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3 Ways The Aussies Use Physical Therapists The Right Way

Sep 25, 2014

In August, I was lucky enough to be sent to Australia for two weeks to teach for MobilityWod. It was a phenomenal experience and I took a lot away from the trip. If you’re more interested in that, please read my previous post on the top 15 things I learned in Australia. 

My co-instructor for the Australia courses was Sean McBride. Luckily for me, he has family there and one of his cousins is a pretty phenomenal Physio(same as American Physical Therapists). We got to spend some time with him and pick his brain a bit about private practices there and the roles in which Physios are used. This is what I learned from him:

1. Physios are the preferred provider for all musculoskeletal problems. By this I mean, if you sprained your ankle in Australia, you would go straight to see a Physio. If you went to a family practice physician, they would probably wonder why you were wasting their time and tell you to go see a Physio. Apparently, the government has put a lot of research into finding the most cost effective way to manage musculoskeletal pain. What they found was getting people to Physios directly and as soon as possible saves them the most money. This sounds very similar to another blog post I wrote, please read to learn more.

2. Physios are used in a preventative/wellness role. Over lunch one day in Brisbane I was speaking with a woman that was attending one of the courses I was teaching. She was telling me about her goal of training up for another half marathon and that she hoped to set a personal record on the next race. She then said that she had booked an appointment with her Physio to get checked out before she started putting in more training volume. I curiously asked her why she was planning to go see her Physio since she wasn’t hurt. She laughed and said, that’s exactly why I’m going to see him, so I don’t get hurt. 

This is the perfect example of how the Aussies have done a great job of changing the mindset of how Physios should be used. In my mind it’s very similar to the dental prevention model. Do you wait until you have a cavity before you decide to go see your dentist? 

I get this question all the time. Who needs physical therapy and when do they need it? The answer is everyone needs it and most people would benefit a hell of a lot more if they did it before they were hurt. I think the Aussies have done a great job of ingraining this mindset in their culture. 

3. Physios don’t have to fight for their money. In Australia, the process is very simple. Physios set their own rates and most of it is based on time. The Physio I got to spend time with charged $150 for a 45 min evaluation and $90 for a 30 minute follow up. After the evaluation or follow up was complete the patient would pay with an insurance debit card. The patient’s portion, usually 25% of the fee, would be deducted for their account and the rest would be paid for by the insurance company at the time of service. This is such a simple process it completely surprised me. Most people I talked to were even allowed 30-60 physical therapy visits per year by their insurance company. This depended on their insurance plan but that’s significantly more than most American insurance companies will authorize. 

This is not how the system works in the United States. The hardest part of accepting insurance is fighting with insurance companies to pay you. This is the entire reason I decided to focus on quality of care with patients and not be in-network with any insurance company. 

We could learn a lot from the simple and effective system in which the Australians use their Physios. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to see how other countries use such a unique medical specialty. 

-Dr. Danny, PT, DPT

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