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Medicare submission calls for red tape reduction

Photo: Australian Physiotherapy Association
The Australian Physiotherapy Association has made several key recommendations to the MBS review to increase access and equity to services, and reduce unnecessary red tape in the healthcare system.

“The aim of our recommendations are to increase access and equity to safe and quality services and cut unnecessary red tape,” says Australian Physiotherapy Association National President Phil Calvert.

The recommendations include rebates be paid when physiotherapists:
  • directly refer patients to specialists and consultant physicians
  • assess a person’s suitability for group services for the management of Type 2 diabetes, and provide suitable group sessions for those deemed suitable, and
  • conduct video physiotherapy consultations.
Other recommendations include:
  • x-ray and ultrasound rebates for physiotherapy patients to be the same as those received when doctors request the same tests
  • there be greater provision for physiotherapy in the management of chronic disease, and
  • children in out-of-home care be included as a category eligible for health assessments and a GP Management Plan.
“The current system—in which physiotherapists must direct patients to their GPs for a simple specialist referral—can be a burden to both the patient and to the healthcare system. It can create unnecessary red tape that delays diagnosis and can deter patients from following up on treatment,” says Mr Calvert.
“Physiotherapists are highly qualified, evidence-based health practitioners, who are well equipped to refer their patients to relevant specialists.”

Physiotherapy video consultations can significantly increase access to rural and regional patients, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and people with limited mobility, Mr Calvert says.

“Video consultations by physios are as safe and effective as face to face consultations in many clinical situations.”

Patients currently receive lower MBS rebates for some types of x-rays and for ultrasounds when these services are requested by physiotherapist than they would if the same service is requested by a doctor.

“These inequities in subsidies for physiotherapy patients must be removed. Patients receiving the same service need to receive the same fees and benefits.”

Further, patients currently cannot receive a rebate for physiotherapists to assess people for group services managing type 2 diabetes, nor are they able to provide these services, despite being highly qualified to deliver both.

“Rebates are available to patients if diabetes educators, exercise physiologists and dieticians undertake these services.

“The APA has recommended that physiotherapists are included in the MBS to assess a person’s suitability for group services for the management of Type 2 diabetes and then to provide these group sessions.”

Physiotherapy video consultations should be subsidised to significantly increase access to care among rural and regional patients, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and people with limited mobility, according to the submission.

“We recommend that physiotherapy consultations conducted by video receive subsidies to increase access to treatment for disadvantaged patients,” says Mr Calvert.

“The precedent has already been set with the MBS subsidising up to seven video consultations for psychology patients as part of a 10-session treatment strategy.

“We must cut the red tape to get better outcomes for patients and to free up GPs to dedicate more time to complex clinical care.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.