Remove the barriers

Red arrow pushing though a wall of wooden blocks

Remove the barriers

Red arrow pushing though a wall of wooden blocks

Like many other engaged members around the country, I had the pleasure of representing the APA and the physiotherapy profession at the federal scope of practice review.

This review is one of the most important events happening in healthcare reform right now. 

Its purpose is to assess the opportunities that could be realised if all professions, including physiotherapy, could work to full scope of practice. 

In addition to our extensive input into the scope of practice review, the APA has been very consistent in its messaging to Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler, to the Medicare review taskforce and to all external stakeholders. 

Physiotherapy can contribute to better consumer and practitioner journeys, improved health outcomes, greater access to care and ultimately more cost-effective care delivery.

Every day in practice I see the regulatory and legislative barriers that impede the journey of the consumer and make it more difficult for them to access physiotherapy. 

Such barriers include having to get a referral from a GP to see an orthopaedic surgeon or for an ultrasound scan of the shoulder if an MBS payment is sought. 

Currently, the physiotherapist has to send a communication to the patient’s GP to recommend either a scan or a referral, which may be time-consuming and/or costly. 

Yet direct referral is within our scope. 

It does not require upskilling and can be implemented easily and quickly if the government has the appetite. 

Naturally, we would all be mindful of keeping the patient’s GP in the management plan for each course of treatment.

This brings me to another important aspect of care— the ability to quickly and effectively access and upload information and communicate with the patient’s GP and other care providers within the team. 

Digital infrastructure is a key enabler of optimal quality and safety of care. 

It helps ensure that treatment is not unnecessarily repeated and that all team members are aware of the management of the patient.

Another way in which healthcare reform can make a meaningful difference is through tackling the funding barriers that currently exist within an aged and out-of-date Medicare system. 

If we want to see a reduction in chronic diseases around the country, better access to quality care and a more functional health system, then setting up a preventive care arm of Medicare is essential. 

For example, early access to quality physiotherapy for acute musculoskeletal shoulder, back, neck and knee injuries would reduce injury chronicity, opioid dependency and the need for imaging and would improve productivity.

Another example would be preventive care for osteoarthritis, which has the potential to reduce imaging, medications, surgical intervention, pain and dysfunction and to improve quality of life.

If these measures are put into practice, with the consumer at the centre of care and significant physiotherapy involvement, then not only will the health system be more efficient but the out-of-pocket expenses for patients will be noticeably reduced. 

Given our current high inflation rates and the stress on household budgets, our recommendations for healthcare reform could well have a broad-ranging and timely positive effect.

We need a strong government that will take a clear look at health reform and recognise the changes that will support the best outcomes. 

The APA has been proactive and consistent in advocating for reform and all of our recommendations are based on practical solutions, with an eye to the future. 

I remain hopeful that this government will enable a better Medicare system and allow us all to treat to our full scope of practice with reduced legislative and regulatory barriers.

Take care.

>> Scott Willis APAM APA National President

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