and associated morbidity.23
Number3,439 registered podiatrists24

(2006 Census recorded 2,095)

Gender mix61% female, 39% male

EXHIBIT 58 - Distribution by Age and State

Distribution by age and location - podiatristsD

EXHIBIT 59 - Overview of practice attributes

Overview of respondent practice attributes for podiatristsD

Education, registration and accreditation

  • A four-year undergraduate university degree, with an emphasis on biomedical science is required, this is offered at six Australian universities.25 Postgraduate options at PhD and Masters level are also available.
  • In order to be eligible to register with Medicare, Podiatrists must be registered with the Podiatry Board of Australia, which is one of the national boards established under NRAS.

Funding and referral system

  • Eligible Podiatrists 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).
  • Private Health Insurance rebates are also available under the ancillary tables.

Peak National Body

Australasian Podiatry Council (APodC)
Address89 Nicholson Street
Brunswick East VIC 3057
ContactT: +61 3 9416 3111

F: +61 3 9416 3188

E: apodc@apodc.com.au

Podiatrists and eHealth

Examples of relevant eHealth applications

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

Current eHealth 'Position'

Podiatry is a relatively ‘young’ specialty and for the most part practitioners are very technologically competent. There is increasing use of smartphone devices and iPADs to transfer data and search for information. Most practices have electronic practice management and billing, but electronic health record systems are still few and far between. There is little available in terms of software that is suitable for this purpose in podiatry.

Podiatrists are able to prescribe some medicines and use diagnostic imaging so integrating these functions into the software system is important. Now that national registration has been embraced by the profession, and CPD is compulsory, the Council will be making use of online technologies to deliver CPD.

In terms of any shared medical record there is the strong feeling that the nature of the record should be as complete as possible and include aspects of the social history. The APodC believes that podiatrists should have access to the past medical history ‘our responsibilities do not end at the knee’. This is because many podiatry problems are caused by systemic conditions like diabetes and arthritis.

Key insights from eHealth readiness survey

  • 66% of podiatrists reported they worked in more than one practice. 33% work at least occasionally in a rural or remote area.
  • Podiatrists have broadly adopted eHealth solutions for educational purposes including online clinical reference materials (65% currently use) and CPD (63%). In both cases, a further 31% of practitioners are not currently using this application, but would like to. Practice administration is similarly ubiquitous, with 75% of podiatrists using computers for patient booking and scheduling, and 67% for billing and rebates.
  • Podiatrist show considerable interest in broader eHealth applications including diagnostic imaging (29% view on a computer, a further 49% would like to, 6% order online, a further 66% would like to) and collaboration with other practitioners (31% send and receive referrals online, a further 56% would like to, 20% share health records with other practitioners online, a further 59% would like to).
  • Telehealth use for podiatrists is low at 5% of respondents, although 34% indicated they would probably use telehealth solutions in the next 3 years. There was little interest in patient-facing applications though, with training, supervision and collaboration with other practitioners the leading interests.
  • 30% of podiatrists rely solely on paper records, yet 30% have entirely computerised records. Of the 70% using some form of computer records, 64% reported they use an EHR. 61% of respondents strongly agreed they would like access to a shared patient record. 57% of practitioners strongly agreed that computer use is expected.
  • Podiatrists perceived the core benefits of eHealth adoption as improving firstly the provision and quality of care (46% strongly agreed it would improve collaboration, 35% strongly agreed quality of care would be improved) and secondly business drivers (43% strongly agreed practice efficiency would improve). There was less emphasis on patient relationships and engagement (9% strongly agreed eHealth adoption would improve patient relationships).
  • Computer access and connectivity were less prevalent for podiatrists than many other allied health practitioners, most prominently internet access in regional (30% of inner regional practitioner did not have internet access in their practice) and remote areas (42%)
  • The two leading barriers to adoption for podiatrists are affordability (35% strongly agree) and the need to maintain compatibility with existing IT systems (31%). Other technology concerns registered strongly including concerns about malfunctions and downtime (23%) and the need for adequate IT support (21%). Privacy issues also resonated, including potential breaches of patient privacy (24%) and the visibility of practitioner performance data (23%). Selection and use of systems did not cause strong concerns (only 7% strongly agreed they found it difficult to select and implement a system).
  • Podiatrists indicated they were receptive to most adoption drivers, with financial incentives (61% strongly agreed), the advice of their professional body (51%) and patient expectations (49%) the top three.

23Australasian Podiatry Council website 2011.
24Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, Registrant Snapshot, media release (19 April 2011).
25University of Western Australia, University of South Australia, La Trobe University, University of Western Sydney, Newcastle University, Queensland University of Technology