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Local solution for compensable patients

Emma Breheny
29 July 2016

Workforce shortages are nothing new to Northern Territorians providing physiotherapy care. To properly manage complex patients receiving treatment through the Territory Insurance Office, private practitioner and APA Sports Physiotherapist Nick Jones often had to rely on the expertise of clinicians in Perth or Adelaide, forcing his patients to travel interstate. That was until he asked Peter Roberts, FACP, to make regular visits to Darwin to consult patients with long-term cases of chronic pain.

‘We’ve had claims of two to three years that haven’t really had an end in sight but, after seeing Peter, they’ve been able to return to doing some valuable workplace activity. For us, it reduces the amount of hands-on treatment needed,’ Nick says.

Peter visits every few months, with his time spent between Nick’s practice, which has an association with a private hospital, and other clinics providing treatment to complex cases under compensable arrangements. He is remunerated as a specialist for the time he spends with each patient.

Importantly, his sessions with patients always involve the treating physiotherapist, who is able to watch and learn from a more experienced clinician. This system also provides continuity of care and accountability, something that is lost when patients travel interstate for care, according to Nick.

Peter Roberts speaks with Tenielle Henson, APAM, of Movement For Life Physiotherapy in Darwin

Now that the scheme is 18 months into operation, there is a greater understanding among insurers of what Peter’s consultations are achieving.

‘The anecdotal feedback from insurers shows that they’re pleased with the service, they’re happy to be able to access it locally and they feel that there’s generally better management of their claims at this stage.

‘Initially Peter was assisting us with a lot of our long-term cases, but we’re starting to shift towards identifying complex patients early and getting them to Peter before they become really chronic,’ Nick says. Nevertheless, he is ready to acknowledge the process of educating insurers about the long-term benefits of an initial increase in cost can be challenging.

On the employer side, Peter’s expertise has helped with earlier returns to work and, for patients, improved quality of life.

The mentoring and education provided to local physiotherapists by Peter represents an investment in the future of local services.

‘While we’ve got really good physios in Darwin, we’ve never had physios with that level of experience across both clinical and educational areas,’ Nick says.

For other remote hubs like Darwin, it’s a model that may translate well for long-term compensable claims.



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