GUIDES & RESOURCES

What Is Allied Health & Who Are Allied Health Professionals?

You’re likely to have come across the term “Allied Health” or “Allied Health Professional” while visiting your GP or a medical specialist, but what do these terms actually mean? Keep reading to learn more about Allied Health.
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What is Allied Health?

Allied Health is a term used to describe a broad range of health professionals who are not doctors, dentists or nurses1. The term “Allied Health” is relatively new and there is no universally accepted definition of Allied Health professions – in fact, government departments, health service providers, health insurers, and education providers all have different interpretations of which professions comprise Allied Health1.

However there is general agreement that Allied Health professionals1:

  • Are not part of the medical, dental, or nursing professions
  • Are university qualified practitioners with specialist expertise in preventing, diagnosing, and treating a range of conditions and illnesses
  • Often work with a multidisciplinary health team to provide specialised support for different patient needs

What is an Allied Health professional?

Australia has more than 195,000 allied health professionals who represent more than a quarter of our health workforce1. Allied Health professionals provide essential care for people of all ages, including those with chronic illnesses, mental illnesses, and those experiencing disability2.

Allied Health professionals include3:

  • Audiologists
  • Chinese medicine practitioners
  • Chiropractors
  • Counsellors
  • Dietitians
  • Exercise physiologists
  • Medical radiation practitioners
  • Music and art therapists
  • Nutritionists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Optometrists
  • Osteopaths
  • Pathologists
  • Pharmacists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Podiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Social workers
  • Sonographers
  • Speech pathologists

Allied Health professionals work in a range of settings including hospitals, aged-care facilities, rehabilitation services, community health centres, medical clinics and private practice4. Their role is often focused on improving quality of life and helping people to care for themselves5.

Most Allied Health professions are regulated by and registered with a national body or through the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)4.

Do I need a referral to access Allied Health services?

Allied Health services can usually be accessed directly by patients without a referral6. If you’re entitled to free or discounted Allied Health treatment via Medicare or an aged-care or disability provider, you may need a referral from your GP to claim these benefits6.

Are Allied Health services covered by Medicare?

Allied Health services are generally not covered by Medicare, however there are some exceptions4. If you have a chronic health condition or complex care needs, you may be eligible for Medicare rebates on some treatments if your GP has created a management plan for you7.

For most Allied Health services, you’ll need a referral from your GP if you’re eligible to receive a Medicare rebate6.

Can I access Allied Health services for free?

Some community health centres and public hospitals offer free or low-cost Allied Health services, although there’s often a long wait time to get an appointment4.

How do I find an Allied Health professional?

Your GP is a good starting point if you’re looking for an Allied Health professional – they have a good understanding of your medical history and can provide some local recommendations. You can also speak with family and friends about their experiences.

Alternatively, the National Health Services Directory8 is a government-run directory that allows users to search for Allied Health professionals anywhere in Australia.

Does private health insurance cover the cost of Allied Health services?

If you hold extras cover as part of your private health insurance policy, you may be eligible to claim some or all of the cost of the Allied Health services that you use.

Different insurers and policies will provide varying benefits in terms of the services you’re able to claim for, and the amount you’re entitled to receive from the health fund, so it’s worth doing your research to ensure your health insurance policy is right for you.

Need more information about Allied Health?

Understanding Allied Health can be challenging because there’s not a definitive list of Allied Health professions1. If you think you may need to visit an Allied Health professional, it may be worthwhile making an appointment with your GP to discuss your health concern further.

If you’ve been referred to or are planning to visit an Allied Health professional, but are unsure whether you’re covered by Medicare, or able to make a claim with your private health insurer, contact that Allied Health professional’s offices for guidance.

Lastly, if you’re finding that your extras policy doesn’t cover the Allied Health services you’re using, it may be worth switching health insurers. At iSelect, we can help you to compare policies and find one that suits you. Call us today on 13 19 20.

Sources:
1. https://ahpa.com.au/what-is-allied-health/
2. https://ahpa.com.au/allied-health-professions/
3. http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/work-review-australian-government-health-workforce-programs-toc~chapter-8-developing-dental-allied-health-workforce~chapter-8-allied-health-workforce
4. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/seeing-an-allied-health-professional
5. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/types-of-doctors-and-health-professionals
6. https://ahpa.com.au/access-to-allied-health-services/
7. https://www.humanservices.gov.au/organisations/health-professionals/subjects/mbs-programs-and-initiatives-allied-health-professionals
8. https://about.healthdirect.gov.au/nhsd

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