Time to act
The APA’s comprehensive pre-Budget submission and election statement, Physiotherapy: A Path to Better Care, hits the mark in this period of health reform discussion.
Over the past two years, we have been involved in healthcare reform committees, Senate standing committee hearings and departmental briefings.
This document sets out a pathway to true health reform that will ensure both the long-term sustainability of healthcare and a better patient journey.
The APA’s vision is for all Australians to have access to quality physiotherapy.
This is underpinned by our key recommendations.
Improve patient pathways
Access to better health involves lifting current barriers to ensure the best use of physiotherapists within the primary healthcare system.
Allowing physiotherapists to refer to specialists and funding imaging requests from physiotherapists help to connect the patient to the most clinically appropriate and cost-effective pathway.
Reform primary healthcare
An obvious first step is fully funding and supporting first contact practitioner status for physiotherapists.
It makes no sense that patients need to be referred to physiotherapy by a GP to receive funding from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Medicare Benefits Schedule or a third party.
We now have evidence that we provide effective, efficient management via the Value of Physiotherapy in Australia report.
However, too many Australians are denied or have inadequate access to funding for physiotherapy management, especially our most vulnerable.
This includes veterans, people living in residential aged care, those living with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and rural patients who need vital and equal access to their local physiotherapists.
Implement healthcare reform
We have seen many reviews and committees in recent years and many plans have been formulated.
It is time to implement in full the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety report, the 10-year Primary Health Care Plan, the 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy, the Medicare Benefits Schedule review and the House Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention inquiry.
We need to push alternative modes of care delivery, as we cannot continue as we are now; the current system is not sustainable.
Beneficial models include preventative osteoarthritis care, falls prevention, reablement and restorative care, prenatal and postnatal care and early access to physiotherapy care to prevent chronic pain and dysfunction.
For optimal healthcare reform, we believe we have two enablers: workforce planning and digital health.
Firstly, we need a national strategy for the physiotherapy workforce to match current and future demand.
We are calling for a policy to provide financial incentives to increase the number of physiotherapists in training and practices where they are needed most.
There would also be great benefit in funding an advanced skill pathway to support physiotherapists to upskill to meet a need in their community.
Secondly, the physiotherapy workforce is key to ensuring that digital health is adopted across the entire healthcare landscape.
That means embedding digital health into physiotherapy practices through extending the Practice Incentives Program eHealth Incentive.
We also advocate setting up a physiotherapy-led pilot within primary care and the hospital system to support interoperability and streamline the patient experience.
We are calling for true health reform at this next election, not more money but better pathways, more efficiency, different models of care and a better patient journey.
We have genuine, achievable solutions to health reform that will benefit the entire Australian health system.
Take care, stay safe.
© Copyright 2018 by Australian Physiotherapy Association. All rights reserved.