APA says better use of healthcare professionals is vital for a sustainable Medicare

4 March 2015

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is relieved the Abbott Government has abandoned the Medicare Co-payment, and calls to improve the use and scope of practice of existing healthcare professionals to ensure a sustainable Medicare system.

The APA says removing barriers to physiotherapists referring patients directly to medical specialists with a Medicare rebate instead of requiring a GP referral would achieve better patient-centred care, as well as over $13 million(1) in savings to Medicare each year. It would also reduce out-of-pocket payments for patients by more than $2 million per year.

Other sustainable measures that would improve healthcare for patients and save money include:

  • Physiotherapists leading screening clinics to triage surgery patients
  • Better supporting advanced scope physiotherapists in emergency departments to deal with patients with simple but urgent musculoskeletal injuries that are currently contributing to the burden on ED doctors. This has been shown to reduce patient waits, and helps move patients out of hospital more quickly; and
  • Enabling physiotherapists with additional qualifications and endorsement to prescribe medications within their scope of practice.

“The Medicare co-payment would have made access to primary care even more difficult for people who could least afford it,” APA Chief Executive Cris Massis said.

“Our solution to improve the use of physiotherapists who are highly qualified and experienced primary health professionals to undertake these practices will ensure better patient-centred care and relieve pressure on the healthcare system.”

The APA’s Pre-Budget Submission for 2015-16 details APA’s recommendations on the referral to specialist issue. The Submission has been sent to Federal Ministers and is available online at http://bit.ly/1ye6Y8r.

“We look forward to consulting with Government on these changes for a sustainable healthcare plan,” Mr Massis said.

About the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA)
The APA is the peak body representing the interests of Australian physiotherapists and their patients. It is a national organisation with state and territory branches and specialty subgroups. The APA represents more than 17,000 members who conduct more than 21 million consultations each year. To find a physiotherapist in your area, visit www.physiotherapy.asn.au/ 

For further information, or to speak with an expert physiotherapist, please contact:
Katie Croft - Australian Physiotherapy Association
P: (+61) 3 9092 0891 M (+61) 0413 780 545
E katie.croft@physiotherapy.asn.au

1) Joshua M. Byrnes A C and Tracy A. Comans A B. Medicare rebate for specialist medical practitioners from physiotherapy referrals: analysis of the potential impact on the Australian healthcare system. 23 October 2014. A Centre for Applied Health Economics, Griffith University. Meadowbrook. Australian Health Review – viewed at: http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/AH13196.htm on 24 October 2014