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What are the latest emerging trends in physiotherapy?

by Chloe Baird

Did you know that one in three Australians have some form of musculoskeletal condition?

This is why physiotherapy is a pivotal service within Australia’s healthcare industry, and why there’s growing demand for physiotherapy care.

Currently, there are many different factors that are driving changes in physiotherapy, resulting in new emerging trends.

Read on to discover what these emerging trends are, the factors that are driving change, and the growing need for qualified physiotherapy professionals.

Many Australians are affected by some form of musculoskeletal condition.

Factors driving change in physiotherapy

There are a number of factors that are contributing to changes in physiotherapy.

1. Changing health needs

As Australia’s population continues to grow and we see an increase in the number of people living longer, we will see demand for certain services rise – specifically, services relating to chronic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes.

2.  Patient expectations

With greater access to information will come higher expectations from patients. This goes for the healthcare sector at large, not just physiotherapy. Patients will have higher expectations for care, quality and value.

3. Advances in technology

In recent years, we’ve seen amazing advancements in technology within the healthcare sector. From nanomedicine to Star Trek-esque medical tricorders, technology has enabled incredible leaps forward when it comes to diagnosing and treating patients.

The physiotherapy sector is no different, with technology such as gait scanners and electromyography biofeedback machines providing Physiotherapists even greater insight into their patients’ health. Just take a look at the Ekso Suit to see what the future of technology in physiotherapy could look like.

Emerging trends in physiotherapy

The emerging trends in physiotherapy will be affected by the above factors, as well as a range of other influences.

1. Telehealth

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of many businesses, physiotherapy clinics were also affected. But thanks to technology, telehealth services were made available to patients who couldn’t physically visit a clinic.

While for many visiting a physical clinic and speaking with a Physio in person is preferable, telehealth has opened up many new opportunities. While there are challenges associated with diagnosing patients without being in the same room, there are also benefits.

Some of the benefits include:

  • the Physio being able to see how a client interacts with equipment or devices in their home environment
  • greater opportunities for clients who live remotely, as they can take advantage of physio services without worrying about travel time
  • real-time assistance with urgent issues.

2. Home-based care

As our ageing population increases, it’s likely that we’ll see a rising need for home-based physiotherapy care.

The ‘InPractice 2025: Final report’ from the Australian Physiotherapy Association found that Australians over the age of 65 are more likely to consult a Physiotherapist.

The fact that Australia’s ageing population is growing is also very closely tied to the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases. People who are living with a chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease or arthritis, to name a few, will be seeking multi-disciplinary healthcare services to help them manage their disease. This will include physiotherapy.

Recently, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government sought to assist residents of aged care facilities by offering temporary Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items. This scheme was implemented in December 2020 and will be available until June 2022.

However, with Australia’s growing ageing population, there could be more changes coming in the future that seek to make services more accessible and affordable for elderly Australians.

Physiotherapy can be used to help different people of all ages.

3. Data science

Data science can help drive change in many different areas, including healthcare. It uses large sets of data to reveal trends, patterns and vital insights into a specific user group.

An everyday example of data science in the real world is wearable health tracking devices. These devices track your heart-rate, your steps, your sleep and more. They can offer valuable insights into your lifestyle and what you can do to create healthier habits.

Insight into a person’s lifestyle could prove to be highly valuable to that person’s Physiotherapist, who could make more informed decisions about patient care utilising this knowledge. Of course, it all comes down to consent and whether the patient is happy to share this information. But if you start thinking about the big picture, you can see how this data could be used to inform healthy lifestyle decisions not just for individuals, but entire communities.

4. Focus on prevention

Speaking of data science and big data, we’ve started to see a shift towards prevention in physiotherapy rather than treatment.

The ‘Value of Physiotherapy in Australia’ report from the Australian Physiotherapists Association released in 2020 puts things into perspective. In this report, it dives into the actual economical benefits of seeking physiotherapy care.

The results of this report ‘show that all physiotherapy treatments investigated were clinically effective and delivered net economic benefits, with improvements in the quality of life experienced by patients exceeded by the net cost of the treatment.’

For example, the average net economic benefit of physiotherapy treatments per episode of care for chronic neck pain was $3,416. And the economic benefit for back pain was $6,603.

The focus on prevention also comes back to the fact that there will be changing health needs in the future, with the number of older Australians increasing. Older Australians require preventative physiotherapy treatment that can help them remain physically strong, thus reducing the likelihood of falls and other injuries.

Physiotherapy can be used in a number of different ways to help patients live healthier, happier lives.

The benefit of seeking out physiotherapy

Physiotherapy intervention is the interaction between the Physio and the patient. Sometimes, intervention also includes interacting with other people who are involved in giving care to the patient.

The goal of physiotherapy intervention is to produce positive changes for the patient which are based on the Physio’s ongoing evaluation and diagnosis of the patient. It’s the Physio’s role to monitor their patient and track their progress.

As we mentioned before, there’s an actual economical benefit to seeking out physiotherapy intervention. But while physiotherapy can save you actual money in the long run, seeking out physiotherapy sooner rather than later can also contribute to your quality of life.

Is there demand for Physiotherapists in Australia?

According to the ‘Value of Physiotherapy in Australia’ report:

‘Physiotherapy is one of the largest allied health industries in Australia and continues rapid growth. Physiotherapy is expected to play an even more important role in the lives of many Australians as demand continues to grow.’

In 2014 in Australia, there were 20,400 people employed as Physiotherapists. By 2019, this number had jumped drastically to 31,900. By 2024, it’s predicted there will be 39,800 people employed in this area. That means that in just ten years, the amount of people employed as Physiotherapists is set to almost double. 

If you’ve been thinking about a career in Australia’s booming healthcare industry, and are considering specialising in physical therapies, then there’s never been a better time.

Open Colleges offers the HLT43015 Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance (Physiotherapy) as an online course that also includes 120 hours of work placement. Studying this as an online course gives you flexibility and freedom to study whenever you want, wherever you are. While having hands-on work experience will allow you to experience the industry firsthand to see what it’s really like to work as a Physiotherapist.

Successful completion of this course will qualify you to work as an Assistant in a physiotherapy clinic. If you’re interested in pursuing further study, this course could also act as a pathway to university. You can find out more about university credit for this course on the course page.

What are you waiting for? Enrol in the HLT43015 Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance (Physiotherapy) today and unlock your potential.

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