Overview of size, composition and role

Overview of group

Description of profession

Psychologists are experts in human behaviour, having studied the brain, memory, learning, human development and the processes determining how people think, feel, behave and react. Psychological interventions are widely used to treat individuals and families and can also be applied to groups and organisations.

Clinical psychologists comprise 45% of the psychology workforce. The remainder of the workforce are either general psychologists, academics, specialists working in areas like neuropsychology, or working in a nonclinical area like market research or HR.

Number28,699 registered psychologists26

(2006 Census recorded 12,287)

Gender mix75% female, 25% male

EXHIBIT 60 - Distribution by Age and State


EXHIBIT 61 - Overview of practice attributes

overview of respondent practice atributes for psychologistsD

Education, registration and accreditation

  • Becoming a psychologist requires at least four years of full-time university study. Common courses are a four-year Bachelor of Psychology or a three-year degree followed by an Honours program in psychology. Graduates must then complete two years of either postgraduate tertiary study in a specialist area or supervised practice. Completing this six-year sequence is a requirement for registering to work as a psychologist in Australia. The Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) sets the standards for accreditation of Australian psychology programs.
  • Clinical psychology requires an additional postgraduate degree – PhD or Masters – as well as 2 years clinical practice under supervision.
  • In order to be eligible to register with Medicare, Psychologists must be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia, which is one of the national boards established under NRAS.

Funding and referral system

  • Eligible Psychologists can access Medicare on referral from a GP (and in some instances, a psychiatrist or a paediatrician) 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 Better Access to psychiatrists, psychologists and General Practitioners through the MBS items (MBS items 80000-80170); the Helping Children with Autism or any other Pervasive Developmental Disorder items (MBS items 82000-82025); and the Pregnancy Support Counselling items for women who are concerned about a current pregnancy, or a pregnancy which occurred in the preceding 12 months (MBS items 81000-81010)..

Peak National Body

The Australian Psychological Society is the largest professional group representing psychologists in Australia, although others exist.
Australian Psychological Society

Level 11, 257 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC

PO Box 38
Flinders Lane VIC 8009

ContactPhone: (03) 8662 3300

Toll free: 1800 333 497

Fax: (03) 9663 6177

Email: contactus@psychology.org.au

Psychologists and eHealth

Examples of relevant eHealth applications

  • eTherapy, including online cognitive behaviour therapy, for selected patients, particularly in combination with initial assessments in-person. This would greatly improve access for rural and remote patients. There are several centres for the development of online cognitive behavioural therapy programs, including at Swinburne University, Australian National University and Queensland University of Technology.
  • Electronic health records, particularly directed at the transfer of information between participants in multidisciplinary care teams and background medication records
  • Continuing professional development (CPD)
  • Digital referrals and electronic transactions

Current eHealth 'Position'

  • The Australian Psychology Society has already undertaken a brief survey of its members on IT use which showed that only one third use any kind of practice management software, and of those only 10% understand and use secure messaging.
  • The level of eHealth readiness amongst the members is perceived as being poor with most using paper-based records and index cards to manage information in the practice. The decision to embrace IT solutions is generally seen as a business decision by psychologists and not one that is at all relevant to patient care. Several (up to 10) software systems have been designed with psychologists in mind but this has not improved uptake due to the poor motivation of practitioners associated with poor understanding of the benefits of eHealth solutions. One contributing factor towards the poor uptake is thought to be deep concern about privacy and confidentiality of patient records - even though the situation now is far from ideal with paper records. The Society has a very strong code of ethics in relation to this.
  • The APS considers that incentives to change practitioner behaviour need to be a combination of explicit infrastructure support and potential negative consequences such as the recommendation by the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission linking the provision of Medicare Benefits to utilisation of secure messaging (Recommendation 120). It was also mentioned that most psychologists are reasonably technologically competent in their personal lives with over 90% using email regularly.
  • It is possible to automate the care planning process using existing software, but many practitioners see this as a hindrance not a help. The ideal software package would have the following elements: note-taking function which is integral, diary, electronic billing and claiming for allied health, eReferrals, GP letters and the ability to separate clinical notes from the patient details required for Medicare audits to protect patient confidentiality.
  • The APS believes that the current discussions regarding the new telemedicine items in the Medicare Benefits Schedule should reconsider inclusion of allied health in eTherapy as research demonstrates that online psychological services would make a real contribution to rural access to mental health services. Key insights from eHealth readiness survey
  • Psychologists are typically older practitioners, with 45% over 55 years of age. 65% of psychologists see less than 6 patients per day, and 50% operate from one practice.
  • Psychologists have adopted eHealth methods for education purposes (54% use for education and training, 54% for CPD), and for administration (52% use for booking and scheduling, 49% for billing and rebates).
  • There is strong interest amongst psychologists for increased use of collaboration applications (23% currently send or receive referrals electronically, although a further 56% would like to, 15% currently share health records with other practitioners electronically, a further 52% would like to) note-taking (31% use a computer to enter notes after a consultation, a further 40% would like to) and patient education (18% use a computer to show patients health-related information, a further 49% would like to).
  • 7% of psychologists responded they used telehealth solutions, with a further 25% indicating they probably would in the coming 3 years. Training (17%), consultations with other practitioners (16%) and supervising (15%) all resonated with psychologists, with 12% of respondents also very interested in patient consultations.
  • 26% of psychologists rely solely on paper records, and 10% have all patient records on computer. Of the 74% using some form of computer records, 37% reported they use an EHR. 62% strongly agreed most practitioners in their network used computers, 54% strongly agreed computer use was expected. 42% strongly agreed they would like access to a shared patient record.
  • Collaboration (41% strongly agree), efficiency (32%) and continuity of care (28%) were the leading benefits expressed by psychologists. 19% strongly agreed eHealth solutions would help improve patient engagement, although the impact on patient relationships was less clear (6% strongly agreed eHealth solutions would improve).
  • Psychologists’ leading concerns for the adoption of eHealth solutions are affordability (55% strongly agree) and their concern for the privacy of patient data (48%). The maturity of technology resonates strongly (42% strongly agree they prefer to wait for established technology, 37% don’t believe they have adequate IT support, 36% strongly agree they are concerned about malfunctions or downtime).
  • The two leading influences for psychologists are financial incentives (56%) and the advice of their professional body (46%). Peer and patient expectations are less relevant although still strong (e.g., advice of other practitioners 37%, pressure from patients 35%).

26AHPRA 2010, Snapshot of registrants

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