Overview of size, composition and role

Overview of group

Description of professionAudiologists with patients that are experiencing hearing loss. Services provided by audiologists can include hearing assessments, hearing conservation programs, rehabilitation, fitting hearing aids and cochlear implants and community awareness programs and counselling on hearing issues.
Number2,000 – 2,200 (ASA membership)

(2006 Census recorded 1,074)

Gender mix77% female, 23% male

EXHIBIT 40 - Distribution by Age and State

Distribution by age and location - audiologistsD

EXHIBIT 41- Overview of practice attributes

Overview of respondent practice attributes for audiologistsD

Education, registration and accreditation

  • To qualify as an audiologist it is necessary to undertake a Masters of Clinical Audiology which is a post-graduate degree.
  • In order to be eligible to register with Medicare Australia, Audiologists must be either a ‘Full Member’ of the Audiological Society of Australia Inc, who holds a ‘Certificate of Clinical Practice’; or an ‘Ordinary Member- Audiologist’ or ‘Fellow Audiologist’ of the Australian College of Audiology.

Funding and referral system

  • Australian Hearing Services pays hearing service providers for the delivery of services under the voucher system to eligible clients. The services include hearing assessments, the cost of the hearing device and its fitting, and the government contribution to the maintenance and repair of hearing devices.
  • The Office of Hearing Services oversees at present around 200 contracted Hearing Service Providers that operate in all states and territories in the country in almost 2,000 Permanent, Visiting and Remote sites.10
  • Eligible Audiologists 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).

The majority of income for audiologists in the private sector is derived from fee-for-service.

Peak National Body

Audiological Society of Australia
AddressSuite 7, 476 Canterbury Road
Forest Hill VIC 3131
ContactPH: 61 3 9416 4606

Fax: 61 3 9416 4607

Email: info@audiology.asn.au

Audiologists and eHealth

Examples of relevant eHealth applications

Some example uses of eHealth that audiologists could benefit from include:
  • Telehealth and online initial assessments of patients, particularly in rural and remote areas.
  • Online education and Continuing professional development (CPD)
  • Digital referrals and electronic health records

Current eHealth 'Position'

In terms of eHealth, audiologists working for the public sector, especially Australian Hearing Services, tend to be the most technically skilled as a result of the requirement for extensive data entry and case management by this agency.

Many audiologists in the private sector however find it hard to prioritise administrative and clerical tasks which are usually left to receptionists, and so have tended to lag behind their peers in terms of IT skills. The ASA has struggled to engage this group in eHealth activities for this reason as they have been slow to see the benefits, although it is reported that those who have made the effort to ‘go paperless’ are very happy with the time savings and efficiencies that this has introduced to their practice.

There are few software products on the market that are tailored for audiologists; 3-4 software programs are currently in use, but all have required some adaptation to be completely appropriate. About 50% of audiology practices are using electronic practice management, and a further 40% are using some form of electronic health record. The high-tech equipment used by audiologists generates information and screens that can easily be added to an EHR or attached to an email.

Most audiologists are highly technically skilled in their personal use of IT, and are extensive users of social networking and discussion forums for example. It is perceived by the ASA that Telehealth in audiology will make a big improvement to rural and regional services, as it can be used for audiological assessments prior to referral to a surgeon for example. The rollout of the NBN should also improve access considerably.

Key insights from eHealth readiness survey

  • Audiologists have a consistent patient load, with 78% seeing 6-15 patients per day. Over half (59%) work in two or more practice locations. 60% undertake some work in rural and remote areas.
  • Audiologists exhibit very high use of computers for relevant applications, both administration and practice efficiency (patient booking and scheduling 91%, billing and patient rebates 76%) and recording patient information (entering patient notes after a consultation 74%, view/record patient information during a consultation 76%).
  • Education is considered important both for the patient body (69% use computers to show patients health-related information) and for practitioners (68% access clinical reference materials online, 61% undertake CPD online).
  • The strongest unmet needs for Audiologists are communications-related, particularly sharing health records with practitioners (43% currently use, a further 35% would like to), sending or receiving referrals (23% currently use, a further 41% would like to) and communicating electronically with patients (42% currently use, a further 29% would like to).
  • Audiologists have average use of telehealth and in general don’t envisage a large role within their profession (13% currently use, 19% of those not currently using expect to be within 3 years). Interest is strongest in training (15%) and collaborating with other practitioners (12%).
  • Only 7% of Audiologists use paper records alone, with 88% using a combination of computer- and paper-based records. Of those using computers in some form, 68% have an EHR. Audiologists have the highest expectation of computer use within their profession (95% strongly agree computer use is expected, 89% strongly agree most practitioners use computers).
  • The leading benefits perceived by Audiologists surround provision and quality of care, including improving collaboration (41% strongly agree), improving continuity of care (28%) and improving access to care (19%). Practice efficiency is important (28%), and patient engagement (19%), safety (17%) and satisfaction (16%) rank highly.
  • Audiologists have almost universal access to basic computer and connections infrastructure, except those visiting remote areas (of whom 78% have access to a computer and 43% have internet access).
  • The leading barriers observed by audiologists include maintaining IT compatibility with existing IT systems (33% strongly agree), concern about breaches of privacy (27% ) and a preference to wait for established technology before adopting.
  • Audiologists listed their top three drivers of adoption as the advice of their professional body (55% strongly agree), pressure from their patients (48%) and financial incentives (47%).

10Australian Department of Heallth and Ageing website 2011 – ‘Australian Hearing Services’