Physiotherapists and allied health vital to faster stroke, diabetes and osteoarthritis recovery

6 March 2015

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) supports the Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health’s (SARRAH) research finding Australians with three common health conditions – stroke, diabetes and osteoarthritis – could avoid surgery or recover more quickly if they had access to multidisciplinary teams that include physiotherapy.

Released this week, the report was conducted by Australian National University Masters student Virginia Decourcy. It found common surgeries including hip and knee replacements and diabetic limb amputations could be avoided if patients were seen by allied health providers including physiotherapists, dietitians and podiatrists.  

It also found thousands of hospital beds could be freed up if patients recovering from surgery were given access to specialist allied health providers, who were shown in the report to reduce hospitalisation by as much as 30 days.

Key findings included:

  • Physiotherapists, dietitians, and exercise physiologists who delivered exercise and diet interventions to more than 2,200 diabetic participants in eight trials found the incidence of diabetes was reduced by 37% compared with 2,509 others receiving standard diabetic care.
  • A multidisciplinary team comprising a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, dietitian, orthotist, social worker and rheumatologist, who manage patients with osteoarthritis at a Sydney hospital, provided interventions so effective that 15% of patients were removed from the waiting list for joint replacement surgery.
  • Physiotherapists who triaged patients on the wait list for joint replacement surgery at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne removed so many from the list that the waiting period fell from 18 to 3 months.

The report also included a survey of health providers, who nominated the key benefits of allied health interventions as:

  • 47% of respondents who treat diabetic patients nominated patient education delivered by physiotherapists, podiatrists, dietitians and others as the most cost-effective management.
  • Non-surgical treatment of osteoarthritis patients was seen as benefiting patients by decreasing their risks from surgery, reducing their costs, improving overall function and mobility, shorter recovery periods and less emotional strain.
  • Enhancing patient function and independence after stroke, which also leads to better mental health, was seen as the key advantage of using physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists for stroke patients.

“We’re pleased to see evidence proving what we have been advocating for many years. There are major patient care benefits and cost savings for Australia to be achieved through increasing resources and focus on physiotherapists and other allied healthcare professionals as part of multidisciplinary teams to treat stroke, diabetes and osteoarthritis,” APA Chief Executive Cris Massis said.

The full SARRAH report is available here.

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