Fee and service changes a win for physios

 

WorkSafe Victoria has made significant changes to a return-to-work service model that could incentivise more physiotherapists to be involved in the early treatment of injured workers.

As of 1 July, some physiotherapy consultation fees within the early intervention physiotherapy framework (EIPF) will increase by more than 16 per cent, with provision also made for additional extended consultation sessions in the assessment and treatment of injured and ill workers.

The APA’s Victorian Branch was instrumental in negotiating the changes following more than four years of advocacy and discussions with the government body, with members of the Victorian Branch Council and with representatives of the APA Business group Victorian chapter volunteering on various working groups.

Branch president Tom Hindhaugh says that while the EIPF continues to acknowledge the vital role physiotherapists have in helping injured and ill workers achieve return-to-work and return-to-health outcomes, the changes provide much-needed improvements to the service model.

‘Many experienced physiotherapists and practices don’t treat WorkCover (workers compensation insurance claims) patients because the fees they receive are significantly less than their private fees. And for the time needed to invest in helping treat a patient as a result of a work- related injury or illness, the returns are not there,’ Tom says. ‘I think this increase will encourage experienced and engaged physiotherapists to treat injured workers, and I believe this can only be good for the workers and, hopefully, lead to better outcomes.’

Changes to the EIPF include:

  • an increase of more than 16 per cent to the standard consultation fee
  • the addition of up to two extended consultations to be used at the physiotherapist’s discretion at any stage during the course of treatment. These can be used early on in treatment, for example, to get more information with complex cases, or later when the patient is transitioning into self-management or dealing with complex conditions, such as chronic pain
  • physiotherapists being able to bill for completion of a certificate of capacity, in addition to the consultation item code
  • physiotherapists being able to request a case conference, with a new fee established, with the assigned WorkSafe agent, to coordinate continuity of care, return to work and communication between all parties.

The EIPF is open to all physiotherapists, who can enrol after completing the required online training modules and signing a declaration to provide physiotherapy services in line with the WorkSafe Victoria-developed clinical framework for the delivery of health services.

Having more physiotherapists involved in the return-to-work model will give injured or ill workers greater access to treatment options, says Tom, and their early intervention in treatment plans will ensure an assessment and certification of a worker’s functional capacity, in respect to their work and health outcomes, is done according to evidence-based rehabilitation processes. It’s an integrated approach that will be of benefit to the worker’s physical health and mental wellbeing, he says.

‘Physiotherapists are in a key position to play a leading role in the return- to-work process: they are experts in assessing capacity, they see the worker often and measure the progress of recovery, they see that return to work is part of the treatment process, and that being able to facilitate an early return will help minimise the impact being away from work has on the mental health of their patient. Receiving a fee for the completion of a certificate of capacity is a significant step towards encouraging them to participate in the process.’

While the recent changes can be considered a win for the profession, the branch will continue to meet with WorkSafe Victoria to develop the program further and ensure it incorporates all aspects of patient care, as well as preventative measures.

‘Physiotherapists have an integral role in the return-to-work space, so our continued advocacy for improvements will help deliver even better outcomes for workers,’ Tom says. ‘Reducing the number and severity of injuries in the first place would be a positive for businesses and the scheme, and because physiotherapists play a critical role in the management of returning a worker to the workplace we would still like to see a fee for communication in the schedule of fees. To be rewarded for the work outside the consultation, in coordinating return-to-work activities, will help encourage these activities.’

For more information on the EIPF and the 2019 fee schedule visit worksafe.vic.gov.au.

 

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